Wears Valley is a quaint picturesque mountain valley only 3 miles wide and 5 miles long and is located about halfway between Pigeon Forge and Townsend. We have our own entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and to the Foothills Parkway. Both are within about two minutes from our shop at 3770 Wears Valley Road. Metcalf Bottoms, arguably the most beautiful and family friendly picnic area in the Smokies, is almost in sight from our front porch. Leave our office, go about ¼ mile and turn right at Mountain Brothers, continue straight 3 miles or so and you will cross a one way bridge over Little River and be in Metcalf Bottoms. Stop, picnic, and enjoy the river. Leave Metcalf Bottoms, turn right and stay straight right into Cades Cove.
Enjoy your day with all the Cove has to offer and when you leave the cove you will simply take the first left and be right in the middle of beautiful Townsend, Tn. You can enjoy all Townsend has to offer and simply turn at Cades Cove Jeep Outfitters and it will bring you right back to our front door. If you have time, continue toward Maryville and turn right on the Foothills Parkway, get ready for some of the most beautiful Valley Views in the world, and take your time. When you get to the end, and intersect 321 Wears Valley Road, turn toward Townsend and we are about two miles on your right. This loop can easily take all day if you take your time and it exposes you to the true magic of the mountains. Pack a cooler and grab some snacks so everyone is comfortable. If it’s a early morning trip, do it in reverse.
Also known as notches or passes, gaps are the low points in a mountain ridge, which sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet, is the lowest drivable pass in the park. Scenic, 31-mile Newfound Gap – U.S. Route 441 – runs through the center of the park from the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, over the mountains and into Cherokee, North Carolina. Mile markers denote several interesting attractions along the way, including Newfound Gap, Mingus Mill, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum, and the Smokemont Campground and Nature Trail.
Recent travelers who drove along this route raved about the mountain views and photo ops, although some called the twisting mountain road "an automotive roller coaster." Many recommended the Newfound Gap visitor area for its quality facilities and access to trailheads, noting that the Appalachian Trail also crosses here. If you're visiting on a holiday weekend, prepare for crowds: some travelers said they were unable to find parking at many of the stops.
Newfound Gap can be accessed from the main parkway in Gatlinburg that leads to the Sugarlands Visitor Center; follow the signs to Cherokee. For more information about Newfound Gap, check the NPS website.
According to recent travelers, the Sugarlands Visitor Center should be your first stop in the park. The visitor center features extensive natural history exhibits and screens a free 20-minute film about the park. The center also houses a bookstore, a gift shop, restrooms and a variety of information including trail maps. There are also several ranger-led programs offered seasonally.
Recent visitors recommended picking up both driving and trail maps here, and many commented on the excellent displays in the wildlife exhibit. Most travelers appreciated the helpful staff and the gift shop, as well as the clean restrooms. However, some lamented the limited parking during peak seasons.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a nearly 6-mile-long, one-way loop road, offers spectacular mountain scenery and access to two of the region's most popular waterfalls: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. You can actually walk behind the 25-foot high falls at the Grotto via the Trillium Gap Trail. You'll also see historic log cabins and the remains of a mountain village, the Roaring Fork Cemetery and an array of wildlife from birds and deer to black bears.
Recent visitors who raved about the beautiful waterfalls and mountain scenery on this motor trail said this is a must-see and a great place to spot bears in the wild. However, some summer tourists bemoaned the fact that the trail was crowded and offered limited parking areas. To avoid the midday rush of visitors, plan your drive in the morning to beat the crowds.
To access the trail, which is free to enter, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light No. 8 and follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Note that in the winter months, the trail may be closed by the park service during inclement weather. To learn more about the trail and seasonal road closures, visit the NPS website.
Surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove is an isolated, fertile valley that was once home to many of the early Southern Appalachian settlers. You'll see 18th- and 19th-century cabins, three churches and a working grist mill, as well as other historic outbuildings. The 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the Cades Cove valley and is one of the best places in the park to view wildlife. Once a hunting ground for the Cherokee Indians, the area is now home to deer, black bears and wild turkeys. Several hiking trails, including one to Abrams Falls, begin here. Longer hikes, including Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top, also start here, but are better suited for experienced hikers.
Because the loop road is closed to motor traffic on Saturday and Wednesday mornings until 10 a.m. from early May until late September, it's a favorite among cyclists. If you don't have your own set of wheels, you can rent bikes at the Cades Cove Campground store (rentals for adults cost $7.50 per hour).
Visitors love the mix of scenery and history, although the heavy traffic in the summer season and on fall weekends make the drive a slow one. Past travelers said you should plan to spend several hours to fully explore the area. Families and couples enjoy early morning bike rides on the loop and many spotted bears along the way. Photographers, in particular, say this is worth the time if you're looking for great photos of the mountains. Other visitors recommended bringing food and water and warn that cell service is spotty at best.
Cades Cove is 27-mile drive west of Gatlinburg and the 11-mile, one-way loop is closed to automobile traffic on Saturdays and Wednesdays until 10 a.m., but is otherwise open from sunrise to sunset. There is a small camp store at the campground and the visitor center offers a variety of educational programs. Entrance to the park is free, although visitors may want to purchase the self-guided auto tour booklet (it costs $1) at the entrance.
Is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains National Park topping out at 6,643 feet. Clingmans Dome offers a spectacular 360° panorama.
Views can vary, depending on weather and atmospheric conditions the view can be very limited / or up to 100 miles.
The hike from the parking lot to the observation tower is 1/2 mile, and is considered STEEP. The trail is paved, you will find several rest stations that you can enjoy on your way up.
Temperature – At this altitude temperatures can easily be 20- degrees lower than the surrounding lowlands. Take some advice from me, “BRING” a jacket, as I found out on my first evening hike to Clingmans Dome, you can always take it off to cool down.
However if you have not brought it with you, you can not put it on to keep warm. Tennis Shoes or Hiking Shoes are a great idea, I love Flip-Flops, however this trail due to its incline can be a little taxing on Flip Flops.