Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over one-half million acres, making it one of the largest natural areas in the east. An auto tour of the park offers scenic views of mountain streams, weathered historic buildings, and forests stretching to the horizon. There are over 270 miles of road in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard two-wheel drive automobiles.
Driving in the mountains presents new challenges for many drivers. When going downhill, shift to a lower gear to conserve your brakes and avoid brake failure. Keep extra distance between you and the vehicle in front of you and watch for sudden stops or slowdowns.
The following is a partial listing of some of the park’s most interesting roads. To purchase maps and road guides, call (888) 898-9102 or visit http://shop.smokiesinformation.org.
1. Newfound Gap Road
(33 miles) This heavily used highway crosses Newfound Gap (5,046′ elevation) to connect Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. Highlights include numerous pullouts with mountain views and a variety of forest types as you ascend approximately 3,500 feet up to the crest of the mountains.
2. Clingmans Dome Road
(7 miles, open April 1-Nov 30.) This spur road follows a high ridge to a paved walking trail that leads 0.5 mile to the park’s highest peak. Highlights are mountain views and the cool, evergreen, spruce-fir forest.
3. Little River Road
(18 miles) This road parallels the Little River from Sugarlands Visitor Center to near Townsend, TN. Highlights include the river, waterfalls, and wildflowers.
4. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
(6 miles, open March 25-Nov 30. Buses and RVs are not permitted on the motor nature trail.) A steep, narrow, and scenic route through deep forest and historic farmsteads. From downtown Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail-Airport Road into the national park.