Did you know there is a 5.5-mile loop road through the Great Smoky Mountains that begins and ends in the middle of Gatlinburg? This somewhat hidden route features hiking trails, stunning cascades and waterfalls, and beautiful historic buildings. It’s one of my favorite places to explore in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so I put together this travel guide for you!
Getting to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The route to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail begins at Traffic Light #8 on Parkway in Gatlinburg. That’s the easy part; the hard part is actually getting there without sitting in traffic for an hour.
Here are a few different ways to get to this intersection so you can begin your adventure to my favorite section of the park.
From Pigeon Forge
If you’re coming from Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, I-81, or any place from that direction there is a really nice bypass to skip around Parkway. Sometimes the traffic backs up a couple of miles so even this may not be a quick route, but it’s your best option.
After passing the Gatlinburg Welcome Center start looking for the Gatlinburg Bypass on the right. Exit onto this road. The bypass climbs the mountain just above Gatlinburg and features a couple of nice scenic overlooks. At the other end take the exit on the right to loop back into Gatlinburg. You’ll have about two blocks to travel along Parkway to Traffic Light #8 at Historic Nature Trail.
If you’re traveling along Highway 321 from Cosby or Pittman Center there is a way to skip Parkway altogether. Just before reaching Parkway turn left onto Baskins Creek Bypass. This two-lane road will come to an end at Cherokee Orchard Road. Turn left onto Cherokee Orchard Road. At the four-way intersection continue straight to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
From the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you’re coming from any point inside the national park you will follow Parkway into Gatlinburg about two blocks to Traffic Light #8 at Historic Nature Trail.
From Inside Gatlinburg
If you are coming from a hotel or other parking area inside Gatlinburg you can still skip the traffic jam on Parkway. Get on River Road just one block behind Parkway. You can turn at Maples Lane to Parkway, but that will require a left turn at Traffic Light #8. I recommend taking River Road to Ski Mountain Road because it is easier to make the turns. From here continue about two blocks to Traffic Light #8.