The Great Smoky Mountains are a natural wonderland and they offer some of the most captivating landscapes in the United States. With lush forests and misty peaks, the region is a haven for those seeking solace and adventure. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in this natural beauty is to explore the many Smoky Mountain scenic drives. The Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg driving trails showcase the most unique aspects of the surrounding region, promising an unforgettable experience for all who venture along their routes. So, gear up and get ready to explore the beauty of Gatlinburg and beyond!
Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap Road is among the most popular Smoky Mountain scenic drives. Spanning 33 miles, it connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina. This winding mountain pass offers breathtaking panoramic views and several scenic overlooks. As you pass through various ecosystems, hardwood forests and high-elevation spruce await. Take the chance to stop at the Newfound Gap overlook for a stunning view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Cades Cove Loop
While driving the Smoky Mountains valleys, nothing but lush meadows and rolling hills surround you. Cades Cove Loop is an 11-mile, one-way, loop road that provides a leisurely drive through the area’s most popular destination. This picturesque valley was once home to a thriving community of settlers in the early 1800s. Today, Cades Cove serves as a living testament to the area’s rich heritage.
Visitors from around the world come to explore its well-preserved old structures and learn about the lives of its early settlers. These original structures include log cabins, churches, a working mill, and barns. They provide a unique window into the lifestyles, architectural styles, and resourcefulness of the early settlers in the Smoky Mountain region.
In addition, Cades Cove is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The valley’s abundant wildlife, lush forests, and stunning landscapes make it perfect for experiencing the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Keep a look out for white-tailed deer, black bears, and wild turkeys!
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Consider the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail for a more intimate and immersive Smoky Mountain scenic drive. This 5.5-mile, one-way, loop road takes you on a journey past cascading waterfalls and alongside sparkling mountain streams. This driving trail offers several hiking options along the way. Be sure to check out the famous Grotto Falls Trail, where you can walk behind a 25-foot waterfall. There’s also the historical Noah “Bud” Ogle Farmstead, where you’ll find a working “tub mill” used for grinding corn into meal.
Clingmans Dome Road
A 7-mile paved road, Clingman’s Dome leads to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Clingmans Dome is 6,643 feet tall and offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. There is up to 100 miles of visibility on a clear day! The drive up to Clingmans Dome alone is just breathtaking.
Cataloochee Valley Road
For a more off-the-beaten-path Smoky Mountain scenic drive, consider Cataloochee Valley Road. This 11-mile gravel road takes you through the remote Cataloochee Valley. Home to historic churches, old log cabins, and open meadows, this valley is also known for its large population of elk. Be sure to drive slowly!
Tail of the Dragon
Tail of the Dragon is an incredible 11-mile stretch of US Highway 129, boasting 318 curves! It’s a favorite among driving enthusiasts and motorcyclists. There are always automotive events and rallies happening year-round that bring in folks from many states around. Navigate the twisting turns while taking in the dramatic mountain landscapes. Buckle up and get ready for the heart-racing challenge of driving the Smoky Mountains!
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches from the Smokies in North Carolina all the way to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers countless opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. The entire 469-mile parkway is worth exploring if you’re up for a road trip! Pro tip: the section near Cherokee, North Carolina, gives you easy access to some of the most amazing views in the Smokies.
Foothills Parkway is one of the more lesser-known Smoky Mountain scenic drives. The Foothills Parkway spans 22.5 miles and offers sweeping views of the surrounding valleys. Three sections of the parkway are currently open to the public. The first is a 17-mile stretch between Walland and Wears Valley. The second is a 5.6-mile stretch between Cosby and Interstate 40. The third section is another 17-mile stretch, in the southern portion, that runs from Chilhowee Lake to Walland.
Little River Road
Little River Road is an 18-mile scenic drive that connects the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg with Cades Cove at the Townsend entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Drive along and get treated to picturesque views of the Little River. Take advantage of the opportunity to stop at The Sinks, a famous waterfall and swimming hole along the route.
The Smoky Mountains offer some of the most stunning scenic drives in the United States. The breathtaking views of Newfound Gap Road and the wildlife-rich Cades Cove Loop are sights to behold. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and the awe-inspiring Clingmans Dome Road are two of the best Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg driving trails. However, you can also venture off the beaten path with the picturesque Cataloochee Valley Road. Tackle the thrilling Tail of the Dragon, or immerse yourself in the panoramic beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Foothills Parkway. For a nature-rich experience closer to Gatlinburg, don’t miss the enchanting Little River Road. Each of these remarkable drives showcases the diverse beauty of the Smoky Mountains. They provide you with unforgettable memories and the ultimate driving experience!
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