12 Scenic Drives In Great Smoky Mountains (With Maps + Stopovers)

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Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the USA, and if you are planning for it, read some of the best scenic drives in Great Smoky Mountains. Most of these scenic drives are unique romantic getaways in Tennessee

Scenic Drives In Great Smoky Mountains

Scenic Drives In Great Smoky Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains Road Trip)

The Great Smoky Mountains border North Carolina and Tennessee with half a million acres of nature landscape covering splendid valleys, huge forests, cool mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and vast mountain peaks has so many scenic drives too. So read about some of the best scenic drives in Great Smoky Mountains with their highlights and scenic stopovers. 

Also Read:

Scenic Drives In Great Smoky Mountains

Newfound Gap Road (US-441)

  • Total Drive/Miles – 29.2 miles one way (58.4 miles round trip)
  • Start and End Point – Between Cherokee and Gatlinburg. This scenic drive in the Smoky Mountains starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and ends at the Mountain Farm Museum in North Carolina.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Chimney TopsCampbell Overlook, with amazing views of Mount LeConte, Newfound Gap, Rockefeller Memorial, Morton’s Gap Overlook, Clingmans Dome Road, Oconaluftee Valley Overlook, and Mingus Mill are some of the scenic stopovers on Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Best Newfound Gap Road Trip Itinerary – Newfound Gap Scenic Drive, Trails, Campgrounds

Smoky Mountains Drive

About: This scenic road runs from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina, and crosses the park, offering stunning views of the Smoky Mountains. It is a popular spot for sightseeing, with several vistas/overlooks along the way, including the popular Newfound Gap Overlook. This Overlook offers panoramic views of the Smokies and the surrounding landscape. The beauty of these mountain ranges is the fog coming out from the peak of the mountains, and it looks like the mountain are smoking(pun). 

This drive tops the list of best places to visit in Great Smoky mountains.

scenic drives in great smoky mountains
Courtesy – Google Maps – Click here for location.

Clingmans Dome Road

  • Total Drive/Miles – 7 Miles
  • Start and End Point – Turn off Newfound Gap Road 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap and ends at Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. 
  • Scenic Stopovers – Indian Gap, The Fraser Fir Forest, Spruce-Fir Nature Trail, Weeping Wall, Secret Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome.

things to do in great smoky mountains drive

About – This scenic drive takes you to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the summit of Clingmans Dome. The 7-mile drive offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and if you are lucky, then can spot wildlife such as black bears and wild turkeys. You can take a short hike to the observation tower at the summit for panoramic views of the valley, mountains, and scenic landscape. 

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

  • Total Drive/Miles – 5.5 Miles
  • Start and End Point – This trail starts at the Cherokee Orchard entrance, forms a loop, and ends at Gatlinburg, Tn.
  • Scenic Stopovers – This trail is famous for its impressive waterfalls in Gatlinburg, Tn. Look out for Rainbow Falls, Baskins Creek Falls, Grotto Falls, and Place of a Thousand Drips. Also, you will spot the historic mountainous home of Noah “Bud” Ogle Homestead. 

Smoky Mountains Drive

About – This Smoky Mountains drive is a 5.5-mile loop road that winds through the National park’s lush forests, stunning waterfalls, and rushing streams is famous for its fantastic mountainous scenery. This loop is narrow; hence, only cars are allowed on this drive. In winter, this trail is closed due to the closure of roads. 

smoky mountains national park scenic drives
Courtesy – Google Maps – Click here for the Location

Cades Cove Loop Road

  • Total Drive/Miles – 11 Miles 
  • Start and End Point – You can start from these three start points – Laurel Creek Road, Parson Branch Road, or Rich Mountain Road (the last two roads are closed in winter). It is a way loop road that starts from Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. In between, you can exit towards Townsend direction if you do not want to go back to start.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Best stopovers on this scenic drive is Oliver Cabin, Primitive Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Elijah Oliver Place, Abrams Falls, Cable Mill, Carter Shields Cabin, Becky Cable House Historical Structure, Riding Stables with Ranger Station, and many walkable trails too. 

This scenic drive gives you an experience of rural mountainous life in the broad Cades Cove Valley, surrounded by stunning mountains. You can see farm animals initially and then be followed by historic homes. You can spot deer and bears in a lush green forest deep inside. The drive is narrow, and hence drive carefully. 

scenic drives in great smoky mountains

TIP: On Wednesday, this drive is closed to motorists, and only bike riders and hikers can enjoy nature on foot.

The Little River Road

Places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains Drive

  • Total Drive/Miles – 22 Miles
  • Start and End Point – It starts from Sugarlands visitor center near Gatlinburg and ends at Cades Cove. It is also known as Laurel Creek Road. 
  • Scenic Stopovers – Maloney Point, Laurel Falls trail, Elkmont, Metcalf Bottoms, The Sinks, Meigs Falls, and Townsend “Y”, historic Little Greenbrier school, and Walker sisters’ cabin.
smoky mountains scenic drive - places to visit in great smoky mountains road trip
Courtesy – Google Maps – Click here for Location.

This scenic drive takes you along the Little River, past cascading waterfalls, picnic grounds, and narrow streams passing by your side. This drive is on low elevation; hence, you will not see giant Smoky mountains, but you will pass through scenic lush green forests, cascaded streams, and campgrounds.

Heintooga Round Bottom Road

  • Total Drive/Miles – 14 Mile
  • Start and End Point – It starts at the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 458.2 and ends at Big Cove Road north of Cherokee. 
  • Scenic Stopovers – Heintooga Overlook, Balsam Mountain Campground, Flat Creek hiking trail, Palmer Creek Trail, Beech Gap Trail. 

scenic drives in great smoky mountains

About – This scenic drive takes you through a remote mountainous region on an unpaved gravel road with beautiful views of the mountains and valleys. This drive is famous for its scenic beauty and opportunities to see wildlife such as elk, bears, and wild turkeys. You will start this curvy drive from an altitude of 5,535 feet and descends to about 2,000 feet.

This drive is one of the best places to visit in Great Smoky Mountains to experience wild rugged mountains with amazing wildlife.

Tip – The drive is one way on an unpaved road and a purely rustic car hike. Therefore be cautious about surprises and adventures in this scenic drive.

Note: This scenic drive in Smoky mountains is open from late May through October. 

Foothills Parkway

  • Total Drive/Miles – 33 Miles 
  • Start and End Point – Drive from US 129 to US 321 in Tennessee across the Little Tennesse river. You can start from Walland, TN, and end in Chilhowee, TN, or Sevierville, TN.
  • Scenic Stopovers – Caylor Gap OverlookLook Rock Picnic Area(highest point on Chilhowee Mountain), Great Smoky Mountains Overlook, Emerine Gap Overlook, Maryville Overlook, Gregory Bald Overlook, and Happy Valley Overlook

scenic drives in great smoky mountains

About – This scenic Smoky Mountains drive offers panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains and the surrounding landscape, with several overlooks and picnic areas along the way. This drive is top-rated in the spring and fall when the wildflowers and foliage bloom.

places to visit in great smoky mountains
Courtesy – Google Maps – Click here for Location.

Tail Of The Dragon – US 129 Drive

  • Total Drive/Miles – 11 Miles with 318 Curves
  • Start and End Point – It starts from Foothills Parkway and US 129, Chilhowee, TN, and ends at Deals Gap, NC. 
  • Scenic Stopovers – Robbinsville and Fontana Dam when you start. As this road is known for its beautiful adventure drive, it is best to do it non-stop; therefore, when this drive begins, there are no vista points. If your vehicle needs rest, there are some rest areas, but no scenic overlooks after you start the loop. You can relax at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort when you finish the drive. 

About – This is the most adventurous drive for bikers in the US, with 318 curves on an 11-mile stretch within a forest backdrop. Not only bikers, cars to enjoy the curvy adventure here, and so it is one of the world-famous roads for biking and adventure driving. So the highlights of this drive are turns, twists, and tall trees. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway

scenic drives in great smoky mountains

  • Total Drive/Miles – The route is 469 Miles from Virginia to North Carolina, with two national parks on the road. 
  • Start and End Point – It starts from Rockfish Gap, VA, and ends at Cherokee, NC. You can also do this from Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge while staying in the Great Smoky mountains range. 
  • Scenic Stopovers (Gatlinburg – Blue Ridge Parkway Drive) – Mount Pisgah, Julian Price Memorial Park, Fox Hunter’s Paradise where, Ridge Junction Overlook, View Devil’s Courthouse, Waterrock Knob( where you can view the Appalachians and the Smokies at the same spot) and many more stopovers.
  • 8 Best Hikes In Blue Ridge Parkway With Campgrounds

About – The Blue Ridge Parkway links Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with an enchanting view of the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. Technically this scenic drive does not belong to the Smoky mountains but is a beautiful drive to reach the Smoky mountains from Shenandoah. So if you are driving to the Smoky Mountains, this route will be more scenic.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most iconic drives of the US and hence must be included in your scenic drives in Great smoky mountain. It is in the list of top 10 scenic drives in the USA. If you cannot drive for so long, do a little to get the feel of this fantastic drive in the USA. 

Big Creek To Cataloochee Valley Drive 

  • Total Drive/Miles – 12 Miles
  • Start and End Point – Big Creek campground and ends at Cataloochee valley.
  • Scenic Stopovers – You can enjoy the attractions at Cataloochee valley, and there is not much to do in between the drive. 

About – This historic valley offers a scenic drive through rolling hills, past old homesteads, cabins, and barns, and opportunities to see native wildlife such as elk. 

smoky mountains drive

Note: The road is narrow and unpaved; you need a 4×4 drive. Many times this road is closed due to obstacles. So be careful if you are taking this scenic drive. 

Rich Mountain Road

  • Total Drive/Miles – 7 Miles One way
  • Start and End Point – It starts at Cades Cove and ends at Townsend, Tn, with turns and twists.
  • Scenic Stopovers – view of the Primitive Baptist Church and many sudden encounters with wildlife. 

scenic drives in great smoky mountains

About – This scenic drive goes through the one-way path on the gravel road with quiet forest surroundings. This laid-back drive is perfect for a picturesque, peaceful experience and to escape the crowd of Cades Cove. If you start this drive, you can return as it is a narrow one-way drive. So fuel your car to complete and be sure to take this drive. In winter, this drive remains closed. Also, you will encounter much wildlife while driving, so do not disturb them or act wildly. 

Upper Tremont Road – Smoky Mountains Drive

  • Total Drive/Miles – 8 Miles Round Trip 
  • Start and End Point – Pigeon Forge, TN
  • Scenic Stopovers – 

Great Smoky Mountain Drive

About – A secret drive in the forest with an unpaved road. This drive is famous in the fall time due to fantastic foliage colors. This drive is a hidden gem in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Where To stay in the Smoky Mountains – Things To Do In Great Smoky Mountains

General Guidelines – Scenic Drives In Great Smoky Mountains

  • Fuel up your vehicle whenever you go for these mountainous drives, as sometimes you do not find any gas stations or help. 
  • These drives can be dizzy for many travelers due to the many curves and altitudes, so take all necessary precautions. Scenic drives in Great Smoky Mountain
  • Check road closures on official websites or GPS warnings before you start, as these drives are open in the specific season due to natural obstacles. 
  • For many unpaved drives, you need to drive a 4×4 vehicle; on some of them, RVs and trucks are not allowed. 
  • Carry food and water with you, as often you do not find any restaurant or eating zones in between. 
  • It isn’t easy to get Online GPS signals in mountain regions. So download offline maps before you start, as they help navigate when there are no signals. 
  • Try to cover up your drive before sunset as in the dark, driving in mountains and forests is a little dangerous. 
  • Spring, summer, and Fall are the best time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains drive.

Now you know some of the best places to visit in Great Smoky mountains. I hope you loved reading about scenic drives in Smoky Mountains National Park or Smoky mountains drive with their highlights. 

Read More – USA Scenic Drives

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