What better way is there to spend a day than cruising through the Smoky Mountains on a scenic road? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers more than 384 miles of scenic roads to explore, offering you a stunning view around every turn. Here are a few ideas for scenic routes that you can drive on your next road trip.
Cades Cove Loop Road
The one lane meandering paved scenic route from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove is a relaxing drive that shows the majestic beauty of the National Park. Along the way you’ll see a lot of historic structures, including farms, homes and churches. The loop also offers you the chance to see wildlife, maybe even some black bears if you are lucky. It is also the access point for the day hike to Abrams Falls.
Clingman’s Dome Road
A thrilling seven-mile drive, this winding road will take you up to the peak of Clingman’s Dome, the highest peak in Tennessee. You can park in the parking lot at the end of the road and then take the half mile hike to the very peak to reach the observation tower and admire the breathtaking view from the very top.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Turn onto the Historic Nature Trail Road in Gatlinburg and take the six-mile loop to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This trail offers views of historic cabins, old growth forests and rushing mountain streams along its narrow six-mile stretch of twists and turns. Make sure that you bring the camera - you’ll be in awe of the beauty on every stretch of the track.
Balsam Mountain Heintooga Ridge Road
An exciting drive that overlooks sweeping mountain vistas, the Balsam Mountain/Heintooga Ridge is another excellent adventure in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a one-way gravel road that overlooks some of the most stunning sweeping mountain vistas in the country. Bring some food with you and follow along Heintooga Ridge Road for around nine miles to a beautiful picnic area - where you can stop and enjoy lunch in the fresh air.
Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap Road is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and it is said that driving through this gap is like going from Maine to Georgia in terms of the variety of the forest ecosystems and the foliage. When you start in Gatlinburg you’ll begin driving through hardwood and pine-oak forest, and as you gain altitude you’ll ascend to an evergreen spruce fir forest similar to those in Canada.
Take a trip back in time by driving through the breath-taking Cataloochee Valley. Pick up a tour guide booklet at a GSMR visitors’ center or from the roadside box near the valley’s entrance and learn all about this area’s rich history. This rustic valley is another perfect spot to take in historic structures, including centuries-old churches, a school, a home and several outbuildings. It’s also known as an excellent place to spot the majestic elk which have been reintroduced into the park in recent years.
Tail Of The Dragon
Feeling brave? Experienced riders can take a scenic drive through the Smokies to reach what locals call the Tail of the Dragon, a curvaceous stretch of roadway that sports car enthusiasts and motorcyclists especially love testing their skills on. This road is a challenge for most drivers, as it features 318 twists and turns in the 11 mile journey.
These are just a few of the most beautiful drives that you can take through the Smoky Mountains. Next time you get a chance to go on an adventure, fill up the tank, put on some great tunes and hit the road to see some of the most beautiful views this national park has to offer! Staying a while? Take a look at Pigeon Forge cabin rentals with mountain views. And check out more scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains on our site.