The Smoky Mountains are some of the most incredible natural features in the world, especially in the fall. The sweeping expanses of forest colored in shades of red, yellow, and orange are breathtaking no matter how many times you see them. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States and fall is the perfect time to see it. Today, we are going to find out the best scenic drives in the area to see fall foliage. Here are five incredible fall foliage drives near Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
The Most Scenic Drives to See Fall Foliage Near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The fall foliage season is well underway, especially in the mountains. This year (2022), the colors are set to peak in the Smokies sometime in late October. If you end up coming a bit later, around early November, for example, you can still witness some amazing colors, but things will have started to brown. The colder and higher elevation things are, the sooner the colors start to change.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway had to be on our list. It’s one of the most famous and scenic drives in the United States, let alone the Appalachian region. Technically, the Blue Ridge Parkway ends just outside of the park, but it’s close enough that you can easily hop on for a bit and catch some amazing views. The best place to enter the Parkway near the Smokies is near Newfound Gap Road South, right across the Oconaluftee River. The end (or beginning) of the Parkway Is just south of Ravensford and north of Cherokee. Within a few miles, you’ll hit the Sherrill Cove Tunnel and the 104 Mountains to Sea Trail. Even more, the Parkway is totally free and offers some of the best fall foliage views in the entire country.
Newfound Gap Road
Bisecting the park itself is Highway 441, otherwise known as Newfound Gap Road. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because 441 is also the southern termination point for the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of the town of Cherokee. Newfound Gap Road starts at an elevation of 1,289 feet in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, climbs to 5,046 feet at Newfound Gap, and finishes in the southern time of Cherokee, North Carolina at 1,991 feet. This scenic view is one of the only “proper” roads that run through the Great Smokies National Park itself, and includes the Campbell Overlook, The Chimney Tops Overlook, Morton Overlook, and the Oconoluftee Overlook.
Clingmans Dome Road
Clingmans Dome is probably the most visited attraction within the park. It’s a massive dome at a high elevation that offers spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding area. If you visit the park, Clingmans Dome is easily one of the “must-sees”. Although the dome is itself pretty, the road that it takes to get there is just as marvelous! Called Clingmans Dome Road, this stretch of pavement starts off of Newfound Gap Road, right near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The road is closed from December through March, but that shouldn’t affect anyone looking to take in fall foliage views before then.
Little River Gorge Road
Another road that travels through the park is Little River Gorge Road. This road perfectly follows the Little River across the top of the park until it finally splits and heads into the Elkmont Campground and historic Appalachian Club. There are a couple of places to hop on this road, including an intersection at Little Greenbriar Road and another one at Townsend Entrance Road. The Townsend Entrance Road would make for the longest journey and has views that include the White Oak Flats Falls, the Little Gorge River, The Sinks, and a whole lot more. You could follow the Little River Gorge Road all the way to Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Parkway) on the far eastern side of the park.
Cades Cove Scenic Loop
One of the best loops in the park is Cade’s Cove Scenic Loop. Cade’s can be a bit confusing because there are so many one-way roads, but once you enter things are pretty self-explanatory since you can only head in one direction. The best way to do it is by using your GPS and downloading the maps in case you lose connection. There are picnic areas, creeks, trailheads, riding stables, campgrounds, and a whole lot more. It can get a bit busy, but the views and attractions make it totally worth it.
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