U.S. 74A AND THE HICKORY NUT GORGE: Known as the old Charlotte Highway, U.S. 74A runs Southwest out of Asheville to join U.S. 64 in Rutherfordton. As most motorcyclists can attest, the ride uphill can be more enjoyable, so these route descriptions approach the route from the piedmont. From the west, the road follows the Broad River as it flows out of Lake Lure. Travelers hug the western edge of the lake as they travel up the gorge. On the left, towers Chimney Rock, the iconic monolith from which visitors atop the landmark enjoy stunning views. This road proves popular with motorcyclists, who can stop and enjoy the many shops, restaurants and Chimney Rock State Park.
The highway climbs through the Hickory Nut Gorge and crests the Eastern Continental Divide, which runs along much of the Blue Ridge Escarpment from Virginia to Georgia. The Gorge offers views of rugged cliffs and the 400-foot Hickory Nut Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies. The section nearest the crest of the mountain is the most technically challenging with a series of hairpin turns descending into the valley southeast of Asheville. In summer, the northern side of the ridge offers a cool, green escape from the heat.
Continuing north brings riders to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Interstate 40 just 23 miles from Lake Lure. This makes a good starting point for riders traveling out of Asheville and descending the escarpment.
Several side roads off U.S. 74A make for enjoyable diversions. U.S. 64 West heads up out of the gorge toward Hendersonville. N.C. 9 to the east takes you on a scenic route to Black Mountain. After you crest the mountain range, Upper Brush Creek Road to Cane Creek Road serves as nice detour as you head towards Fletcher.
The details and photograph of this ride were graciously provided by Michael E. Gouge a seasoned motorcyclist here in Western North Carolina.