Scenic Mountain Drives near Rafting in the Smokies

Deals Gap Road

Photo by minxx (Flickr)

Sometimes you want to see the beauty of the mountains from the comfort of your vehicle. The natural mountain ranges around Rafting in the Smokies offer exceptional views and majestic surroundings. Whether you’re planning on driving or riding through on your motorcycle, we’ve picked out some stunning scenic and fun drives to check out.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Slow down and take your time to enjoy the beauty of the forest and the legacy of the land through historic buildings that pop up along the route. You can access the trail from light #8 near Gatlinburg. Just follow the Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance. The looping road covers 5.5 miles and allows you to view mountain streams, preserved cabins and mills, and (if you want to get out of your vehicle) take a walking tour. While it’s not open in winter, the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is one of the most popular drives in the Smokies.

The Rattler

This loop covers 98 miles (or 36 miles one-way) and will take you through several hundred twists, turns, and curves. Pick up NC-209 from Exit 104 of the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway (US-74) near Lake Junaluska. Follow it north until it ends at Hot Springs, NC. This hour-long drive has its own website—it’s that popular! You’ll be able to view streams, valleys, and forested areas. Don’t forget to take advantage of the unpaved overlooks for picturesque photo opportunities.

Deals Gap (US-129)

From Townsend to the Foothills Parkway, this is a very curvy road, dubbed the “Tail of the Dragon.” There are 318 curves in only 11 miles. It also has a dedicated website for fans and visitors, which includes maps. This road is a motorcycle hotspot due to the turns, but not for the general tourist looking for some spots to sightsee. Along this road you’ll drive across the bridge near the Cheoah Dam, a backdrop for the movie The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford.

Upper Tremont Road

Drive from Townsend into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, turn right towards Cades Cove, then left at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute sign. It’s a lovely low-key driving spot that doesn’t encounter many tourists, but offers an eternal beauty. If you’re looking for a drive that provides pull-offs to picnic, this stretch of road has a few areas that are perfect if you bring along a few lawn chairs and a pop-up table. It’s a short stretch of road, but a wonderful selection if you want to immerse yourself in the forest.

In addition to the locations listed above, we can’t speak enough about the Foothills Parkway that you drive along in order to get to Rafting in the Smokies from Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. It offers both a beautiful drive and plenty of photo opportunities.