Auto touring is one of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains! Whether you’re in search of picturesque mountain views or stunning fall foliage, there are a number of gorgeous Smoky Mountain scenic drives around Gatlinburg, Tennessee that are sure to take your breath away. Exploring the national park and the surrounding area by car is an especially attractive option for visitors who aren’t big fans of hiking. To help you make the most of your next vacation, we’ve put together a guide to 6 of the best scenic drives near Gatlinburg TN.
1. Cades Cove Loop Road
Cades Cove is the most frequented area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, drawing over 2 million annual visitors. Offering vistas of rolling mountains and lush fields, this idyllic valley looks like a picture book come to life.
An 11-mile, one-way loop road passes through Cades Cove, stopping at all of its major landmarks. A visit to the valley can take anywhere from two to four (or more) hours, depending on the time of year and how long you spend walking around at the various sites. Cades Cove is especially crowded in the summer and fall.
Along the loop road, visitors will see a collection of well-maintained historic buildings from the 1800s. Stops on the route include numerous log cabins, a working gristmill, three churches, and a cantilever barn. Cades Cove also features a wonderful Visitor Center where you can pick up some fantastic souvenirs to take back home.
Of course we have to mention that Cades Cove is a favorite destination for wildlife viewing. With its wide open spaces, the valley is perfect for spotting white-tailed deer, wild turkey, coyotes, and black bear. It is not uncommon for traffic to come to a halt when someone spies a bear from their car. Be sure to bring binoculars or a camera so you can observe the critters from a safe distance (at least 150 feet away). If you’d rather explore the area on foot, try hiking in the Smoky Mountains!
2. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is another one of our favorite scenic drives near Gatlinburg TN. Located just minutes away from the downtown Parkway, this lovely road is by far the most convenient sightseeing trip for vacationers staying near the Strip. At only 5.5 miles, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is perfect for a quick afternoon outing.
Running beside a rushing stream, this one-way loop road offers mountain views, historic buildings, fantastic foliage in the fall, and a wet weather waterfall (a.k.a. the Place of a Thousand Drips). Right before you enter the trail, you can explore the Noah “Bud” Ogle homestead, which features a log cabin, tub mill, and old flume plumbing system. Tourists will also find the trailheads for a number of popular hikes, including Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls, on this Smoky Mountain scenic drive.
3. Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap Road stretches for 33 miles between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC. This incredibly beautiful highway cuts through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering unparalleled views of the mountains. When the national park was established in 1934, the Tennessee legislature declared that “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed” on Newfound Gap Road. This is why visiting the park is completely free!
Driving straight across Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee only takes about an hour, but you will definitely want to make some stops along the way. Highlights along the highway include numerous scenic pull-offs, the road to Clingmans Dome, and the Rockefeller Memorial (where President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated the national park).
Newfound Gap Road is also famous for its impressive variety of trees. It has been said that driving the length of the highway is like traveling from Georgia to Maine in terms of the multitude of forests you will encounter!
More About Smoky Mountain Scenic Drives
These are just some of the incredible scenic drives you’ll want to try when you visit Gatlinburg! The Smokies are home to several breathtaking auto tours that allow you to take in the sights from the comfort of your vehicle. You can also drive along Wears Valley Road that runs from Pigeon Forge to Townsend and offers peaceful views, or take Rich Mountain Road to see stunning views of Cades Cove! Whichever road you decide to take, you’ll love all of the beautiful views the Smoky Mountain scenic drives have to offer.
Where to Stay in Gatlinburg
When you stay with us at Timber Tops Cabin Rentals, you can take all of these scenic drives near Gatlinburg TN. Located minutes away from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, our cabins are the perfect home-base for a vacation in the Smokies. With everything from 1 bedroom properties to 15 bedroom properties, we are guaranteed to have the ideal cabin for your escape. To start planning your getaway, browse our selection of cabins in Gatlinburg!