Complete Road Map to the Top 3 Fall Drives in the Smoky Mountains

Car enjoying a fall drive in the Smoky Mountains

Recently we told you about how fantastic it was to experience fall in the Smoky Mountains inside a Gatlinburg cabin rental. However, we left out one of the best things that you and your family can do while you are here for that vacation which is to take a scenic fall drive in the Smoky Mountains.

Not only do these drives give you an excuse to explore the area, but it is also hands down one of the best ways to get an upclose view of the beautiful Smoky Mountain fall foliage. Below, you will find a detailed guide to our top three favorite fall drives in the Smoky Mountains.

Historic cabin in Cades Cove in the fallCades Cove Loop Road

Cades Cove is hands down one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area alone accounts for over 2 million of the park’s annual 9 million visitors. That being said, that number is not surprising once you have seen just how gorgeous the views are from the 11-mile loop road found here, especially during the fall in the Smoky Mountains.

Along the drive, you and your family will pass several historic home sites and buildings, including the only still-working grist mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is also a convenient Visitor Center located at the center of the road where you all can stop and pick up some locally-made jams and jellies to bring back with you from your latest trip to the Smoky Mountains.

If you do make a trip to Cades Cove, we suggest doing so either early in the morning or just before dusk because that is when guests have the highest chance of seeing some of the Smoky Mountain wildlife that call the area home.

(See Related: Top 3 Things to do in Cades Cove This Winter)

New Found Gap in the Smoky MountainsNewfound Gap Road (U.S. 441)

During the fall, this is one of the most popular drives in the Smoky Mountains. Newfound Gap Road connects downtown Gatlinburg to Cherokee NC. Along the way, visitors will pass several scenic overlooks, the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial, and the side road that will take your to Clingmans Dome.

What makes this fall drive in the Smoky Mountains so unique is how much of the Smoky Mountains fall foliage visitors get to experience along the way. The entire route is lined with mountains and trees that really capture the natural beauty of the fall in the Smoky Mountains.

A few of our favorite pit stops along Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) include:

-Sugarlands Visitor Center

Located at mile marker 1.7 on Newfound Gap Road, the Sugarlands Visitor Center is one of the most well-known of the Smoky Mountains Visitor Centers. Inside, families and guests will find a tons of interactive exhibits, bits of history from the area, tons of souvenirs they can take home, and a few trailheads that will take them through some of the most scenic parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

-Chimneys Picnic Area

Chimney Tops in the Great Smoky Mountains Naitonal ParkIf you are going to spend the day admiring the seasonal colors during this scenic fall drive in the Smoky Mountains, we highly suggest that you consider packing a lunch and enjoying a delicious picnic at the Chimneys Picnic area found at mile marker 6.2 on Newfound Gap Road.

Located alongside the Little Pigeon River, this relaxing picnic area rests at the base of the twin peaks of the towering Chimney Tops. If you want to get out and explore the area more, there is also a scenic Smoky Mountain hiking trail that can be found here that will take you up to the Chimney Tops that is gorgeous during the fall in the Smoky Mountains.

-Newfound Gap

It’s hard to talk about the Newfound Gap Road without actually mentioning the Newfound Gap and overlook area at mile marker 14.7. This is where former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his iconic speech about the grand opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Today, visitors to Newfound Gap will still find the rock stage where the president gave his speech, a plaque honoring John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who donated $5 million dollars to the opening of the park, and a breathtaking overlook that offers unbeatable views of the Smoky Mountains fall foliage.

This is also where visitors cross the state border into North Carolina.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

road covered by leaves in the Smoky MountainsThe Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5 mile, one-way, scenic fall drive in the Smoky Mountains. The drive starts off on Cherokee Orchard Road near downtown Gatlinburg, and it finishes near U.S. 321.

Like many of the other fall drives in the Smoky Mountains, this trail showcases both the beautiful fall leaves and many historic buildings left over from the early settlers of the area.

This fall drive in the Smoky Mountains also takes visitors past some of the youngest trees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Also along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, guests will find a special white haze and a gorgeous waterfall that really give this area a magical feel.

Please keep in mind, if you do consider visiting the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail this year, it does plan on closing a little earlier than usual because of planned construction on the bridges. To find out more information on the closing, read our latest blog on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Now that we have taken you through all of our favorite fall drives in the Smoky Mountains, are you ready to pack up the car and experience the beauty for yourself? If so, start planning your trip today by picking out one of the spacious and secluded Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabins offered by HearthSide Cabin Rentals. You can find a full list of our Smoky Mountain cabin inventory on our website.

If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call, or fill out the Smoky Mountain Information contact form on our website. See you in the Smokies!