The Gatlinburg, Tennessee area of the Smoky Mountains is a popular vacation destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and fishing. This region also boasts some of the nation’s best scenic drives. If you are visiting the area, you should take some time to explore these distinctive roads. The following are our four top recommendations for Gatlinburg scenic drives:
1. Cades Cove Loop Road
The Cades Cove Loop Road passes through an area that was originally an early European American settlement, and you can still see some of these well preserved historic buildings today. The road also provides some of the area’s most breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains.
To reach this road from Gatlinburg, proceed on the Parkway towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You will then make a right onto Little River Road, which will lead you to the Cades Cove Loop Road.
You will want to drive slowly, as this is a one-way road with lots to see. Some of the highlights to look out for are the Primitive Baptist Church and the John Oliver Cabin, the home of one of the area’s first settlers. If you feel like taking a hike, you can walk along Cooper Road Trail or the path to Abrams Falls.
If you enjoy streams and waterfalls, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is guaranteed to be one of your favorite Gatlinburg scenic drives!This road, which runs through the national park, gets its name from the Roaring Fork stream. It also features several historic homesteads and other buildings from a bygone age.
One of the highlights of this trail is Rainbow Falls, one of the park’s most beautiful waterfalls. It’s a moderate five mile hike to the falls and back. Grotto Falls, another popular waterfall you will pass on this trail, has a fantastic view from behind the falls. Still another notable attraction on this trail is the Place of a Thousand Drips, which is a low-flow waterfall that is especially impressive after heavy rain.
Upper Tremont Road is a quiet and peaceful road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To reach this road, you will take the same route you would follow to Cades Cove, only in this case you will turn left when you see a sign for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
You will first be on Lower Tremont Road, which has several popular areas for hiking, horseback riding, and exploring the environmental institute. If you want to venture to a more remote area, however, you should continue onto Upper Tremont Road, a gravel road that is great for spotting wildflowers, hiking, and fishing in one of the area’s most unspoiled and secluded spots.
4. Newfound Gap Road
Another one of our favorite Gatlinburg scenic drives is Newfound Gap Road, which you can take from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina. This road is a good choice if you want to see magnificent mountain views in any season. You can pick up a map of the area at Sugarlands that will point out some of the major attractions.
Be sure to make a stop at Clingmans Dome Road, where you’ll find an observation tower that gives you panoramic views of the national park and surrounding area. Another landmark worth visiting is Mingus Mill, a grist mill that was built in the 19th century and is still operating today. If you take Newfound Gap Road to the end, you will reach the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the Mountain Farm Museum in North Carolina. This is an interesting and educational center which has exhibits, livestock, and demonstrations of traditional Native American crafts.
For more suggestions on how to spend your time in the Smoky Mountains, check out our complete list of things to do in Gatlinburg!