Very easy drive. Worst of it will be the Atlanta traffic unless you are coming on a weekend. If you are used to LA traffic, you will have no problem, as it is not nearly as bad!
The drive should take 3.5 to 4 hours depending on your foot. You will drive up a portion of I-26, 10 or so miles? that is mountainus, but is not real curvey or worrysome. It goes to 3 lanes for the trucks to use as the grade is steep for them.
Depending on where you are going in Asheville, you'll see the mountains all around, take a drive on the parkway around asheville to really enjoy the mountains.
1. Head to 85 north and keep driving until Spartanburg then get onto I-26 N. While theoretically this is the fastest route, or at least it mapquests out that way, it is also the most boring (100+ mile stretch of 85) with the least to recommend it and the most likelihood of road work and accidents. The mountainous stretch of this is right after you cross into NC from SC while on I-26. There is about a 5+ mile stretch of up the mountain but it is a 2-3 lane and is not windy. From the airport I(which is south of ATL) I would say 3.5 hrs with no stops would be extremely lucky.
1b. Another version of this route is to get off of 85 North just before Greenville onto 25 north which bypasses Greenville and heads more quickly north to Asheville. This is more of an uphill climb in some spots. This is at least a bit more scenic and takes you through part of the National Forest.
2. Head towards 85 North and then get onto 985 N which takes you past Gainesville, this turns into 23 North and becomes a much less traveled, less congested and scenic route taking you past Rabun Gap and Tallulah Falls and through N. GA mtns. You will stay on this through Franklin and Waynesville and then get on I-40 east and then 240 to get into Asheville. At times 23 North is 2 lanes and there are some areas of construction in N.GA but in generally takes me about the same amount of time to get to ATL and sometimes is faster than #1. I also like the different places that you can stop at scenic overlooks and small towns. I can get to Atlanta in about 3 hr 30 min at most and to the airport it would be another 20 min
When I come from the airport I use weavervilles 1B. route.
I drive to/from Atlanta quite frequently and almost always use suggestion #2. I find it is much more scenic and though it mapquests at about 15 minutes longer there is often traffic/construction on 85N that eliminates that difference.
There are tons and tons of hotels around Atlanta and by the airport - I would probably try and get slightly north of the city, depending on time of day - and stay in Norcross or Gainesville so the next day you don't have to deal w/ commuting traffic as you head north.
I much prefer the Gainesville/US 23 route as well. It offers some beautiful scenery, and there are a number of interesting shops, restaurants, and other sights along the way.
moving east and jmys,
take heed of weaverville's reference to traffic at your time of arrival/ departure from ATL/ Hartsfield International.
Its nothing an LA traffic veteran cant overcome,but its no treat, either, to get to the north side of ATL from the airport, which is on the south side of ATL, in afternoon rush hour traffic.
Having said that, jmys, the morning rush hour is even worse, so if you can get to a motel just beyond the ATL metro area, which is easy to demarcate by the interstate highway reducing from as much as 14 lanes to a measley 6 or even 4, on the evening of your arrival, you will be thankful for that second effort, after crossing the pond, the night before.
Good luck and enjoy your trip to Asheville!
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