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  1. Default Knoxville, TN to Boone, NC US 321. . . . . . Vs. Knoxville to Asheville, NC - I-40

    Greetings . . . . . I am traveling from Santa Fe, NM to Chapel Hill, NC very soon. I have driven this route before on I-40 and really had concerns about drivers in Tennessee (sorry, the roads were curvy and steep and the drivers were driving dangerously). I am not fond of mountain driving . . . . . do not care for steep grades, switchbacks, curves, etc. I am trying to decide whether to take I-40 from Knoxville through Asheville or to take an alternate route - Johnson City, Elizabethton TN to US Highway 321 through Boone, NC. Has anyone been on 321 before? Are there steep grades and heavy mountain driving? Just wondering which would be a saner choice?? Would appreciate any comments or suggestions! Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO



    If you are concerned about mountain driving, do not take US-321. The best alternate is I-81 to Wytheville, then I-77/I-74/US-52 to Winston-Salem. My mapping program actually suggests that this is faster than I-40. You have to cross the mountains somewhere unless you take a substantial detour south, probably all the way to Atlanta. This would be US-78 from Memphis to Birmingham, then I-20 and I-85. This will add a couple of hours to the trip.

  3. Default Alternate route

    Thanks for the wonderful suggestion. That is what I will do!

  4. #4

    Default Gasp!

    Hello Dancing Spirit,

    US 321 from Elizabethton, TN to Boone, NC is absolutely the last route you'd want to take if avoiding curvy mountain roads is your goal. Don't even think of US 421 from Bristol to Boone, either.

    Around 30 miles from Wytheville, VA on I-77 you'll have a 10 mile downhill grade as I-77 descends the Blue Ridge. Some of I-81 between Knoxville and Wytheville is rather hilly, but not mountainous.

    I must wonder what portion of I-40 worried you so. I-40 in southeastern TN really isn't in the mountains until within a handful of miles of the NC line. The curvy parts of I-40 are in NC, as is the one long grade on I-40, known as the Old Fort grade, just east of Asheville. I suppose it's one's personal preference, but I'd never add the urbanized and industrial areas of Birmingham, Atlanta, Greenville/Spartanburg, and Charlotte to a trip simply to avoid around 35 miles of somewhat curvy roads and one long hill.


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