Whether you’re coming from the North Carolina or Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains, you will be traveling along Newfound Gap Road. If you start at Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg, you can take a beautiful drive along the Newfound Gap Road auto tour, through the mountains to Cherokee, North Carolina.
For many, this is a highlight of their trip to the Smokies because of the stunning views of the mountains throughout every season. Whether you are experiencing the bright colors of fall, the snow-covered mountains of winter or the deep green of the spring and summer, Newfound Gap Road the best place for enjoying the natural beauty of the Smokies.
Directions for Driving Newfound Gap Road
Driving Newfound Gap Road is simple. There’s no complicated turns or anything as it’s a single, main road across the mountains. Starting at Sugarlands Visitor Center and ending at the Mountain Farm Museum in North Carolina, here’s a road map for taking the driving tour. The entire tour should take approximately 60-90 minutes, or longer, depending on traffic and how many stops you take.
The Newfound Gap Road Map Tour
Sugarlands Visitor Center
It’s best to start your driving tour at Sugarlands Visitor Center. This is the most popular national park visitor center in the Gatlinburg area. The visitor center is an attraction in itself, featuring a small museum with a 30 minute video presentation as well as a retail shop with all sorts of national park gift items and books.
When you are at Sugarlands, you can purchase a Newfound Gap Road driving tour booklet for $1 that will show you the history and in-depth details of all of the stops along the road.
For more information about Sugarlands Visitor Center, you can visit the National Park Service website here: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm
At about the 4 mile mark, you can stop and pull over at Campbell Overlook. From this overlook, you will have a perfect view of Mount LeConte. When the sky is clear, the view from here is absolutely unbelievable.
Chimney Tops Picnic Area
At about 6 miles along the roadway, you will find that you need to take a sharp left turn to reach the picnic area. When the weather is a little bit warmer, the Chimney Tops Picnic Area is a popular stop for many families. From here, you can take the Cove Hardwood Self Guiding Nature Trail. We recommend taking the trail in the spring to see the wildflowers and mosses in the national park.
If you continue to drive for about another half mile, you’ll see that there are 5 pull offs that show great views of the Chimney Tops.
Of course, everyone who drives Newfound Gap Road wants to see the main focal point–Newfound Gap! This is where President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is a plaque to commemorate the Rockefeller Memorial at this point. You can find all of this at Mile 14.7 along Newfound Gap Road.
Another extremely popular stop on our Newfound Gap Road map, you will find Clingmans Dome Road that leads to the Clingmans Dome observation tower. This is where you can take in the panoramic views of the national park, seeing hundreds of miles across the treetops.
If you have plans to stop at Clingmans Dome, take a look at: Revealed: 5 Secret Places to See on the Way to Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains.
As you begin to reach the other side of Newfound Gap Road, you can stop at Smokemont, the site of the Cherokee villages, farms and a CCC camp. There are lots of tent sites here, and it’s not very crowded. There are trails around the Smokemont area as well.
Many visitors to the North Carolina side of Newfound Gap Road will mention their visit to Mingus Mill. The mill was built in 1886 and was restored by the CCC in 1937. Today, you can see the working grist mill from March through the Thanksgiving holiday. You can also purchase freshly-ground cornmeal and flour here, too.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
If you’re traveling from Gatlinburg to North Carolina, the final stop along Newfound Gap Road (before reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway) is the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. This visitor center has exhibits as well as a retail shop. Many who visit here also stop at the Mountain Farm Museum where you can find gardens, livestock and more. In the warm months, there are many special presentations and demonstrations, like woodworking and sorghum making. There is also a 2 mile long trail that run from the visitor center to Cherokee, showcasing Cherokee culture and wildlife animals.
If you liked this post, take a look at this Step-by-Step Guide to the Cades Cove Loop Road and keep checking back for more step-by-step guides to your favorite areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.