honking in tunnels

Have you ever driven through a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains only to hear an unexpected chorus of honks? You’re not alone! Deep within the heart of the Smoky Mountains lies a peculiar tradition that has piqued the curiosity of countless visitors. Honking in the tunnels is an odd practice that has gone on for generations and is integral to the Smoky Mountain experience. Discover the origins of this honking tradition and examine its legality while exploring its cultural significance. Have a look at the guide below for the locations of these honking tunnels, so you can experience this delightful quirk firsthand.

why people honk in tunnels

Why Do People Honk in Tunnels?

The tradition of honking in tunnels is a fascinating and long-standing custom in the Smoky Mountains. There are several possible explanations for its origins. Here are a few theories behind this unique practice:

Echoes and Acoustics

One reason people honk in tunnels may be due to the acoustics. Tunnels provide natural amplification and sound reverberation. This makes honking more enjoyable and entertaining. Drivers might honk their horns to hear the satisfying echoes bouncing off the tunnel walls.

Scaring Away Spirits

Some people believe that honking in tunnels is an attempt to scare away lingering spirits or negative energies. This superstition originated from the idea that dark and confined tunnels could harbor spirits or ghosts. By honking, drivers hope to ward off any unwanted supernatural visitors.

Good Luck Charm

Another theory is that honking in tunnels brings good luck. It may be a way to ensure a safe and successful journey through the mountains. This practice is similar to other superstitions like making a wish on a shooting star.

Celebrating Engineering

The construction of tunnels is an impressive engineering accomplishment. This is particularly true in the mountainous terrain of the Smokies. Honking in the tunnels could be a way for drivers to express their appreciation for all the hard work that went into creating these passageways.

Social Bonding

Finally, honking in tunnels might serve as a form of social bonding among drivers. As people honk their horns and hear others doing the same, they may feel a sense of camaraderie and shared enjoyment in the experience. This group participation helps create a sense of community, even among strangers on the road.

legality of honking in tunnels

The legality of honking in tunnels varies depending on your state’s traffic regulations. While honking in tunnels might be a time-honored tradition in the Smoky Mountains; it’s important to understand local rules and regulations before participating.

Generally, Tennessee traffic laws discourage the overly loud usage of a “sound amplification system” because it causes noise pollution and distracts other drivers. In other words, blasting loud music may incur fines that total up to $50 or misdemeanor penalties in some areas.

This law does not directly apply to excessive or improper horn use; still, one should practice honking in tunnels responsibly. Be considerate to ensure the safety of other drivers and avoid excessive noise. Also, be mindful of honk volume, duration, and traffic conditions. While honking is a fun way to embrace the Smoky Mountains spirit, always prioritize safety and courtesy.

Smoky Mountain honking tradition

A Honkin’ Good Tradition in the Smokies

Honking in Smoky Mountain tunnels is a cherished tradition that creates a lot of fun on regional trips. This honking tradition remains popular among drivers today.

Both locals and visitors enjoy tunnel honking. It’s a tradition that creates lasting memories and reflects the Smoky Mountains’ spirit. This playful activity delights friends and family and reminds you to appreciate life’s simple moments.

Moreover, the tradition unites travelers. When drivers honk and hear others, they share a bond that transcends language, culture, and background. In an instant, people from diverse backgrounds connect through a unifying gesture.

The honking tradition showcases the Smoky Mountains’ natural charm. Passed down through generations, it helps preserve the region’s unique character. So, engage in this lively tradition and contribute to the Smokies’ history and culture!

where to find honking tunnels in the Smokies

Where to Find Honking Tunnels in the Smokies

Discovering honking tunnels in the Smoky Mountains is a cool adventure that will add a touch of delight to your journey. While there are many tunnels throughout the Smokies, below is a list of notable honking hotspots that are worth a visit:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The park is home to several tunnels and many popular spots for honking. The two most famous are the Newfound Gap Road tunnel (US 441) and the Road To Nowhere tunnel on Lake View Drive (North Carolina side). Frequented by enthusiastic honkers, both tunnels continue to keep the tradition alive.

Cades Cove 

While exploring the Cades Cove Loop Road, you’ll come across the Bote Mountain Tunnel tucked between Townsend Wye and the entrance to Cades Cove. This is another common hotspot for honkers.

Gatlinburg Spur

Connecting Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Spur is a picturesque drive with two tunnels. Both tunnels have become famous for honking, adding a fun twist to this scenic route.

Little River Road

This winding road stretches between Gatlinburg and Townsend and features a small tunnel at The Sinks. The Sinks is a beautiful waterfall, and the nearby tunnel is a well-known honking spot. 

These tunnels add a unique flavor to the Smoky Mountains experience. They bring joy and laughter to those participating. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Smoky Mountain traveler, take advantage of the chance to let out a honk!


Honking in the Smoky Mountain tunnels is a quirky and time honored tradition. This tradition has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Rooted in superstition, this unique custom adds a touch of fun and excitement to the scenic drives through the mountains.

While the legality of honking in tunnels may vary, it is generally accepted and tolerated in the Smoky Mountains. However, you need to remember to act responsibly and with consideration for others.

So, the next time you find yourself driving through a tunnel near Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, lead the charge with a chorus of honks echoing through the passage. Embrace the tradition, give a friendly honk, and become part of the Smoky Mountains’ honking history!

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About Andy Rowe

Andy Rowe is an experienced Writer and Content Designer with a passion for storytelling. He earned his Masters of Business Administration while living abroad in Taiwan and has spent the past 6 years honing his skills in copy writing, social media content, and thought leadership. Andy has a talent for research and the ability to adapt this writing style to different audiences. When he’s not writing, Andy enjoys traveling, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and reading.

6 Responses to “Ever Heard of Honking in the Smoky Mountain Tunnels?”

  1. Sarah

    Always honk in tunnels. Love it! There’s a small tunnel that merges the 405 freeway with the 5 in San Fernando. When afternoon traffic is crawling thru it, hornn honking releases stress and always brings a smile.

  2. Went through the Smokeys and Blue Ridge many times and always honked my horn in the tunnels. Always got a good response. It does not scare the wildlife. The tunnels are very short. There is no long honking. It’s just saying hello to fellow mountain travelers.

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