Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With an elevation of 5,046 feet, it was measured by Arnold Henry Guyot in 1872. Guyot used a barometer to measure changes in air pressure to mark the height of gaps, passes, valleys and mountains in the Smoky Mountains. When the Pass was discovered, it replaced Indian Gap as the lowest drivable pass, hence the name “Newfound Gap.” The road through the drivable pass is named Newfound Gap Road.
A Beautiful Drive
It is said that a trip over the gap is like going from Georgia to Maine in terms of foliage and and the variety of the forest ecosystems. When starting from either Gatlinburg, TN or Cherokee, NC, travelers will climb 3,000 feet, ascending through cove hardwood, pine-oak, and northern hardwood forest, to get to the evergreen spruce fir forest at Newfound Gap, that more closely resembles a forest found in New England or Canada.
Newfound Gap can be up to 10 degrees cooler than the lowlands and receives much more snow. Rain in Cherokee or Gatlinburg can easily, and will often, be snow in Newfound Gap. There is an average of 69 inches of snow in Newfound Gap annually. If the roads aren’t closed for the snow, there is ample opportunity for snow sports, such as cross country skiing on Clingmans Dome Road, which starts 0.1 miles from Newfound Gap.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Newfound Gap Road and continues down the North Carolina – Tennessee border. Here visitors can take a quick hike to stretch their legs, or even partake in a multi-day backpacking excursion through the park. There is also a memorial at Newfound Gap, Rockefeller Memorial, which honors a $5 million dollar donation from the Rockefeller Foundation that helped complete the land acquisition for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.