The Big Horse Creek Byway, which begins on N.C. 194 at N.C. 88 in Warrensville and runs 17.9 miles to the Virginia state line, features rural life in the beautiful mountains of Ashe County, specifically in Lansing, whose motto, "Echoes of the Past, Whispers of Tomorrow," well defines the small, rustic town.
The most prosperous years for Lansing began in 1914 with the construction of the Virginia-Carolina Railroad, which had a great impact on the prosperity of the town, enabling the mining and timber industries to flourish. The passenger and freight railroad was known as the "Creeper Railroad" due to its slow ascent from its southern terminus in Elkland, N.C., to its northern terminus in Abingdon, Va.
Lansing grew and prospered until the economic crash of the Great Depression in 1929, after which recovery was slow.
Road improvements gradually brought easier access to goods and services in nearby larger towns and led to the close of the railroad in 1977. The result was significant changes to the town.
Currently, Lansing is a designated "Mountain Heritage Trout Water City" with the creek-side "Creeper Trail Park." It has two locations on the Blue Ridge Music Trail – the Old Helton School Hog Stomp on Thursdays and Phipps General Store Jam on Fridays.
The byway leaves Lansing, following Big Horse Creek north to Virginia and crossing the creek in numerous locations. It's a great place to drive with the windows down to enjoy the sound of the water rushing over boulders and under the many bridges.
The road occasionally rises and follows the ridge above the creek. All along, there are spectacular views of the narrow valleys with farmhouses, farm animals, old barns and country churches. The hillsides feature a mixed forest with intermittent pastures and Christmas tree farms.
Near the byway, look for:
- Phoenix Mountain (elevation 4,710 feet) east of the byway's beginning
- Wilburn Waters (a local famous bear hunter) historic marker in the creek
- "Creeper Railroad" abandoned rail bed paralleling the byway
- Pond Mountain (elevation 5,000 feet) and Pond Mountain Game Lands to the west of the northern end of the byway