Along US-21

394 Miles from Buford, South Carolina, climbing into the Blue Ridge Mountains and ending at Wytheville, Virginia. With the exception of metropolitan Columbia, SC and Charlotte, NC, US-21 offers a very nice two lane excursion route from the ocean to the mountains.

 


Dist:
& Est Time:
90 Miles
1.6 Hours
State Map
& Segments:
Link to SC DOT
Major Crossroads
US-15 US-17 US-78 US-178 US-301 US-601
Support Roads And Riders
 

Beaufort, SC to Orangeburg, SC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dist:
& Est Time:
150 Miles
2.4Hours
State Map
& Segments:
Link to SC DOT
Major Crossroads
US-176 US-178 US-321 US-378
Support Roads And Riders
 

Orangeburg, SC to Charlotte, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dist:
& Est Time:
20 Miles
6 Hours
State Map
& Segments:
Link to NC DOT
Major Crossroads
US-29 US-74
Support Roads And Riders
 

Charlotte, NC to Cornelius, NC

The original route disappears here as it takes an on-ramp to I-77 at Exit 90. The preferred by-pass is I-485 inner loop to the west of the city, which drops back onto US-21 from Exit 23. It's possible to follow the old roads as surface streets of Charlotte, but not advisable. Metropolitan traffic in and around Charlotte is brutal and dangerous.

I-77 is two and three lanes wide all the way through the city and moves along pretty well when not in rush hours. If you happen to get stuck in a rush hour jam, the best thing to do is take the earliest ramp and follow Tryon St (NC-49) to Statesville Ave, which is the original route of US-21. It's crowded and slow, but even on the worst days it doesn't come to a complete standstill like I-77 frequently does.

The signed route will eventually take you to a modified cloverleaf at Sunset Road and lead you over to Statesville Ave. The area is very industrial at first and then turns to a more urban mix that won't get you much faster than 45 MPH until you cross NC-73.

Shortly north of NC-73 the signed route again co-locates with I-77 as it begin to navigate over several portions of Lake Norman. WARNING: Traffic on this stretch of highway can drop from 75 MPH to 15 MPH in moments.

US-21 diverges again at Charlotte Highway and runs toward, and merges with, NC-115. Although busy, the road usually manages to maintain the posted speeds, 45 MPH most of the way. The atmosphere begins to turn much more rural, although there are plenty of spots to get fuel and something to eat.

 


Dist:
& Est Time:
100 Miles
2.4 Hours
State Map
& Segments:
Link to NC DOT
Segment map
Major Crossroads
US-58 US-70 US-421
Support Roads And Riders
 

Cornelius, NC to Elkin, NC

Throughout the entire Cornelius area you are never very far from the effects of Lake Norman. Busy, but not jammed, and not really busy due to tourism - a tremendous number of people live in this area and come to trade in the little towns like Troutman. Police coverage is moderate to heavy and you can win a performance award easily if you don't pay attention.

Immediately beyond Troutman the scenery and traffic volumes changes to an enjoyable pace and you can run along at 55 MPH without much difficulty right to the city limits of Statesville.

US-21 Diverges from NC-115 as it crosses US-64 in the downtown area of Statesville. Traffic can be heavy, but it's not bad enough that you can't enjoy looking at some of the antebellum homes and old historic buildings.

One of the historic sites is the old county courthouse. It was here in 1868 that Tom Dula was found guilty of a murder that he may not have committed. 60 Years later Dula's story became part of popular American folklore when the song by Thomas Land hit the charts at "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley!" Dula was taken home for burial and his grave may be found on Tom Dula Road, 1.1 miles from the intersection of State Highway 268, in Wilkes County.

Fort Dobbs SHS Another historical site of note is found just north of Statesville. Fort Dobbs is the only location in North Carolina that saw action in the French and Indian Wars. Hostile Indians attacked the fort on February 27, 1760. Reports say that 60 hostiles engaged about 50 garrisoned soldiers with the lost of over a dozen Indians and only one youth from the Colonial group.

There are many restaurants in the downtown area that offer good meals and decent prices and the people are friendly to bikers.

The route co-locates with US-64 for a short distance, and regains itself on the northeast edge of town as Sullivan Rd and then as Turnersburg Hwy as it crosses over I-40. It's a slightly congested industrial area until crossing over I-77, and still posted at 45 MPH.

US-21 now transforms into a foothills route, complete with sweeping turns up and down hills that frequently give really pretty views of the surrounding countryside. Posted speeds at 55 MPH and it's possible to easily go ten over, but be careful of the occasional logging and delivery trucks.

The next little burg is Harmony, at the intersection of NC-901. At turn to the west can take you back toward I-77 and some nice alternative two lane routes to Wilkesboro. A turn eastbound goes back to US-64 and into Mocksville. NC-901 is not patrolled heavily and it's possible to run at 20 over ... just be careful, I'm not encouraging you to break the speed limit!

From Harmony to the intersection with US-421 there isn't anything to disrupt your enjoyment of this pleasant roadway other than an occasional truck or farm tractor. Enjoy, and start to grin because there's a lot of really fun roadway ahead of you.

At Jonesville US-21 again meets I-77, co-locates for the next several miles. BUT, the better alternative for a touring rider is to continue on OLD US-21 for a pleasant run into Elkin, your last decent opportunity for fuel and eats before reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Elkin to VA Border

At the north edge of Elkin, Old US-21 meets with the current route. Sections of the old road are still available, but it's chopped in such a way to make it an aggravating mass of stop signs as it crosses back and forth over the new route. Not to worry, the new road, if you can really call in 'new' is in excellent condition and you are quickly enthralled by the highway as it begins to rise above the Continental Divide.

Some of the side roads are fun, and actually lead to other towns if you are just out to wander. Try Traphill Rd if you want to go toward Wilkesboro. If you want a REAL adventure and to experience what riders did about 50 years ago, take Old US-21 just north of Traphill road. Wow! It peters out to a dusty gravel path that goes up a ridge and meets the current route as it wiggles up the side of the mountain. Don't try this with a heavy touring bike, but only if you have something like a dual sport.

At the Blue Ridge Parkway most riders have to make a couple of hard choices... eastbound, westbound, or finish the US-21 route into Virginia. Wouldn't it be nice if all of our rides consisted of great choices like this? It's a beautiful area and if you are just wandering, no direction from here will disappoint you.

The next town is Sparta, a slow moving mountain village that is the county seat. It offers a couple of opportunities for fast food and several fuel stations.

Just beyond Sparta US-221 begin to co-locate with the parent route over the Virginia line into Independence, where it intersects with US-58, which is another really fun road for those out wandering in search of really fun roads.

 


Dist:
& Est Time:
30 Miles
.7 Hours
State Map
& Segments:
Link to VA DOT
Segment map
Major Crossroads
US-52 US-58 US-221
Support Roads And Riders
 

Independence, VA to Wytheville, VA

It's only 30 miles from Independence to the terminus of US-21 at Wytheville. It's quiet, scenic, and the best way to cap a good day of riding from the flat, sandy, views of South Carolina into the Appalachian mountains.

Wytheville offers lots of places to stay, eat, and fuel, and I-77 and I-81 are there to take you quickly away to other adventures, and US-52 is a really scenic road if you looking for more adventures to the northwest or off to the southeast. I hope you have enjoyed US-21!