Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over one-half million acres, making it the largest national park in the East. An auto tour of the park offers panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams, weathered historic buildings, and uninterrupted forest 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. Travel times on most roads will average 30 miles per hour or slower. 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. If your vehicle has an automatic transmission, use L or 2. 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 a copy of the park's official road guide, Mountain Roads Quiet Places, call (865) 436-0120 or stop by any park visitor center.
This heavily used U.S. highway crosses Newfound Gap (5,048') to connect Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. Highlights include numerous pullouts with mountain views and a variety of forest types as you ascend approximately 3,000 feet up the spine of the Great Smoky Mountains. Newfound Gap itself features a large parking area, scenic views, restrooms, wayside exhibits, and access to the Appalachian Trail.
This spur road follows a high ridge to a paved trail that leads 0.5 mile to the park's highest peak. Highlights are mountain views and the cool damp spruce-fir forest similar to the boreal forest of Canada.
This road parallels the Little River from Sugarlands Visitor Center to near Townsend, Tennessee. Highlights include the river, waterfalls, and wildflowers.