The ride started in Blowing Rock, NC with the turn south onto 221 South. It ends up at Grandfather Mountain which is a worthy ride by itself. The switchbacks, are really dramatic in the park.
The road was completely covered by the trees throughout the whole route. It was 21 miles of twisty mountain road, with some rock formations reaching almost into the road surface. You are riding in themountains in and around the Blue Ridge area. When the trees open up you get glimpses of a beautiful valley spread out below you in all it's glory. When I went the trees were still filled with green leaves. It would be a great run in the fall. The trees have long ago grown overhead and form a canopy for you. It's like riding a natural tunnel with green leaves all around you. The drop off on the east side is steep enough that anyone going over the side will need a high angle rescue team to find them. When you do get a few glimpses through the trees on the east side the valley below is laid out in all it's glory. In one corner there was a small waterfall just off the right hand side of the road. In a few places there are pull offs and several folks were parked there rock climbing just across the road.
The road is not as curvy as the Tail of the Dragon, but it was a challenging technical road for anyone who has never been through a mountain road run. It is easy to go into some of the left hand turns since you have more visibility, but the right hand turns going south were blind about half the time. The drop off on the south side of the road is pretty bad so keep it on the paved surface. The road itself was in good shape, and we probably could have taken it faster than we did. I was leading someone that had never been in the twisties, so I took it easy. You will not find a straight flat piece of road here. Several rock outcroppings were just off the north side of the road so be careful.You have to lay the bike over pretty hard in some of the corners to keep up the momentum. Caution is required since there any errors involving going left of center have a potential to be fatal. This was a great road to run, and the features along with a good road surface make it a need to ride route.
You have gas stops and tourist attractions at both ends ofthe run, but absolutely nothing in between. There are several pull offs on the south side of the road, where you willl find people going bouldering or mountain climbing. Blowing rock offres a ton of things to do, and you could easily spend a full day at Grandfather Mountain as well. There are trails to hike, not recommended for anyone with mobility issues because of steep up grades and stepping over rocksIf you want to shop for antique; Boone, NC is the place to be. Rolling through a small section of the main street I counted at least 6 shops catering to antiques. There was a nice small park to picnic, with dozens of people just sitting and watching traffic go by. Tons places to eat and stay (camping, or hotel)were all around as well. At the southern end of the run Grandfather Mountain waits for you. It has a swinging suspension bridge wide enough for you to be able to stop and take pictures. You can drive up to the top parking lot if you are going to the bridge to look around. If you are hiking on the mountain, you have to park below the bridge level. The switchbacks on the road leading up to the top of the viewing are for the bridge are scary at anything over crawling speed. You are handed a sheet of paper making you aware of the risks involved with high speed, and mountain roads. Be on the look out for the plentiful deer in the park. Have your camera ready.
US HWY 221 is a BLAST of a road to ride if you like tight, twisty and technically challenging mountain roads!! Some of the reviews describe this road like it's the Parkway - with overlooks, pull off areas and nice, gentle sweepers...That is INCORRECT. This is NOT the Blue Ridge Parkway!! The BRP crosses this road at BOTH ends (near Blowing Rock and again by Grandfather Mountain) but this is NOT the BRP.
As a clue, when you get on the road, there's a prominent sign, with flashing lights, saying "NARROW STEEP WINDING ROAD NEXT 19 MILES" and "TRACTOR-TRAILERS PROHIBITED." Look for it on googlemaps street view :-) The BRP can be ridden by anyone with confidence - this road cannot. It will bite you if not careful.
The last time I was on this road was about 2015. At that time the road was well paved and in good physical condition. The biggest concern is rocks/gravel in some of the corners. There are also some decreasing radius, multi-apex corners which will catch the inexperienced off guard quickly. Guardrails do exist on *SOME* parts of this road but there are others where a mistake teaches you that you can't fly.
Another concern is the number of bicyclists who ride this road. There is a bike race in the fall(?) and a lot of bicyclists train on the road all summer. There are only a couple of pull-offs and no overlooks that I can remember. The foilage is beautiful with nearly full shade during the summer. During the fall though, watch out for fallen leaves on the road surface!
Once you get outside of Blowing Rock, the speed limit goes up to 55. The odds are you won't reach that number much though (except on the couple of short straights...) Be aware, there are several residential driveways directly off this road and there are slow vehicles on there frequently. Passing opportunities are very limited.
I love this road on a bike or in a cage!! It's technically challenging, senic (with boulders hanging OVER the road surface in a couple of places!!) and has limited access except at the ends. There's nothing but twisties between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain. A fun road to run to be sure!
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3 riders found this road review useful
October 20, 2010
0 McR Points
Motorcycle Type : Cruiser
A nice easy ride great for when the leaves change. Some twisties but not too many. Some cars during the fall months and be sure when in Blowing Rock not to get crazy on the throttle. All in all a nice enjoyable road to ride.
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1 riders found this road review useful
October 10, 2010
0 McR Points
Motorcycle Type : Other
This part of the trip was great. Nice slow cruse with low amount of other traffic. After getting to Grandfather mountain, we hiked it. The colors were just starting to change and it was very windy. At this time (10-3/5-2010), if this is average temps, you may want to dress in layers. It was 37 degrees at 6:00 pm. although it didn't feel like it was that cold to me, but a bit colder than Zephyrhills, Fl. The whole area is amazing. Very good ride if you like hills and turns with lots of trees, rock walls and some bridges. Lots of overlooks as others have mentioned. We traveled all around Boone, Blowing Rock, Grandfather mountain and Sugar Mountain area. If you like, There are some very nice cabins for rent in Valley Crucis. There's a private lake with otters and fishing, catch and release only. Loved it all but wish I had made it later this month so we could have seen all the colors. It is a beautiful ride. One note: while traveling up to the area, 321 was under construction with bumps and uneven pavement, still worth the ride. Will do it again soon. God bless you all.