6 Driving Tours Through the Smoky Mountains

roadAre you thinking about trying to see the Great Smoky Mountains by car? Maybe you’re not able to hike, or you just want to be able to see more.

If so, a driving tour may be perfect for you.

There are six main sight-seeing roads in the Smokies. If you stop at any Visitors Center, you can pick up inexpensive booklets about them that will serve as your personal tour guide, and will show you where to find landmarks, help you know where to look for wildlife, and teach you park history. Here are the six routes:

1. Cades Cove Loop Road

Offers some of the best opportunities for seeing wildlife in the park, including white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, ground hogs, wild turkeys, raccoons, and skunks. The loop is 11 miles, but it can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to drive it, because motorists drive at a leisurely pace.

2. Cataloochee Valley

This road is the best place in the park to see historic frame buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The booklet about Cataloochee will give you the history of the area, including the Little Cataloochee Trail. You can buy the booklet in a roadside box near the entrance to the valley.

3. Newfound Gap Road

At an elevation of 5,045 feet, Newfound Gap Road is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Travelers climb approximately 3,000 feet, through cove hardwood, pine-oak, and northern hardwood forest and end at the evergreen spruce-fir forest. Follow the link above, and you can download a free podcast that is a self-guiding auto tour. Note: Newfound Gap Road is currently closed between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, NC at mile 22. There are hopes that it will be reopen in early May, but check here before you head out, to make sure.

4. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

This narrow, winding road is a 6-mile loop that offers rushing mountain streams, glimpses of old-growth forest, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings.

5. Clingmans Dome Road

Although Clingmans Dome is open year-round, the road leading to it is closed from Dec. 1 through March 31, or when road conditions require it. The 7-mile trip includes several scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys.

6. Blue Ridge Parkway

The parkway meanders for 469 (!) miles, so you can choose the part of it that you want to travel. It includes views of vistas and rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands.

Stop back on Tuesday to read tips for driving in the Great Smokies.

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