Valley Farms and River Towns


It doesn’t take long to get away from the rat race on this route. When you exit Interstate 40 and head north on NC 209, as soon as the truck stop disappears from your rearview mirror, you’re there.

Over the next thirty-three miles, you pass through a pastoral and forested landscape that somehow has escaped commercial development and subdivisions of cookie-cutter houses. NC 209 has even managed to avoid completely the bulldozers of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which seems determined to widen and improve every highway in the mountains. Except for paving, this road hasn’t changed appreciably since the 1920s.

Max Patch Mountain lies west of the highway in Pisgah National Forest and can be easily accessed from side roads. With a treeless summit more than 4,600 feet high, the mountaintop features impressive 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. The Appalachian Trail crosses the mountain’s grassy peak, and other connecting trails create options for loop hiking.

NC 209 ends in Hot Springs. The village, like the road that brought you to it, seems frozen in time. It has modern conveniences, to be sure. But what it doesn’t have are any of the typical commercial tourist trappings of other nearby towns. You won’t find a modern hotel here, nor fast-food restaurants, nor neon one-hour photo signs in the drugstore. What you will find is delightful small-town atmosphere and an eclectic mix of warm, friendly people. And dogs. Don’t be surprised if you have to stop your car for a dog napping in the middle of the street. If you do, just sit tight. A storekeeper will usually come out and shoo the pooch out of the road.

Among the finest resorts in the South when it opened in 1886, Hot Spring’s Mountain Park Hotel featured elevators, steam heat, and electric lights. The hotel served as a German internment camp during World War I. It burned to the ground in 1920. North

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