Video Available from US-74

Along US-74

The nature of US-74 changes several times in its 497 miles. The western half, starting at Cleveland, TN, is sometimes a wild mountain road, whereas the eastern portions are frequently four lanes of 'get there fast' as it falls down to the Atlantic Ocean at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

The video catalog has a good selection of views around the Lake Lure area and will make the flatlander eager to start planning a trip to the mountains of western North Carolina.


Cleveland, TN to Isabella,TN

Est 55 miles - 1.2 hours (see map)

Major Crossroads


The route doesn't start out with a lot of promise, and if you are joining it from I-75 it's easy to miss, it isn't well signed. Use Exit 20 and follow the signs toward US-64. It will co-locate with US-64 and stay with that route until just south of Murphy, NC.

It's four lane for the first 13 miles, but you won't care a bit, because the approaching mountains are filling the horizon and the big grin starts when the route goes to two lanes just east of US-411. The fun diminishes at Ducktown, where the route turns back to four lane divided for the next 40 odd miles. There are only two or three intersections with Tennessee state highways along this section and they leads to interesting rides, but try to concentrate on what lies ahead, and be ready to tuck your knees into that tank - it gets twisty!

Isabella,TN to Charlotte, NC

Est 265 miles - 5.0 hours (see map)

Major Crossroads


Four Lane Till Andrews

Okay, you can relax for a while and just enjoy the beautiful scenery. Sure, it's four lane, but there a lots of places to get off the main route and take a fun run up or down a hillside for a few miles. If you are looking for a fun half-day loop, take US-129 west to the Cherohola Skyway, then Tennessee local roads north to Deal's Gap then NC-28 back eastbound to rejoin US-74 east of Almond, NC. Orrrr... you could plan to forget the first part of US-74 and just start from Deal's Gap to begin with. Couldn't blame you if you did.

Beyond Andrews the route reverts back to a nice two lane ride for a while. A couple of small towns break the rhythm, but only for a moment. Traffic can get busy, this section is co-located with US-19 and US-129. Adventure rides on dual-sport bikes can find some interesting back roads here, just be aware that some are private and the owners react badly to trespassers.

At the intersection of NC-28 the route returns to four lane and basically remains as four lane for the remainder of the ride as it co-located with I-40 and I-26 through the Asheville area and down to the South Carolina state line.

US-74A Is An Attractive Alternate

Continue the leisure ride atmosphere by selecting US-74A from east of Asheville down through Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure. It co-locates with US-64 for part of the distance and continues as US-74B as a two lane route that is much less frantic than the main route and offering many more opportunities to relax and enjoy the mountain scenery.

Shelby, Kings Mountain and Into Charlotte

West of Shelby the route has been fully tamed and the scenery begins to reflect the rolling hills of the Piedmont. There are occasional burst of rock, like Kings Mountain, which is a good place to take a tourist type stop. The Kings Mountain National Military Park, over the South Carolina border just south of US-74, is the site of an important victory of American Patriots against the British regulars. The battle only lasted a short time, but cost the English an important leader and broke their advance against the Americans. Allow at least 90 minutes for the stop.

Around Gastonia US-74 becomes a local commercial route; slow, congested, and definitely NOT scenic unless you enjoy red lights and auto lots. Consider hopping onto I-85 into Charlotte and save yourself a good 45 minutes of misery.

Charlotte, NC to Wrightsville Beach, NC

Est 212 miles - 3.8 hours (see map)

Major Crossroads

Charlotte Metro Area Is A Mess

At the very western edge of the downtown district you have a choice to make, continue on the surface route of US-74 to see the sites of Charlotte, or take the elevated Belk Expressway. The Belk will loop you around most of the mess and take only a few minutes in all of its three and four lane glory - but pay VERY close attention to the route signs or your will loop around and find yourself back on the west side of town. Also, the exit ramp that takes you back down to US-74 is tricky and many accidents are known to happen there.

The next stretch of US-74 is locally known as Independence Boulevard and it is likely one of the worst roads in town for motorcycles. Crowded and always under some sort of construction, the locals treat it like a race track where rubbin' and bumpin' is expected. It often seems as if motorcycles are a target of choice until crossing the I-485 loop. Several times here I've seen riders lean out and kick the doors of cars that start moving into their lane without warning. The route is still four and six lanes wide into Monroe, but at least the drivers on that section give two wheelers a break.

From Monroe east to the Wrightsville Beach the route is generally four lane divided highway and doesn't offer much to break the monotony. 28 Miles of the route is already badged as I-74 in the Rockingham area. The original route is now signed as US-74B, and is available here and there, but not in long enough distance to make it a worthwhile ride unless you are just looking for a way to waste time or find an out of the way place to eat and fuel up.

Many spur routes and trunk routes cross US-74 in this area, each offering a quick escape from the boredom if you are in the mood to explore north and south. Your reward for enduring the ride away from the Charlotte area is the Atlantic Ocean beach that lies in front of you. Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach offer many diversions, most of them maritime oriented.

Enjoy your time on the seaside, but remember the fun you had in the mountains!

This article is incomplete, can you help out your fellow riders by sharing your local knowledge? We are also interesting in your stories, ride reports, photos and video ... just send Lee a message.

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