KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Just because the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed until Sept. 27 does not mean that auto touring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has ended. There are over 300 miles of roads within the park all offering a range of views.
Newfound Gap Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Upper Tremont Road and Cataloochee Valley are some of the most popular roads outside of Cades Cove. All of the roads provide a gateway to a range of activities. Visitors can find entrances to trails to hike or bike on, find campsites or just take in a new part of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Starting from either Cherokee, North Carolina, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee, drivers will have the chance to see a variety of forest ecosystems along Newfound Gap Road. The woodland is similar to the forests of New England and eastern Canada according to the National Park Service.
Right outside of Gatlinburg is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This 5.5-mile-long, one-way, loop road offers rushing mountain streams, glimpses of old-growth forest, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings. This road is closed during the winter.
The Upper Tremont Road provides a scenic drive with many tree-shaded parking areas and access to the Middle Prong Trailhead. The road extends for two miles and can be found right outside of Townsend.
Finally, the entrance road to the Cataloochee Valley is a winding, gravel road near Big Fork Ridge within the North Carolina section of the park. Cataloochee Valley is known for its historic buildings including two churches and a school.
For those who wish to avoid the crowds, the National Park Service suggests a few “off the beaten path destinations” including Foothills Parkway East or West, Blue Ridge Parkway and Rich Mountain Road. They also say that in the summer traffic is heaviest between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and during October the traffic is heaviest during the afternoon and evening.
Rich Mountain Road is a good place for those who want to see Cades Cove while the loop road is closed. The 8-mile, one-way, gravel road provides beautiful views of Cades Cove and according to the NPS many prize-winning photographs were taken along the road.