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4 Smoky Mountain Scenic Drives You Must Experience in the Fall

Driving through the mountains is a fun (and FREE!) activity everyone will enjoy during their vacation, but there’s just something extra special about experiencing it in the fall. Here are 4 of the best Smoky Mountain scenic drives to see breathtaking fall foliage:

1. Newfound Gap Road

newfound gap roadNo doubt, one of the more popular scenic drives in the Smokies is Newfound Gap Road or US-441.  It takes you from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, NC, and reaches an elevation of 5,046 feet– that’s nearly a mile high! Along the way are several overlooks, such as the Morton Overlook and the Campbell Overlook, which reveals a beautiful view of Mt. LeConte. There are also many access points to hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, the Alum Cave Trail, and the Chimney Tops trailhead and picnic area. We also recommend taking the slight 7-mile detour off Newfound Gap Road to take the road to Clingmans Dome, the tallest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

2. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail 

If you have less time and want a much shorter Smoky Mountain scenic drive, we suggest the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It is only 6 miles long but still has many things to explore, from historic cabins to waterfalls. The trailhead for Rainbow Falls is located here and is well worth the 5.4-mile moderately strenuous hike! At the end of the road is the Place of a Thousand Drips, a unique waterfall you can see from your vehicle! The brightly colored leaves provide an incredible backdrop to the rushing streams and enhance the area’s natural beauty, making this scenic drive one of the best.

3. Cades Cove Loop Road 

cades cove loop roadCades Cove is perhaps the most-visited spot in the national park– and for good reason! The 11-mile loop provides incredible views of the mountains, insight into the lives of those who settled in the valley, and opportunities to see wildlife. Along Cades Cove Loop Road, you can see old churches, cabins, barns, and even a working grist mill! If you want to get out and stretch your legs, take the short hike to Abrams Falls, a gorgeous 20-foot waterfall. Since this is a popular area, be prepared to spend several hours here and be patient as you drive along; there’s a lot to take in, and you won’t want to miss any of it!

4. Rich Mountain Road

If you want to avoid some of the Cades Cove traffic, take Rich Mountain Road instead! It’s not paved and narrow but offers 7 miles of peaceful forest and beautiful views from Cades Cove to Townsend, TN. Of all the Smoky Mountain scenic drives, this one is likely the most primitive, back country road, so be prepared for occasional rough spots. Also, take note that it’s only open seasonally from April to mid-November. 

Need somewhere to fill up before taking one of these Smoky Mountain scenic drives? Our downtown Gatlinburg restaurant serves classic Southern comfort food, hearty portions, and free drink refills to satisfy the hungriest travelers! Take a look at some of the unique things on our menu. We hope to welcome you to the area soon!