East Tennessee is an incredibly beautiful region, with plenty of gorgeous mountain ranges and diverse wildlife.
Embarking on a scenic drive through East Tennessee can feel like passing through a postcard; the sights are absolutely stunning.
From panoramic views of lush valleys to lofty peaks shrouded in clouds and fog, you never know what amazing scenery awaits around the bend.
Wildlife sightings are also a possibility – hawks soar overhead in search of prey, deer peek curiously from behind trees, and river otters frolic along calm waters.
Overview Scenic Drive In East Tennessee
The East Tennessee countryside is renowned for its captivating beauty, and the Scenic Drive is the perfect way to experience it all.
Beginning in Johnson City at the foot of Tennessee’s High Country and stretching 27 miles along scenic Highway 4, this picturesque drive offers an enormous variety of landscapes that take adventurers across rivers, mountains, and five distinct geological formations (the Cumberland Plateau, Unaka Mountains, Valley and Ridge Province).
As you drive through lush greenery and farmland, you’ll pass by waterfalls, pastoral farms, breathtaking overlooks, and picturesque small towns.
You’ll even catch a glimpse into a bygone era with an 18th-century farmhouse that sits right in the middle of your route.
Popular List Of Scenic Drive In East Tennessee
The Smoky Mountains, rolling green hills, and ever-changing foliage provide beautiful sights in all directions.
With over 30 popular scenic drives, tourists to the area have plenty of routes to experience and admire the natural beauty of the region.
Some popular routes include driving along the Tail of the Dragon with its unique curves and stunning mountain views; experiencing nature up close on the Foothills Parkway West; and weaving through small towns while taking in majestic mountain peaks on the Cherohala Skyway.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail features stunning views of the Great Smoky Mountains, including tree-lined meadows, pristine rivers running through old-growth forests and gorgeous wildflowers dotting lush grassy patches.
Along the way, travellers can experience a trip back in time with numerous interesting stops that include an old gristmill, an iron forge and log cabins built in the 1800s by Appalachian settlers.
Other attractions include Snively’s General Store from the 1900s, a fire tower, and several waterfalls nestled in mossy vegetation.
The Cades Cove Loop Road
Cades Cove Loop Road provides visitors to East Tennessee with an extraordinary experience.
Located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this winding 11-mile drive is known for its lush habitats and stunning panoramic views.
You can explore the historic blacksmith shop, the preserved buildings from pioneer days, the quietness of calm fields and meadows, and observe an abundance of wildlife including deer, bears, coyotes, and more.
Along its path, you may also find John Oliver Cabin, the oldest log cabin in Cades Cove which was built in 1820 and is full of evocative memorabilia from another era.
The Foothills Parkway
Located in East Tennessee, the Foothills Parkway is a scenic drive that offers travellers tremendous views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
It sits at an elevation of 2,400 feet, offering panoramas as far as 30 miles away on a clear day. The twisting curves and bends make for an engaging drive as far as 22 miles along the winding mountain roads.
As you travel further into the parkway, stunning wildlife can be seen such as elk, black bears, eagles soaring through the skies, and wild horses amongst others.
Whether you’re travelling with your family or just want to explore some of mother nature’s beauties by yourself, The Foothills Parkway will always deliver an unforgettable experience.
The Newfound Gap Road
Cruising along the roads of East Tennessee is a breathtaking experience.
The Newfound Gap Road, which covers 33 miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is well-known for its mountain views and opportunities to observe nature.
The winding two-lane road passes through lush forests, exceptional waterfalls, and alpine-style meadows.
Along the way, visitors can enjoy beautiful drive-in photo spots that show off an abundance of spectacular mountain peaks and ridges from seemingly unobstructed viewpoints.
The Cherohala Skyway
The Cherohala Skyway drive starts in Tellico Plains and cuts through the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As drivers enter the scenic stretch of the Skyway, they will be surrounded by the lush green of rolling hills and the sharp peaks of the Eastern Appalachian Mountains.
The route presents some breathtaking views due to its diverse landscape with waterfalls, tunnels, wildflowers, sheer cliffs and numerous overlooks.
Moreover, travellers can hear music blasting from the traditional country music jamboree held each Saturday morning at Tellico Plains as they embark on their skyway journey.
The Tail of the Dragon (Deal’s Gap)
Nestled in the majestic hills of East Tennessee, The Tail of the Dragon (Deal’s Gap) has been a motorcyclist and sports car enthusiast favourite since 1941.
Featuring 318 sweeping curves over an 11-mile stretch, thrill-seeking drivers can adventure on this scenic drive to experience some of the most unique and breathtaking views in the area.
With its beautiful mountainous landscape as a backdrop, some of these impressive curves are so sharp that they feature nearly 180° angles.
So hop on, strap up your helmet, and take in all that East Tennessee has to offer with a drive down The Tail of the Dragon.
The Upper Middle Creek Road
With its rustic forest backdrops, tranquil meadows and inviting wildlife, the Upper Middle Creek Road in the heart of East Tennessee embodies the best of the area’s natural beauty.
Taking drivers from charming Sevierville through rolling hills and valleys, the scenic drive is a must-do for visitors travelling to this part of the state.
Along the way, you’ll see picturesque rock formations, breathtaking mountain views and a winding creek that follows alongside most of the route.
Occasional glimpses of elk, deer, and other native animals will take your breath away and remind you why it’s called “God’s Country”.
From hiking trails to small fishing spots, there are a number of opportunities to get out and explore along this stretch of highway.
The Unicoi Turnpike
The Unicoi Turnpike, a 55-mile rural and scenic drive in East Tennessee, has become an increasingly popular destination for outdoor adventurers. Meandering along the Cherokee National Forest, it offers people an oasis away from their daily lives.
The journey starts near Erwin and eventually culminates in Elizabethton, with breathtaking views along the way.
Tourists are encouraged to get out of their vehicles and explore more of the forests with hiking and horse trails that offer sightings of many animals like black bears and deer in addition to over 400 bird species found throughout this region.
While on the turnpike, it is also not uncommon to find some hidden gems such as waterfalls off the beaten path.
The Little River Road
The Little River Road begins in Townsend and runs all the way to Walland, passing through fantastic forests and stunning views at every turn.
Spectacular waterfalls, such as Meigs Falls and Cucumber Gap Falls can be seen from roadside pull-offs and there are plenty of opportunities to explore trails and discover hidden mountain vistas.
Whether it’s in the warmth of June or on a cool winter day, watching nature unfold as you take in breathtaking landscapes makes for an unforgettable experience that cannot be overstated.
The Mountain To Sea Trail
The Upper Middle Creek Road begins near Bright, TN, and meanders through beautiful forests, mountains, and valleys before reaching its endpoint in LaFollette.
Along the way, visitors can enjoy the extensive range of flora and fauna native to this part of Tennessee, such as wildflowers that bloom year-round and a plethora of wildlife including deer, turkeys and more.
The road offers stunning views from elevated mountain passes, with vistas stretching almost endlessly towards the horizon.
As if all this weren’t enough, Upper Middle Creek Road also gives drivers the rare opportunity to explore some of Tennessee’s historical sites, such as old homesteads nestled among the rolling hillsides of the rural countryside.
Tips For Enjoying The Drive
Taking a scenic drive in East Tennessee is a great way to explore the area and take in some of its most beautiful sights.
Before embarking on such an adventure, there are several tips to keep in mind that can help make for a more enjoyable (and safe) drive.
First, do some research before choosing a route and plan out your ideal scenic drive route. Consider the amount of time you will have and which sites along the way will fit best into that timeframe.
Additionally, make sure to always stay aware of the speed limit, especially when approaching bends or curves, and be mindful of other motorists.
If possible, try to avoid driving during peak times, as this can cause delays due to increased traffic.
Best Time To Visit
Taking a scenic drive in East Tennessee is a great way to appreciate the unparalleled beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
The months of April and May are particularly pleasant, allowing travellers to experience temperatures that are warm but not too hot and a landscape full of lush vegetation in varying shades of green and yellow.
Further on, travellers come across crystal-clear lakes which shimmer in the sunlight before them.
Of course, no trip would be complete without encountering heightened moments of excitement during drives through tunnels carved out of mountainsides. It is sure to be an adventure you won’t soon forget.
Preparing For The Drive
When preparing for a scenic drive in East Tennessee, the first step is to make sure the car is up-to-date and in working order.
A thorough inspection, whether done by yourself or professionally, should be done ahead of time to ensure safe travel. Additionally, it’s best to plan out routes and stops before setting off to make the most of a day trip.
Figuring out where you’re going to drive and which places you’d like to visit allows more time for sightseeing and soaking in the beautiful landscape offered by East Tennessee.
Along with this, pack an ample amount of snacks and drinks; there are plenty of perfect little spots to picnic throughout East Tennessee.
All these steps will ensure that your scenic road-trip is not only beautiful but also comfortable and enjoyable.
It’s important to prepare for your journey, however, by assembling your must-have supplies for a perfect scenic drive. Start by bringing along some coolers filled with snacks and an extra supply of bottled water.
You should also have plenty of comfortable clothing for layering since you never know when temperatures could drop on your journey.
Make sure to have a high-quality GPS navigation system, in case you decide to venture off the beaten path.
Having an extra power bank and car charging cables are crucial for keeping your electronics fully charged, so you can capture that once-in-a-lifetime view or moment on camera.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring along any necessary medications that may be needed during your travels; it’s always better to be extra prepared when it comes to healthcare needs.
The roads are well-maintained and provide plenty of room for vehicles to comfortably travel. Signs along the route mark all of the local attractions and sites, helping drivers find their way through small towns as they take in the natural beauty of the region.
The highways offer smooth terrain that is ideal for those who want a leisurely ride or drive with plenty of breathtaking vistas along the way.
In conclusion, it cannot be overstated how gorgeous and diverse a scenic drive in East Tennessee can be. With its rolling hills, lush forests and vibrant wildlife, it’s a dream come true for many nature lovers.
From Chattanooga to the Smoky Mountains National Park, there is an abundance of beauty to marvel at with almost endless trails, rivers, lakes and impressive outlooks.
Everywhere you look in East Tennessee you seem to find yet another flavour of natural beauty that motivates you to explore more; there truly is something magical about this part of the country.