Scenic Drives

Scenic Drives provide days of adventure in the Smokies! You will find many scenic driving trails through the national park. We have featured three of our favorite scenic drives below.  You can also many more drives.

scenic drives

Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church is just one of the many historic buildings you will see in the Cove.

Scenic drives will fill your day with relaxation, the intoxicating aromas of the forest, and take your mind off all your woes.


1.  Cades Cove

Everyone’s favorite scenic drive in the Smokies is through Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Access the Cove from Townsend TN or Gatlinburg TN.  From Townsend, drive towards the National Park and turn right at the “Wye”.  Cades Cove is only about a 15-20 drive from that point.  From Gatlinburg, turn right at Sugarlands Visitor Center and drive about 26 miles. The drive in the Cove will take you on an 11-mile loop through some of our country’s most beautiful valleys and vistas.

What you will see:

See horses grazing in the pasture and probably quite a number of wild turkey. Visit many historic structures, including homesteads, a grist mill, cantilever barns, and rivers. Visitors often come across black bears, an occasional coyote, red fox, and sometimes a wild boar.  You will have an opportunity to enjoy the Visitor Center at the half-way point.  The center has books about the national park, memorabilia, and gifts. Expect to spend approximately 2 hours or more in the Cove.

roaring fork nature trail

Just one of the waterfalls you will see along the nature trail. 

2.  Roaring Fork Nature Trail

First of all, this is probably one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the Smokies.  The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is in the national park and accessible from Gatlinburg.  Turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail Drive. Bear to the right when the road forks.

Plan to spend at least 1 to 2 hours on the trail.  This will depend on how often you stop to enjoy the breathtaking mountain vistas, visit historic structures, take a hike, or view the mountain streams and waterfalls.   Bears can be sighted along the trail.  Best enjoy the trail after a good rainfall. It is open around April 1 and closes for the winter around late November or by December 1.

mountain sunrise

A mountain sunrise captured just below Newfound Gap. All images by Jeaneane Payne

3.  Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road (Hwy 321) between Gatlinburg TN and Cherokee NC offers more scenery than you can take in on just one drive.  Take in numerous mountain vistas and breathtaking views.  Use pullovers to provide easy access to views. Discover a number of popular hiking trails, including the Chimney Tops Trail and Alum Cave Bluffs Trail which leads to Mt. LeConte.

Most noteworthy, mountain rivers run throughout this area of the park.  In addition, there is a great picnic area called The Chimneys which has picnic tables and BBQ grills.  Thirteen miles past Sugarlands Visitor Center, you will arrive at Newfound Gap.  This area is where President Roosevelt dedicated Great Smoky Mountains as a national park.  You can find restroom facilities here.  Most noteworthy, this is the largest area of the park that provides views of the mountains from an overlook.

Clingmans Dome is Nearby

Just 1/2 mile from Newfound Gap is Clingmans Dome Road.  Travel 7 miles to a visitor information center, restroom facilities, and to the base of Clingmans Dome Tower, the highest point in the park. Especially relevant, Clingmans Dome is situated in both North Carolina and Tennessee.  It is also located on the Appalachian Trail.

In conclusion, take a day and drive through at least one of the areas.  Take advantage of opportunities to take photographs to share with family and friends.  Capture rivers, valleys, vistas, wildlife, and waterfalls.  Most of all,  return to your cabin or hotel room ready to relax and enjoy an evening of fun.