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Drives and Hikes
Fall colors can be enjoyed Mid-October through mid-November in the Great Smoky Mountains.

                                                              Scenic Drives

The Foothills Parkway has been in the works for some 75 years and is probably another 20 years to completion. The southern most 17 miles running from US 129 at the Chilhowee Lake to US 321 at Walland was completed in 1966 and is quite spectacular. The next phase of 16 miles was opened in December of 2018. This extension runs 17-miles from  US 321 in Walland to Wears Valley.

There is a northern 5.6 miles open from I-40 south to US 321 near Cosby. This short section

was opened in 1968. Meanwhile, in between these sections is 33.5 miles where construction

has not even begun. Right-of-way has been purchased by the National Park Service, but

funding is not in place.

The southern section of the Parkway offers some spectacular views of the Great Smoky

Mountains on one side and the Tennessee Valley on the other. On clear days one can see

all the way to the Cumberland Mountains 50 miles to the west.

From the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, turn at stoplight #8 onto Historic Nature Trail-Airport Road.
Go straight at the intersection and continue into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


A stop at the Noah “Bud” Ogle historic area provides the opportunity for a short walk on the self-guiding
nature trail. A brochure introduces you to life on a mountain farm as well as some local flora and fauna.


Continue on to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a narrow, steep, but paved one-way road that winds
through rich forests and offers glimpses of rollicking Roaring Fork creek. As the name implies, this road is
designed for leisurely travel and enjoyment of nature. It is impassable to motor homes, buses, or trailers

and is closed in winter.

Park at stop #3 and enjoy the view of fall colors and rolling mountains. A short stroll on the path to the right

takes you to another viewpoint with benches that beckon you to sit a spell and enjoy the scenery.

At stop #5 you’ll have the opportunity to park and take a 2.6 mile round-trip hike through old-growth forest to Grotto Falls. This popular trail is of moderate difficulty.

A number of historic log and frame buildings can also be viewed along Roaring Fork. Of special interest is the Reagan tub mill, a tiny grist mill used for grinding corn into corn meal. The restored mill is located so close to the road you practically drive through it.

Near the end of the road, a waterfall called Place of a Thousand Drips can be seen on the left. During wet weather this waterfall is a remarkable sight.

The Motor Nature Trail ends in Gatlinburg. Turn left to return to downtown via US-321.

Turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins just north of Cherokee, NC, on US-441, near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenic parkway follows the crest of the mountains for 469 miles, all the way to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Frequent auto pullouts along the first few miles provide spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains in all their autumn finery. See Map Here


      Hiking in the Smokies

  • Appalachian Trail
    Park at the large parking area at Newfound Gap. Cross the Newfound Gap Road at the cross-walk and look for the trail sign. Follow the Appalachian Trail to Indian Gap (where the trail meets the Clingmans Dome Road). It’s 3.4 miles roundtrip if you hike to Indian Gap and back.


  • Cataract Falls
    This is an easy hike, 1.1 miles round trip, perfect for beginners and small children. You’ll cross over creeks, walk through wooded areas, and eventually come across the waterfall this trail is named after.


  • Gatlinburg Trail
    A little longer easy trail along the Little Pigeon River and over a footbridge. The Gatlinburg Trail is the only hiking trail near Gatlinburg that allows dogs. It is 3.8 miles round-trip.


  • Twin Creeks Trail
    Another easy trail out and back, 4.5 miles. If you enjoy bird watching or walking along and looking at native plants, this is a great hiking trail near Gatlinburg for you to go on! You’ll find many wildflowers along the path during the spring and early summer. You’ll find an old cabin along the trail, which is neat to see. There’s a creek along this trail too, so you can stop and enjoy listening to the water rush over the rocks before you keep going.


  • Bullhead Trail
    If you only travel the Bullhead Trail, it is 5.9 miles roundtrip and would be moderate. If you use this trail to get to Mt. LeConte, it is hard and 12.9 miles roundtrip. It is the least used trail to get to Mt. LeConte, making it nice for people who want to hike in solitude. Along this trail, you’ll have great views of the mountains. There’s a large rock formation known as “The Pulpit.” This is where the Bullhead Trail ends and the hike to the top of Mt. LeConte begins.


  • Trillium Gap Trail
    This trail is considered a difficult hiking trail near Gatlinburg. That is 6.8 miles roundtrip. In the spring, you’ll find all kinds of wildflowers along this trail. You’ll eventually come across Grotto Falls. This waterfall is unique because it’s the only waterfall in the park you can walk behind.

  • Laurel Falls Trail
    From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 3.8 miles to the top of Fighting Creek Gap. The main parking lot for Laurel Falls will be on your right, with additional parking across the street.


  • Alum Cave Trail
    From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 8.7 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to reach the Alum Cave Trailhead. The parking lot will be on your left. Due to the extreme popularity of the Alum Cave Trail, there are two parking lots for this trailhead. To ensure a spot you may want to arrive early during peak tourist season, or on any nice weekend throughout the year.


  • Inspiration Point on Alum Cave Trail
    Park at Alum Cave Trail parking area 10.5 miles south of Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road (Highway US-441). The 1.8 mile (one-way) hike to Inspiration Point offers a walk through a rich old-growth forest and views of the surrounding mountains.


  • Look Rock Tower
    From Townsend, TN take US-321 to the Foothills Parkway and follow this scenic road to the Look Rock tower parking area. The moderate hike to the top is 1 mile roundtrip. Spectacular views are gained from the tower.


  • Mount LeConte
    Several trails lead to the top of Mount LeConte: Alum Cave Trail (5 miles), Boulevard Trail (8.3 miles), Rainbow Falls Trail (6.5 miles), Trillium Gap (6.9 miles), and Bullhead Trail (6.8 miles).


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Foothill Parkway

Drives/Hikes & Fall Foliage | Reece Cabins

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