The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created in 1934. This park was created for many reasons – the stunning natural beauty, the cold and flowing waterfalls, and the chance to conserve natural resources.
During this period in American history, the automobile was becoming more affordable. With the thinking that more people would be driving and the park being within a day’s drive of most of the population of the East Coast, the Smokies were created with auto touring in mind.
Statistics show that 88% of Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors see the majority of the park by car. What better way to see the Smokies?
Let’s take a look at the best scenic drives through the Smoky Mountains, TN.
After all, who doesn’t love embracing the natural beauties and wonders of the world in comfort?
1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a gem of the Smoky Mountains, TN. This road is 5.5 miles long and a one-way looped, narrowing road.
You’ll notice you’re driving through a quieter time of days past when you see all the well-preserved structures like old cabins and grist mills.
They’re quiet snippets of history.
Cast your worries and stress aside for a little while and allow yourself to be enveloped by nature’s embrace.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is open April through November.
2. Cades Cove Loop Road
Cades Cove is grand, verdant valley surrounded by majestic mountains. Many would say is one of the most stunning areas of the Smoky Mountains, TN.
This is probably due to the fact that you’ll see a lot of wildlife.
There are reports of many:
- Black bear
- And more!
For motorists, there is an 11-mile loop road that circles the Cove. The loop is a great feature that offers tourists the opportunity to sight-see at their own pace. Always remember to pull off to the side of the road and let other motorists pass if you’d like to stop and taken in the views.
3. Rich Mountain Road
Rich Mountain Road offers another fantastic route to view Cades Cove.
This route is an 8-mile one-way road that ditches pavement for gravel, really bringing you closer to nature. Take it easy on this path and really soak in Cades Cove as you head up the mountains and back to Townsend.
It may become one of your favorite places.
Remember – this road leads you AWAY from Cades Cove. You cannot go back into the park without driving back to the main entrance of the loop road.
While mother nature certainly is beautiful, she pays no mind to her structure when it comes to people – the road is winding and steep. A 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended by the National Park Service for this route.
4. Upper Tremont Road
Upper Tremont is a hidden gem. It is the road away from it all, offering you a peaceful drive. You’ll know from the gravel path that it’s the road less taken by tourists.
Upper Tremont Road can be found near Wears Valley, on your way to Cades Cove. It’s another scenic drive that allows you to really enjoy the wonders of mother nature. This is especially true during the fall season.
If you want to get out and experience the area, that option is available, too. Be sure to pick up the self-guided auto tour booklet from the start of the road. Stop at all the waypoints and learn the rich and varied history of Tremont.
On the Upper Tremont Road, you will find several hiking trails to choose from, waterfalls, rivers, and the all important tree-shaded parking areas.
Remember: it’s a quiet place. Cast all your cares aside and enjoy this hidden gem.
5. The Tail of the Dragon
Take a walk on the wilder side with The Tail of the Dragon (AKA US Highway 129).
This infamous Smoky Mountains, TN road is popular with bikers and sports car drivers and for good reason.
If you’re seeking adventure, this route is for you – there are more than 300 curves on this 11-mile stretch where The Dragon tests your driving abilities.
Of course, The Dragon is more than just a winding adventure. There’s plenty to behold with the scenery, too.
This amazing road bookended by Chilhowee Lake and Fontana Lake.
This road encompasses everything you’ve ever seen about scenic drives through America. It’s mother nature at her finest.
It should be no surprise that The Tail of the Dragon is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road. Remember to yield to those who are ready to drive a bit faster than you. The road has many pull offs where you can take a break and take in the scenery.
6. Little River Road
Little River Road is a beautiful drive connecting downtown Gatlinburg to Townsend. On this drive, you’ll find many blooming wildflowers, rustic wooded areas, a scenic river, and waterfalls galore.
The route of Little River Road follows an old railroad bed. During the early 1900’s, this road was actually the route of a slow-moving passenger train. In some places, you can even see the old coal soot staining the rocks.
You’ve seen the photos of those wilderness places you swear can only exist in books or on film. Take a drive on Little River Road and you’ll find that stunning places exist closer than you think.
Little River Road is certain to steal your heart.
7. Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap is a 32-mile long journey, really showcasing the beauties of Smoky Mountains TN.
The Gap boasts the highest driveable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as a variety of forest ecosystems.
The Newfound Gap Road drive will feel a bit different from the previous routes in that it’s faster.
The whole road is paved and is a US highway, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a stunning journey along the way.
Of course, you don’t need to be confined to your car to enjoy the splendor of the Newfound Gap. If you decide to soak in the national park outside of your car, be sure to bring a light jacket with you.
Because of the elevation, it’s entirely possible for the weather to be rather cool, even in the summer months.
A whole 10 degrees cooler.
8. Clingman’s Dome Road
Open from April through November each year, Clingman’s Dome Road is a real treat.
This is the highest elevation road east of the Mississippi River.
Located just past Newfound Gap, this road rides the state lines of Tennessee and North Carolina taking you to the highest point in the National Park.
If you want to stretch your legs after the drive, walk the half mile to the observation tower. The highest point of the entire 2,192 mile Appalachian Trail with 360-degree views is your reward.
Smoky Mountains, TN Awaits
So, what do you think? Are you ready to hop in the car and go on a mesmerizing trip full of nature’s splendor? Are you ready to be enveloped by the quiet caress of the great outdoors?
Smoky Mountains, TN awaits! Create a memorable road trip by stopping and smelling all the roses nature has to offer.