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foothills parkway in the summer

The Ultimate Guide to the Foothills Parkway in the Smoky Mountains

Exploring the Smoky Mountains is one of the most popular pastimes in the area, and driving through the mountains is a relaxing activity that provides people with a way to see incredible views, wildlife up close, and just enjoy being in nature. One of the most popular drives is the Foothills Parkway, and we want to share more about it with you! Keep reading to learn more about Foothills Parkway in the Smoky Mountains:

History of the Foothills Parkway

foothills parkwayIn the 1930s, Congress was authorizing plans for national parks all over the country. Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina was approved, but no part of this parkway would touch Tennessee. The Vice President of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, Frank Maloney, was disappointed and started lobbying for a parkway that connected recreational areas on the Tennessee side of the national park. With the help of congressmen, Maloney got Congress to approve the plans for the Foothills Parkway in 1944.

Sections of the Parkway

In the original plans, the parkway was supposed to be completed in 8 sections. These sections are:

  • 8A – US 321 to Cosby – 5.6 miles
  • 8B – Cosby to Pitman Center – 14.1 miles
  • 8C – Pitman Center to US 441 – 9.6 miles
  • 8D – US 441 to Wears Valley – 9.8 miles
  • 8E – Wears Valley to Carr Creek – 9.7 miles
  • 8F – Carr Creek to Walland – 6.1 miles
  • 8G – Walland to Look Rock – 10.1 miles
  • 8H – Look Rock to Chilhowee Lake – 6.9 miles

foothills parkwayConstruction started in the 1960s, with the 8A, 8G, and 8H sections being completed around this time. Then, in the 1970s, the project ran into funding issues.

In 1984, construction on sections 8E and 8F began but was then stalled for a number of years due to erosion into nearby streams. These two sections eventually opened in December of 2018. In 8E, 1.6 miles of this section became known as “The Missing Link” because of environmental difficulties requiring bridges to protect wildlife.

As of now, the right of way has been obtained for sections 8B through 8D, but construction has not yet begun.

Foothills Parkway East

This section of the parkway runs from Interstate 40 to Cosby, Tennessee. It was the first section of the road to be completed, and it is section 8A. There are several overlooks along this section of the road, including Mount Cammerer Overlook, Stone Mountain Overlook, and English Mountain Overlook. You’ll be able to take in all of the beautiful views of the Smokies as you enjoy your drive along this section. At the end, you will come to a small community in Cosby. This is where section 8B will be when it is constructed in the future.

Foothills Parkway West

look rock along foothills parkwayFoothills Parkway West is divided into a southern section and a northern section. The southern section is 8G and 8H, while the northern section is 8E and 8F. All along this section, there are more overlooks where you can get out and see breathtaking views of the mountains surrounding the road. Some of them include the Great Smoky Mountains Overlook, the Gregory Bald Overlook, and the Cumberland Plateau Overlook. There is a spot called Look Rock that has a picnic area, restrooms, and a short hike to an overlook where people enjoy getting out of their car and stretching their legs.

Driving the Foothills Parkway is an enjoyable scenic drive you won’t want to miss out on while you’re in town. Want to know what else you can do in the national park? Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and activities you can enjoy!