Are you looking for an exciting road trip through North Carolina? Look no further than a drive from Raleigh to Asheville!
This scenic route will take you through the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, past numerous attractions and historic sites, all while offering breathtaking views.
Whether you’re a nature lover or an adventure seeker, this is the perfect trip for your next getaway.
So buckle up and get ready to enjoy the beauty of North Carolina as you journey from Raleigh to Asheville!
Raleigh To Asheville
Asheville and Raleigh are two of North Carolina’s hippest and most happening cities. Each boasts a unique vibe, culture, and tourist appeal.
For those who want to explore Asheville’s stunning mountain ranges and its rich art, music, and craft beer scene, but are based in Raleigh, getting there is easy if you have the right guide.
We will break down the different ways to get from Raleigh to Asheville and weigh their pros, cons, and costs.
How to get from Raleigh to Asheville
Are you looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Raleigh and lose yourself in the serene beauty of Asheville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina? There are three popular ways to get there: by bus, by flight, or by car. Each method offers its own unique experience, so let’s explore!
Scenic Bus Ride
Choosing to travel by Greyhound bus from Raleigh to Asheville could be your best bet if you’re not keen on driving.
With the journey taking approximately 6-8 hours and costing around $40 one way, it’s not the quickest way to get there.
However, it should be your top pick if you’re seeking to savor the wondrous and diverse landscapes of North Carolina.
This mode of transport is particularly suitable for those who are budget-conscious, those who do not have a driver’s license, or those who simply prefer to sit back, relax, and absorb the scenery along the way, instead of being behind the wheel.
If you’re not up for the long bus ride, consider flying.
However, do note that there aren’t direct flights from Raleigh to Asheville. The flight time will be a minimum of 10 hours due to out-of-state connections, and the most expensive of all options.
Despite its speed and convenience, commercial airline travel can often be marred by unpredictable flight delays, long security lines, and the hassle of arranging transportation to and from the airport.
If you’re someone who can’t drive, or simply wants to avoid the stress of navigating unfamiliar roads, flying is a viable and hassle-free option, even though driving would be much faster.
The flight journey allows you to sit back, relax, and perhaps catch up on your favorite book or movie while en route to Asheville.
The most efficient method is to jump in your car or rent one in Raleigh and hit I-40 West.
The 251-mile drive can be done in about 4 hours, allowing you to explore North Carolina from the Piedmont to the Blue Ridge Mountain at your own pace.
Driving provides the most freedom, letting you stop whenever you want to take pictures, grab a bite, or simply appreciate the beautiful surroundings.
So, what are you waiting for?
Whether you choose the bus, the flight, or a good old-fashioned road trip, your journey from Raleigh, NC to Asheville, NC promises to be as memorable as the destination itself.
How Far Is It From Raleigh To Asheville?
The distance from Raleigh to Asheville is a substantial one – 251 miles, to be exact. That’s equivalent to about 404 kilometers for those who prefer metric measurements.
This isn’t a quick jaunt down the road; you’re embarking on a 4+ hour journey that will take you across the width of North Carolina.
Whether you’re contemplating a scenic road trip or wishing for a swift flight, knowing the distance is crucial to planning your travel.
So buckle up and get ready for an adventure that spans 251 miles from the bustling city of Raleigh to the mountainous charm of Asheville.
How Long Does It Take To Get From Raleigh To Asheville?
Now that we’ve established the distance, let’s dive into how long it takes to journey from Raleigh to Asheville, depending on your chosen mode of transport.
If you’re looking at a direct drive, buckle in for about a 4-hour trip, assuming good traffic conditions and speed limit adherence. But, do remember to account for rest stops and sightseeing breaks!
If you prefer to fly, you might be surprised to learn that connecting flights, due to layovers, can take up to 10 hours! Direct flights are unfortunately not available for this route.
Alternatively, there’s the bus option. Hop on a Greyhound, and you’re in for a 6 to 8-hour ride. This could be a great choice if you’re keen on an affordable option and enjoy scenic routes.
So, whether by road, air, or bus service, your Raleigh to Asheville trip is quite an adventure. Pick your best fit and happy traveling!
Raleigh To Asheville By Car
Driving from Raleigh to Asheville is an adventure in itself, offering an opportunity to explore North Carolina in depth.
You’ll be traveling on the I-40 West for about four hours, journeying from the Piedmont region to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
This drive is not merely a means to get from one city to another, but a chance to take in the diverse landscapes that North Carolina has to offer.
If you don’t have your own car, there’s no need to worry.
You can easily rent a car from the Raleigh airport and start your road trip from there.
Just remember, while the drive is approximately four hours, this doesn’t account for any rest stops, meals, or sightseeing you might want to do along the way.
So, ensure to factor in some extra time for these activities when planning your Raleigh to Asheville drive.
What is there to do between Raleigh and Asheville?
Raleigh and Asheville are two of North Carolina’s most memorable cities, each with their own distinct character and charm.
The journey between them is just as rewarding, dotted with engaging attractions and activities.
- Chapel Hill: Home to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is a vibrant, youthful city with a rich cultural scene.
- Lexington: Renowned for its barbecue, Lexington is a must-visit for food enthusiasts.
- Winston Salem: With a rich history and artistic spirit, Winston Salem is a city that invites exploration. The Old Salem Museums & Gardens is a must-see spot.
- Hickory: Hickory offers a world-class shopping experience for furniture enthusiasts, as well as the impressive Hickory Aviation Museum for those interested in aviation history.
Half the fun of traveling is the journey, and the trip from Raleigh to Asheville is no exception.
Enjoy the diverse experiences on offer as you journey through this captivating slice of North Carolina.
Stop #1: Chapel Hill
~30 miles from Raleigh
Visiting Chapel Hill, NC is a great introduction to your North Carolina roadtrip.
As the home of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill offers lush gardens, impressive art museums, and a thriving cultural scene.
Things to do in Chapel Hill
🔹Stroll down Franklin Street
If you are visiting Franklin Street after dark, check out the Cat’s Cradle for live music performances.
🔹Visit the North Carolina Botanical Gardens
Admission and parking are free at the NC Botanical Gardens.
And you know stretching your legs is an important part of every road trip so why not enjoy the walk? The gardens are a much prettier pit stop than the usual gas station or rest area parking lot.
Rotating indoor and outdoor exhibits offer entertainment for all ages.
The Piedmont Nature Trails are located adjacent to the gardens if you want to get in your daily steps before continuing to our next stop, lunch.
Overnight Option: If you don’t want to rush your trip and plan to stick around Chapel Hill for a night, we recommend the Carolina Inn.
Stop #2: North Carolina BBQ lunch in Lexington
75 miles from Chapel Hill
For lunch or dinner, we recommend having a true Carolina classic, smoked pork BBQ.
Lexington is the home of Western Carolina BBQ. It is traditionally smoked pork that has been chopped and sauced with a sweet red sauce with a slight tangy vinegar kick.
Below are 2 options for Western NC BBQ:
- Little Richards, a local BBQ chain, in Winston Salem (a couple of miles from stop #3 on our road trip) OR
- Lexington BBQ, a 22-mile detour south of Winston Salem to the “BBQ Capital of the World”.
🍴Little Richard’s BBQ
75 miles from the NC Botanical Gardens
109 S Stratford Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27104
If you don’t have the time or desire to detour 21 miles south off I-40 to Lexington, then Little Richards is a great option located in Winston Salem.
Little Richards BBQ offers a ‘no-frills’ dining experience that keeps the focus firmly on flavor. Here, your meal is served on a cookie sheet, adding a unique charm to your road trip dining adventure.
If you aren’t sure what to order, this Carolina Girl recommends sticking with the classics: chopped pork, slaw (aka coleslaw) and hushpuppies (deep-fried sweet cornbread puffs).
The melt-in-your-mouth hickory-smoked chopped pork is draped in a Lexington dip that strikes the perfect balance between vinegary and sweet.
It is a true North Carolinian culinary experience but I realize it’s not for everyone. Little Richard’s BBQ is a local chain and offers an extensive menu (not just BBQ) to meet everyone’s tastes.
22 miles south of Winston Salem (off-route)
100 Smokehouse Ln, Lexington, NC 27295
For those looking for a more authentic BBQ experience and with a little more time to kill, we recommend heading to the heart of BBQ country in Lexington, North Carolina.
Did you know? Lexington North Carolina town is known as the “Barbecue Capital of the World” and has many BBQ restaurants worth exploring.
Despite its unassuming exterior, Lexington BBQ place serves up some of the most authentic Western Carolina barbecue in a casual setting that’s bound to make you feel right at home.
Their most popular items are smoked meats, particularly pork, and hushpuppies. But don’t miss their unique “red slaw” – a coleslaw with a BBQ sauce base that you won’t find at most places. It’s not my favorite but it’s different so worth a try.
Pro Tip: Share a plate and save room for the peach cobbler. It reminds me of Sunday suppers at my grandma’s house.
And if you can’t get enough of their delectable sauce, you’re in luck. They ship their infamous sauce worldwide.
If you’ve got the time, take the detour and go taste for yourself why Lexington Barbecue is a must-visit on your North Carolina road trip!
Stop #3 Winston Salem
72 miles from North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill
Winston Salem is the gateway to North Carolina’s picturesque foothills and the renowned Yadkin Valley Wine region.
Steeped in history, this city holds a significant place in the annals of the tobacco industry and is characterized by its Moravian roots, traced back to the settlement of Salem in 1753 by the Moravian Church.
As you explore, you’ll discover the blend of past meets the future that makes Winston Salem an exciting destination. Only a hop, skip and jump away from Mount Airy, 36 miles to be exact, Winston Salem is a great addition to your North Carolina itinerary.
Things to do in Winston Salem
🔹Old Salem Museum & Gardens
3 miles from Little Richards BBQ
Old Salem Museum and Gardens is a not-for-profit living history village that offers a glimpse into the early Moravian settlement of Salem.
The village is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.
The visitor’s center and self-guided walks around the historic village and gardens are open to everyone at no cost.
With an admission ticket priced at $27, visitors gain access to select restored buildings and can witness historical trade demonstrations.
Pro Tip: Unless you are a history buff and really want to see the reenactments, skip the admission ticket and instead get some fresh baked goodies at Winklers’ Bakery.
As you explore, you’ll encounter actors in period dress who recreate the daily lives of Salem’s early inhabitants. Old Salem is a journey back in time, promising an enlightening and immersive historical experience.
🔹Yadkin Valley: Shallow Ford Wine Trail
If you’re a wine lover, then the Shallow Ford Wine Trail is an absolute must fro wine lovers when visiting Yadkin Valley. Nestled just west of Winston Salem along I40, this route boasts three distinguished wineries each offering their unique charm.
Start your journey at Brandon Hills Vineyard and relish the view of its vineyard and rolling hills right from their back porch.
Next, step into the Old World at Hanover Park Vineyard, where Rhone Valley style wines are served straight from their 1897 farmhouse tasting room, creating a nostalgic vibe to your tasting experience.
Conclude your trip at Medaloni Cellars, sprawling across 22 acres, it offers wine enthusiasts not just a variety of wines but also walking trails, sunset decks, and a rustic tasting barn.
The Shallow Ford Wine Trail in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina wine country is a perfect blend of exploration and indulgence.
🔹Taste of Carolina: Brunch Tour in Winston Salem
Discover the wealth of flavors that Winston Salem has to offer with a Saturday brunch food tour with Taste of Carolina.
Alternatively, Taste of Carolina offers group and private food tours in several other NC cities including Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Asheville.
For just $83 (fees included), immerse yourself in the local cuisine every Saturday starting at 10:45 AM. This 3.5 hour walking food tour takes you on a gastronomic journey through several local venues, including a brewery and wine bar.
The tour focuses on local products and businesses, championing the unique culinary scene of Winston Salem. The tour starts at the West End and finishes in downtown.
Experience the true Taste of Carolina in this delightful brunch tour.
Overnight Option: If you’ve fallen in love with Winston and want just one more day, we recommend staying at The Historic Brookstown Inn.
Stop #4 Hickory NC
72 miles from Winston Salem
Nestled between the vibrant city scenes of Charlotte and the stunning mountain vistas of Asheville, Hickory is a gem of a locale with its own unique charm.
Known as a premier location for furniture shopping, Hickory offers a world-class experience for enthusiasts and interior designers. But that’s just the beginning!
Things to do in Hickory NC
🔹Hickory Aviation Museum
Located at the Hickory Regional Airport, the Hickory Aviation Museum stands as a testament to the marvels of aviation history.
Steeped in passion and powered by an enthusiastic team of volunteers, the museum offers an immersive experience that allows visitors to get up close with a range of historic aircraft, and it constantly evolves with new exhibits being added regularly.
And the best part? Admission is absolutely free (though donations to support its mission are always appreciated).
From aviation enthusiasts to curious explorers, everyone finds something awe-inspiring at the Hickory Aviation Museum.
🔹Paddle Board on Lake Jordan
Ready for an adventure after too long in the car?
Get out on the water with a rental paddle board at Lake Jordan.
For just $65, you’ll get a paddleboard, paddle, and a life jacket for 2 hours of fun.
Embark on your journey from Farrington Point’ boat launch and glide through the serene waters at your own pace. The calm waters around this area of Lake Jordan attract non-motorized vessels of all kinds.
Junior-sized boards are also available so the whole family can join in.
Dive into an exhilarating experience and create unforgettable memories on Jordan Lake.
Stop #5 : Arrive in Asheville
78 miles from Hickory
Welcome to Asheville, the not so hidden gem of North Carolina! There is a reason so many people flock to the mountains of Asheville.
Known for its eclectic downtown and the historic Biltmore Estate, the city offers something for everyone.
Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the numerous hiking trails and scenic drives, while foodies will relish the farm-to-table dining culture, bustling food markets, and a craft beer scene that’s hard to beat.
Whether you’re into music, art, nature, or just looking for a relaxing getaway, Asheville welcomes you with open arms and a promise of an unforgettable trip.
Things to Do in Asheville
🔹Asheville Pinball Museum
The Asheville Pinball Museum is a retro-fun paradise that bridges the gap between the past and present.
With an admission fee of just $15 per person, you’re granted unlimited play on a collection of 35 classic pinball machines and 35 vintage video games. The museum has a maximum capacity of 65 players at any given time, operating on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Non-players can enjoy the nostalgia-filled atmosphere without any admission fee.
Do note, on rainy days, the museum tends to reach its capacity fairly quickly.
So come early, don your gaming spirit, and step back in time for an unforgettable, old-school gaming experience.
🔹Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches over 469 miles from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a must-visit for anyone seeking breathtaking views of the Appalachian Highlands.
Did you know? The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as America’s Favorite Drive.
As you navigate along the parkway, mileposts offer guidance, which is especially handy considering cell service can be spotty in these areas.
This scenic drive is much more than just a road; it’s an experience filled with stunning vistas, vibrant fall colors, and countless opportunities for recreational activities such as hiking and cycling.
For first-time visitors, it’s wise to plan ahead, consider the weather, and most importantly, take the time to soak in all the natural beauty this extraordinary route has to offer.
Next on your Asheville adventure is the Biltmore Estate, a historic house museum and the largest private home in the United States.
With admission starting at $65 for grounds access only, it is a splurge ticket but I doubt you’ll regret it. Multi-day guided tour ticket prices go up to $390.
The grand estate was originally the Vanderbilts’ summer escape, completed in 1895, and now stands as a symbol of the Gilded Age.
The main house itself is an architectural marvel, boasting over 178,000 square feet of space, with 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms.
During your visit, you can take a self-guided audio tour, enabling you to explore this magnificent mansion at your own pace. The tour will guide you through a series of beautifully preserved rooms, each filled with antique furnishings, art, and personal items that belonged to the Vanderbilt family.
But the experience isn’t confined to just the inside of the mansion. The estate also boasts a thriving vineyard, where you can sample their exquisite wines. And don’t miss the expansive, photography-worthy gardens, masterfully designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Biltmore Estate draws visitors throughout the year, but peak times include the autumn leaf season, when the gardens and surrounding forest are ablaze with color, and the holiday season from November to January, when the mansion is adorned with impressive Christmas decorations.
Whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, the Biltmore Estate guarantees a unique and memorable experience.
🔹Experience a Local Brewery
Asheville, NC, Beer Town USA, is a haven for beer enthusiasts with nearly 60 breweries punctuating the city landscape.
The brewery scene is a delightful mix of small craft breweries, each with its unique spin on the beloved beverage, and large-scale operations, like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium.
BREW-ed Asheville Brewery Tour
If you’re visiting Asheville, a must-do experience is the BREW-ed Asheville Brewery Tour, highly rated by National Geographic Traveler.
This 3 hour walking tour, led by Cicerone certified beer experts, is not only a beer tasting event. It’s also an educational journey through the brewing process.
For $65 per person, you’ll get behind-the-scenes access to some of Asheville’s best breweries and taste a plethora of local beers.
But there’s more! As you stroll from one brewery to another, you’ll also learn about Asheville’s rich local history.
This tour, combining excellent beer, brewing education, and local lore, is a perfect introduction to Asheville’s vibrant beer culture.
How Do I Travel From Raleigh To Asheville Without A Car?
Getting from Raleigh to Asheville without a car is possible with multiple options of public transportation available with varying degrees of complexity.
Greyhound bus service is the cheapest and most convenient way to travel from Raleigh to Asheville without car.
If you prefer air travel, you can book a connecting flight from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to Asheville Regional Airport. Direct flights are not available.
The final option and most complex option is to go by train. Amtrak does not service Asheville. The closest Amtrak station to Asheville is in Spartanburg SC about an hour away. The scenic train route from Raleigh to Spartanburg lets you enjoy North Carolina’s natural beauty.
Each of these options offers its own unique travel experience, so you can choose one that suits your preferences and schedule.
Raleigh to Asheville Train
Taking a train from Raleigh, NC to Asheville is a bit tricky, as Amtrak doesn’t directly serve Asheville.
You can, however, travel by train from Raleigh’s Union station to Spartanburg, SC, which is approximately an hour from Asheville.
The average train journey between these cities takes about 11 hours and ticket prices start at $59.
Keep in mind, there’s no bus service available from Spartanburg to Asheville, so arranging a rental car or car service from Spartanburg to Asheville will be necessary.
This may not be the most straightforward travel option, but it does offer a chance to experience North Carolina’s scenic routes from the comfort of a train.
Raleigh To Asheville Bus
For those without a car, traveling by bus from Raleigh to Asheville is a feasible and affordable option.
Greyhound operates this route twice daily, ensuring flexibility for your travel schedule. The duration of the trip is approximately 6-8 hours, depending on traffic conditions.
Prices for tickets start at just $39, making it an economical choice.
An additional perk of choosing Greyhound is the free onboard amenities like Wi-Fi and power outlets, allowing you to stay connected and productive during your journey.
Therefore, opting for the bus service from Raleigh to Asheville isn’t just about getting from point A to point B, but about enjoying a comfortable and convenient travel experience.
Is There A Direct Bus Between Raleigh And Asheville?
Yes, Greyhound offers a direct bus service from Raleigh to Asheville for your convenience.
This means no transfers, just a direct route from Raleigh to Asheville.
The total journey will take 7 hours, with 7 stops including a 30 minute break in Charlotte.
So if you’re planning your trip, be sure to consider this direct bus service for the most convenient way to get there.
Where Do I Catch The Raleigh To Asheville Bus From?
The bus from Raleigh to Asheville departs from the Raleigh bus station located at 2210 Capital Blvd, Raleigh, NC, 27604.
The station is conveniently situated in northeast Raleigh, near the I-440 loop.
Despite limited seating in teh station, you can grab a quick snack from the snack bar while you wait for your bus.
Additionally, there’s a public bus stop right across the street, providing easy city access to and from the station.
Packing List for Bus Travel
When traveling by bus, it’s a great idea to bring a few essentials along:
- travel pillow
- plenty of entertaining digital content
- portable charger
- wet wipes
- noise-cancelling headphones
- reusable water bottles and healthy snacks
- lightweight travel blanket, this one also doubles as a pillow
Greyhound has a strict policy against so do NOT bring the following:
What Are The Best Places To Stay In Asheville?
Asheville is an exciting city with plenty of places to stay for any budget and lifestyle.
From budget-friendly inns to luxury resorts, there’s something for everyone in Asheville.
✅Budget Friendly Suggestion
The Baymont Inn at Biltmore Square is a great budget-friendly place to stay close to the famous Biltmore Estate.
Enjoy a complimentary breakfast with hot waffles, cereal, muffins and more. Its convenient location allows you to easily explore all that Asheville has to offer.
Relax in modern amenities like an indoor swimming pool, free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs in each room.
With its close proximity to Biltmore Estate, you can enjoy all the attractions without having to travel far.
For special splurge trips that require luxury accommodation in Asheville, most Carolinians immediately think of the breathtaking views at the Grove Park Inn.
The Grove Park Inn is a historic hotel boasting beautiful architecture from 1913.
From the outside, the inn’s stone and brick facade adds an element of grandeur while inside you can enjoy sweeping views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Pro Tip: Visit the Grove Park Inn for a sunset cocktail or beer on the patio if your budget doesn’t cover staying there. Parking is free outside of the holiday season, January through September.
With its classic charm and modern amenities, this hotel provides guests with a unique glimpse into the past.
Conclusion: Raleigh To Asheville
Now that you know all of your options for getting from Raleigh to Asheville, it will be an easy decision for you to select how you’ll get there.
Whether you are inspired to hire a car and hit the road or prefer to sit back and relax on a bus or train, you will arrive in Asheville in good fashion.
Go for budget-friendly or not depends entirely on your needs, preferences and requirements for the trip.
We hope this guide has helped you determine which mode of transportation will ensure a seamless and comfortable journey to Asheville.