• Scenic Drives

    There are nearly 400 miles of roads with unspoiled, breathtaking scenery at every turn. Here's where to start.

  • Hikes & Waterfalls

    There are 150 maintained trails, scores of waterfalls, picturesque valleys and breathtaking vistas.

  • Wildlife & Nature

    There are more than bears in them thar hills. Fauna, meet Flora.

  • History & Homesteads

    Before it was a park, the Great Smoky Mountains were home to explorers, adventurers and settlers alike. Here are heritage high points worth stopping for.

  • Picnicking

    Bring your basket, take a break, lay a spread and enjoy the view.

Scenic Drives

Take a drive and feel your heart come alive.

Early explorers may have had some of the first glimpses of the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, but only after many weeks of difficult bushwhacking across treacherous terrain. Fortunately for today’s visitors, Great Smoky Mountain National Park has paved the way (literally) for easy viewing of the Smokies’ most prominent features and stunning views. Hop in the car and check out spots such as Rocky Top and Ramsey Cascades or catch a rare show of synchronous fireflies before heading back for dinner at a Gatlinburg restaurant.

Start your journey through the Smokies with the scenic drives listed below.

Newfound Gap Road

Ready to see the Smokies? Start here.

You'd have to go from Georgia to Maine to see the variety of forest ecosystems you can experience on the Smokies' most popular drive. Newfound Gap Road begins right in Gatlinburg, crests at 5,000 feet, and descends into Cherokee 30 miles later. Some highlights along the way include

Sugarlands Visitor Center, Chimney Tops, Newfound Gap, Clingman's Dome Road, Ocanaluftee Valley and Mingus Mill. There are plenty of pulloffs, places to picnic, trailheads and breathtaking views. Every trip to the Smokies begins with a drive on the Newfound Gap Road, so pack a picnic and c'mon up.

Cades Cove Scenic Drive

The real roots of Tennessee.

Take an eleven mile loop back in time. The first settlers came to the Cove between 1818 and 1821, and you can stop and see churches, a working gristmill, barns and restored homesteads right off the Loop Road.

Pitch camp on one of 159 sites, and hike a trail up to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top. Some of the best wildlife viewing in the Smokies is here. White-tailed deer, black bears and wild turkeys are just a few of the species making the Cove their home. Bring your binoculars! Want to know more? Visit the park website.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Mountain streams with mighty voices.

Just a mile from Gatlinburg is a six-mile, one-way loop road where the water doesn't speak; it roars. Stop first at Noah "Bud" Ogle's farmstead and take a walking tour then hike to Rainbow Falls, one of the most visited waterfalls in the Smokies.

Drive along some of the fastest streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you're there after a recent rainfall, you will hear the roar. Witness the glory of Grotto Falls and the peacefulness of the Place of a Thousand Drips.

Directions
To access Roaring Fork, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Just beyond the Rainbow Falls trailhead you have the option of taking the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (closed in winter). Please note that buses, trailers, and motor homes are not permitted on the motor nature trail.

Explore the Greenbrier

Wildflowers, creeks and Ramsey Cascades

Wildflower watchers love this six mile road, which features the most colorful flora in the Park. Porter's Creek is particularly vibrant in March and April.

If you're feeling adventurous, hop out and hike four miles and witness the tallest falls in the Smokies at Ramsey Cascades. Don't forget your flyrod. The trout are hoppin' year 'round on the Greenbrier.

Elkmont

Frontcountry camping, the remnants of a once-thriving community and the famous synchronous fireflies.

Families come from all over America to pitch camp along the Little Pigeon River at the Smokies' largest campground. Trails and trout fishing are steps away, and just across from the campground are the 70 or so abandoned structures of the old Elkmont community. Bring your flashilight! Plan a June visit and you can witness one of nature's most awe-inspiring spectacles - the famous synchronous fireflies. When they get in the groove and light up the night in unison, you won't believe your eyes. This is one of only two places in the world where the synchronous fireflies phenomenon occurs (the other is in Southeast Asia).

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