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The Smoky Mountains are known for their popular scenic drives, like Cades Cove and Newfound Gap. Visitors love being able to take in the beautiful scenery from the comfort of their cars. If you want to take a peaceful drive through the Smokies the next time you’re here without worrying about heavy traffic, try one of the roads less traveled! Here are 5 less crowded Smoky Mountain scenic drives:
1. Rich Mountain Road
Are you hoping to explore Cades Cove but want to escape the heavy congestion on the Cades Cove Loop Road? Try Rich Mountain Road! This scenic drive is an alternate way to exit Cades Cove. You can find the entrance to the road before the halfway point around the loop road, across from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. This drive will make you feel a world away from all the activity in the national park, and you’ll get to see parts of the Smokies you’ve never seen before. You’ll pass by waterfalls, streams and cliff sides as you drive up Rich Mountain and down the other side toward Townsend. Rich Mountain Road is about 7 miles long — be prepared for a winding mountain drive with plenty of curves and turns!
2. Parsons Branch Road
Parsons Branch Road offers another way to leave Cades Cove. The entrance to this gravel road is located right at the halfway point of the Cades Cove Loop Road. Parsons Branch Road is an 8 mile, one-way road, along which you’ll cross 18 creeks and see plenty of beautiful scenery. This road ends at US 129, which is also known as the Tail of the Dragon, a popular motorcycle drive just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Please note that Parsons Branch Road is currently closed due to tree hazards.
3. Wears Valley Road
You don’t have to be in the national park to enjoy a Smoky Mountain scenic drive! Wears Valley Road winds from Pigeon Forge to Townsend and offers incredible views of the Smoky Mountains. It’s a 15-mile road that offers views of streams, waterfalls and wildlife. You’ll also find a number of quaint shops, delicious restaurants and more things to do. The fields and lush farmland all around you also create the perfect backdrop for a family photo!
4. Greenbrier Road
The Greenbrier Road follows along a stretch of the Little Pigeon River. You can stop to fish or even go for a swim! The Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a less visited area, so you won’t have to worry as much about traffic and crowds. The scenic drive is about 6 miles long and offers views of large hemlock trees, maple trees and historic structures. Some of the structures you can see along the road are the John Messer Barn and the Tyson McCarter Place. The Greenbrier section is also home to Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains!
5. Upper Tremont Road
Upper Tremont Road is one of the best Smoky Mountain scenic drives that still remains a hidden gem. Located near Wears Valley, this drive is more popular in the fall and is perfect for those looking for a peaceful drive. It’s about 3 miles in length and follows a mountain stream with several waterfalls. At the end of the road, you’ll reach the Middle Prong Trailhead, which offers an easy waterfall hike. If you want to stretch your legs some more, hike to Spruce Flats Falls at the Tremont Institute while you’re in the area!
More Smoky Mountain Scenic Drives
We’ve told you about some of the less crowded Smoky Mountain scenic drives, but you should also give the popular drives a try if you haven’t yet! Cades Cove is a can’t-miss drive, as well as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Newfound Gap. For more ideas of where you can go for a drive in the Smokies, read our blog, “Smoky Mountain Scenic Drives You Don’t Want to Miss on Vacation.”