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tunnel in the Smoky Mountains in the fall

Do You Honk Your Horn When You Drive Through a Tunnel in the Smoky Mountains?

What do you do when you drive through a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains? If you’ve visited the Smoky Mountains before, then you’re sure to have heard cars blaring their horns as they drive through the tunnels in the area. Do you honk your horn, or do you drive through silently? We’ve asked this question many times to visitors, and the majority of people seem to honk their horns. We’ve dug into the reasoning behind why so many people honk their horns when they drive through a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains:

The History Behind Honking in Tunnels

Car driving through a tunnel near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center.Honking your horn when you drive through a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains is a long-standing tradition in the area. When you ask people why they do it, most answers are, “I grew up doing it,” or “That’s what my parents and grandparents did, so I do too.” The tradition of honking the horn in tunnels isn’t just in the Smoky Mountains, though. In Wellington, New Zealand, for example, drivers honk their horns in the Mount Victoria tunnel purely because of superstition. Some believe that honking will ward off evil spirits, and others believe honking acknowledges the memory of a teenage girl who was buried at the site of the tunnel. Another popular tunnel visitors honk through is the Beaucatcher Tunnel in Asheville, NC. This is said to be less for superstition and more for safety. In the past, tunnels used to be only a single-lane wide, so drivers would honk to let cars coming from the opposite direction know they were driving through.

While the action of honking in tunnels in the Smoky Mountains may have started for safety reasons, the main reason people still do it today is because of a long-lasting tradition! Visitors grew up with their grandparents and parents honking through tunnels, and now they’re teaching their children to do it too. We don’t see the tradition of honking in tunnels ending any time soon.

Where You Can Find a Tunnel in the Smoky Mountains

tunnel on the way to cades coveThere are 4 main tunnels in the Smoky Mountains. The main one visitors drive through and honk their horns is on the Gatlinburg Spur. You will get to drive through this tunnel when traveling from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge! Another popular tunnel is the Bote Mountain Tunnel. In fact, it’s on one of the most traveled roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Bote Mountain Tunnel is on the road that leads from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove. The other two tunnels in the Smoky Mountains are along Newfound Gap Road, at about the 7-mile point. The second of the two tunnels is called “the loop” and was added to alleviate the extreme slope of the mountain. The tunnel curves around and back over itself. All of these tunnels are popular spots where visitors love to honk their horns!

The Hidden Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome

hiker walking through tunnel in the mountainsWe’ve told you about the popular tunnels in the Smoky Mountains, but have you ever heard about the tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road? This secret tunnel is called the Thomas Divide Tunnel and is located less than a mile west of the junction with Newfound Gap Road. You won’t be honking your horn through this tunnel, however. It’s actually a footpath designed for hikers. Chances are, you’ve driven over this tunnel plenty of times and never knew it was there! The tunnel kept hikers from having to cross over Clingmans Dome Road, and some believe it was actually created for equestrian use to eliminate conflict between horses and vehicles. For more information about this secret Smoky Mountain tunnel, read our blog, “Have You Heard About the Secret Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome Road?

Now that you know a little bit more about the history behind honking when driving through a tunnel in the Smoky Mountains, the choice is up to you: to honk, or not to honk? In the meantime, learn more about the popular scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains you can enjoy while you’re here!