One of the best ways to tour the Gatlinburg area while viewing brilliant autumn color is with a scenic drive. You’ll be able to cover a wide stretch of land, crisscrossing mountains, valleys and vistas, discovering a new scene at every turn. Follow these scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains to enjoy the colors of autumn.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Auto-tour this one-way loop road to take in historic and scenic sites. Highlights of the trail include wildlife watching, historic log cabins, streams, and optional hikes. While driving this route, be sure to stop at the Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin to see the rustic structure framed in fall color. Then, continue along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Rail through thick, vibrant forests. Available hikes include the 2.6 mile roundtrip Grotto Falls and the 5.4 mile roundtrip hike to Rainbow Falls.
Directions: Turn at Stoplight #8 off the Parkway in Downtown Gatlinburg onto Historic Nature Trail-Airport Rd.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Starting at the Cherokee Indian Reservation, this auto-tour gives a glimpse of the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains. The scenic route follows the crest of the mountains, with frequent parking areas along the way for motorists to enjoy the view. For Gatlinburg visitors, getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway is long, but its excellent vistas are worth it.
Directions: Turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of Cherokee, NC on US 441. The Parkway is near the entrance to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap is one of the original scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains. In 1872, it was discovered to be the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ever since, people have been traversing this route en masse.
Follow this stretch of road to travel straight through the heart of the Smoky Mountains. The 33-mile stretch climbs all the way to the top Newfound Gap, offering spectacular views along the way. In addition, there are several pull-offs with panoramic views of the mountains dotting the highway. For this reason, and many others, Newfound Gap Road is the most popular auto-tour in the Smokies. Further, there is an optional hike to Clingman’s Dome, Tennessee’s highest peak, available on this route.
Directions: From Gatlinburg, take Hwy 441 through The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive ends in Cherokee, NC, although you can turn around at different locations on Hwy 441.
Cades Cove Loop Road
A one-lane, paved scenic drive through Cades Cove valley offers views of the area prior to the creation of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 11-mile loop provides wonderful opportunities to view wildlife, including bears and deer, and historic structures likes cabins and churches. Likewise, access to Abrams Falls hike is located off the loop. All in all, you can make a full day of it as Cades Cove Loop is open sunrise until sundown.
Directions: It's located about 27 miles from Gatlinburg, off Laurel Creek Road.
Which Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains Will You Choose?
Choose any of these scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains for magnificent views of the mountains and valleys of this one-of-a-kind landscape.