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Parson Branch Road in the Smoky Mountains

About Parson Branch Road: A Less Crowded Scenic Drive in the Smoky Mountains

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Have you ever heard of Parson Branch Road? This popular scenic drive in the Smoky Mountains closed in 2016 for repairs, and reopened again to the public in late May of 2022. If you haven’t had the opportunity to explore this road yet, it’s worth a drive on your next visit to the Smoky Mountains! To help you learn more about it, we’ve created a guide to Parson Branch Road:

Where is Parson Branch Road?

Parson Branch Road is located in the ever-popular Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It actually takes visitors from Cades Cove out to Highway 129, along the western park boundary at the Tail of the Dragon. You can find the entrance to Parson Branch Road about half a mile past the Cades Cove Visitor Center and John P. Cable Mill. Along the way, stop to explore the Henry Whitehead Place before entering the one-way road.

About the Scenic Drive

Cades Cove Visitor CenterParson Branch Road is a gravel road that veers off the popular Cades Cove Loop Road and travels for 8 miles from near the visitor center out onto Highway 129. Along the drive, you’ll have scenic views and the opportunity to spot wildlife. Parson Branch Road closed in 2016 because of the 1,500+ dead trees in a 1 mile section that were in danger of falling on the road. In May of 2022, the road reopened to visitors. If you’re interested in driving a 180-year-old road, then you have to try it. Parson Branch Road follows a route that Smoky Mountain people traveled for 180 years, running through an area of the former community called Chestnut Flats. This road provided an important commerce route for people living in Cades Cove and gave them direct access to the Little Tennessee River for trading goods.

Now, Parson Branch Road is a great way for visitors to have the opportunity to explore Cades Cove and its history along a less crowded road before reaching another popular drive — the Tail of the Dragon. The scenic drive also provides access to popular hiking trails like Gregory Bald, which offers gorgeous views of flame azaleas during the summer. This drive takes about an hour and a half to complete.

When Can We Drive Parson Branch Road?

Parson Branch Road is open seasonally, from about April until mid-November each year.

Safety Tips

gravel road in the treesIt’s important to keep safety in mind when driving Parson Branch Road. Because the road is gravel, narrow, and one-way, high-clearance vehicles are recommended. Motorhomes, buses, vans longer than 25 feet, and passenger vehicles towing trailers are not allowed.

More Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains

Parson Branch Road is one of the best scenic drives if you’re looking for something that’s a little less crowded than the Cades Cove Loop Road! Another popular drive in the area is Rich Mountain Road, a 7-mile gravel road that leads north out of Cades Cove and ends in Townsend.

For more ideas of beautiful drives to go on during your vacation, check out these popular scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains.