Many people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
and just take a day trip into the park, but if you would love to drive the scenic route then there is an option for you. The scenic route runs on the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains. The parkway was built in the 1930’s, during the depression and ever since then people from all over the world keep visiting the park year after year.
The parkway is known as America’s favorite drive because the valley views, beautiful wildlife, and bright green plant life. However, if recent years the hemlock tree, which can be found along the parkway and in other national parks close by, is under threat from the hemlock woolly adelgid, which is a non-native insect. As a visitor to the park, you will notice the damage the Asian bug is causing to the hemlock population.
There are plenty of self guided tours you can take through the Smoky Mountain National Park. The park has more than 270 miles of roads cut through trees and mountainous terrain. The routes you can take are listed below.
Cades Cove Loop Road, which is an eleven mile paved road. Cades Cove dates back to 1819, when new settlers signed a treaty with the Cherokee to settle the land. What still stands today in Cades Cove is the largest collection of its kind in the United States. Cades Cove is home to 30 structures, which include churches and log cabins. These structures are proof of the early pioneers from the area. Cades Cove Loop Road is the most heavily visited site in the park. During the busiest months almost 4,000 vehicles can pass through Cades Cove daily. Bicycles are also allowed at certain times.
Newfound Gap Road is another popular driving route in the park. The scenic Newfound Gap Road is a 33-mile route the crosses over Newfound Gap, which stands at an elevation of 5,048 feet, which is the lowest drivable pass through the Smokies. Highlights of taking this road include the breathtaking views of the beautiful mountains, and the Rockefeller Memorial, which is a two-tier stone structure which was built in honor of a $5 million donation from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Clingmans Dome Road is a seven-mile mountain road that takes you to Clingmans Dome. Clingmans Dome stands at 6,643 feet and is the highest peek in the park as well as in the state of Tennessee. Clingmans Dome Road also crosses the highest point along the Appalachian’s journey from Georgia to Maine. You can park your car and hike up a steep half-mile trail through the forest to reach the lookout.
Also, if you prefer to stay close to the ground then take a look at the two main gravel roads: Heintooga-Roundbottom Road, which can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Rich Mountain Road. If you’d rather walk then there’s a path for you too. Go explore one the Smoky Mountains quiet walkways on foot. These quarter mile paths lead you into just a small example of what the world use to be like.