Interstate 26

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Interstate 26 is a scenic byway along its path northward from Mars Hill into eastern Tennessee. The views are breathtaking and the scenery unending along the Appalachian Freeway. This view looks north at Ephraim Knob from the scenic overlook west of California. Photo taken 05/31/07.

Interstate 26 connects Hendersonville, Asheville, and the Tri-Cities of Tennessee along a general north-south routing. The freeway originally began at the west junction of Interstates 40 & 240 outside Asheville, but was extended northward in 2003 over a new alignment in place of Interstate 181 along U.S. 23 to Interstate 81. The freeway carries tourist traffic bound for the mountains year round and doubles as an important truck route southeast to the ports of Charleston, South Carolina. Much of the freeway remains four lanes despite heavy traffic loads.

Interstate 26 North Carolina Guides

A few portions of the U.S. 19 & 23 freeway leading north from Asheville remain below Interstate standard. Therefore drivers will notice that several of the reassurance shields posted for Interstate 26 display "Future". Work to upgrade these portions of roadway will occur when funding becomes available.

When Interstate 26 was extended in 2003, the original set of exit numbers changed to reflect the new "west" end at Sams Gap. This list was provided by Carter Buchanan on January 27, 2004 when new exit numbers appeared:

  • Exit 33 (old 2) - North Carolina 191
  • Exit 39 (old 6) - North Carolina 146 Skyland
  • Exit 40 (old 9) - North Carolina 280 Brevard Arden Asheville Regional Airport (AVL)
  • Exit 44 (old 13) - U.S. 25 Fletcher Mountain Home
  • Exit 49A/B (old 18A/B) - U.S. 64 Hendersonville Bat Cave
  • Exit 53 (old 22) - Upward Road Hendersonville
  • Exit 54 (old 23) - North Carolina 225 to U.S. 25 to U.S. 176 Greenville
  • Exit 59 (old 28) - Saluda
  • Exit 67 (old 36) - U.S. 74 North Carolina 108 Columbus Rutherfordton Shelby (Charlotte)
  • Milepost 71 - NC/SC state line
Interstate 26 scenes
North Carolina 191 (Brevard Road) north meets Interstate 26 for the first time by Asheville Outlets shopping center at the community of Venable. Photo taken 12/31/13.
Spanning I-26, drivers turn onto I-26 & U.S. 74 west from N.C. 191 (Brevard Road) north. N.C. 191 meets I-40 east directly, with I-26 providing the connection to westbound. Photo taken 12/31/13.
NC 251 begins at the Broadway Street interchange with Interstate 26 and U.S. 19-23-70 in north Asheville. Photo taken 07/16/05.
NC 251 joins Riverside Drive north at the eastbound entrance ramp for Interstate 26. The state highway follows the French Broad River toward Woodfin. Photo taken 07/16/05.
Riverside Drive northbound at NC 251 (Broadway Street) and the parclo interchange with I-26/U.S. 19-23-70. Riverside Drive used to carry NC 251 southward toward I-240. Photo taken 07/16/05.
Looking southwest from the scenic overlook along Interstate 26 westbound near milepost seven. Bailey Ridge, Sevenmile Ridge, and the Spring Creek Mountains are among some of the peaks rising along the horizon. Photo taken 05/31/07.
Interstate 26 & U.S. 23 continue northward by Hooker Knob. This view looks from the path at the westbound side scenic overlook. Photo taken 05/31/07.
Southward view from the scenic overlook path, showing the entire westbound side facility and an eastbound runaway truck ramp. This site is around 2,600 feet above sea level. Photo taken 05/31/07.
2 photos
2 photos
Big Laurel Road travels west parallel to the Big Laurel Creek from Old U.S. 23 near I-26 & U.S. 23 at Exit 3. Interstate 26 travels a high-level bridge far above both the local road and waterway in these scenes. Photos taken 05/31/07.

Photo Credits:

  • 07/16/05 by AARoads.
  • 05/31/07 by AARoads and Carter Buchanan.
  • 12/31/13 by AARoads and Carter Buchanan.

Connect with:
Interstate 40
Interstate 240
U.S. 19
U.S. 23
U.S. 25
U.S. 64
U.S. 70
U.S. 74

Page Updated 10-14-2015.