Offroading & Other DestinationsOutdoor Fun

Gatlinburg TN Roadtrip Vacation Tips With A Great List Of Places To Drive (On & Offroad!)

gatlinburg-tn-4th-of-julyWelcome to Gatlinburg.

The weekend forecast?

Well, Lynnette and Jim are coming, so you can expect showers.

Chances are good that you’ll see plenty of rain.

And, some thunderstorms too.

Other than that, it should be nice and pleasant.

Enjoy your stay!

Yes, it always rains on us whenever we’re there… even in a Jeep.

If you like, you can follow along to see how we spent the weekend in Gatlinburg TN.

We’ve been to Gatlinburg a lot, and this was certainly a last-minute trip like none other!…



Sometimes we get bonus points for being spontaneous. Other times we consider ourselves complete idiots for our lack of planning!


Where We Stayed

We would have liked to camp on this visit to the Smoky Mountains.

But on July 2nd, every campground within 40 miles of Gatlinburg was booked solid over the Fourth of July holiday.

Fortunately, we had gotten our camping “fix” a few weeks earlier.

So we found a cheap (by “Gatlinburg on the 4th of July” standards) hotel near Traffic Light #8.

It was the Sidney James at 610 Historic Nature Trail/Airport Road. The rate was $89 a night.


For those who don’t know, you find your way around downtown Gatlinburg in relation to the street lights — numbered 1 through 10.

We’re not really into all the touristy stuff around Gatlinburg, so we were glad to be somewhat near the end of the strip — easy in, easy out in terms of traffic.

gatlinburg_fireworks_from_hotelWe actually got a couple of great “bonuses” at our bargain hotel:

  • There was a great little Mexican Restaurant right down the street — and everyone knows how we love Mexican food!
  • The trolley made frequent passes up and down our street — taking people from the hotel anywhere from traffic light #1 to Pigeon Forge.
  • Our hotel room came with a balcony which faced the street — in perfect view of the Gatlinburg fireworks display which took place at midnight on July 4th. Talk about a party on the porch!
  • There was a hidden gem at the end of our road. Where our hotel’s parking lot ended, a little-known auto touring route began. It’s called the Roaring Fork Auto Driving Tour, and it’s a haven for black bears, deer, and turkey by the dozens. A fun road for a leisurely drive.


Highlights Of Our Weekend In & Around Gatlinburg

Following are the highlights.

For the most part, I did the photographing, while Jim did the video blogging.

In all, we shot more than 600 photos and 100 MB of video during our 3-day/2-night/825-mile Jeepin’ adventure in and around Gatlinburg.


Listen to Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius ”Mr. Parade Float Driver”:

  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – just north of downtown Gatlinburg (more here)
  • Cades Cove Loop – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • parsons-branch-roadParson’s Branch Road – DETOUR: road closed, but it was still a fun trip from Cades Cove to the detour spot (more here and here)
  • Rich Mountain Road – a steep and winding 8-mile gravel road from Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains to Townsend, Tennessee (more here and here)
  • Fontana Dam – the tallest concrete dam in the eastern U.S. plus a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail;  near Fontana Village, NC
  • Heintooga-Round Bottom Road – a 35-mile gravel road winding ’round Balsam Mountain
  • Foothills Parkway – from Townsend, TN to Fontana Dam near Deal’s Gap, NC (more here)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway – we rode a small portion of this 469-mile route through North Carolina
  • Newfound Gap – the lowest drivable pass through the Smoky Mountains; it’s half in Tennessee and half in North Carolina (more here)
  • Tail of the Dragon – an 11-mile stretch of road (U.S. Highway 129) that has 318 hairpin turns (our review here)
  • Cherohala Skyway – a winding road that ventures up and over 5,400-feet of mountains — 15 miles in NC and 21 miles in TN (more here and here)
  • Rent A Jeep – if you don’t already have one, or if you have friends who want to go exploring the area with you
  • More Fun Places To Ride In A Jeep – the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association has compiled a nice list of fun rides in the southeastern U.S.


Both the Tail of the Dragon and Cherohala Highway are favorites of motorcycle drivers. People drive from all the surrounding states just to experience these narrow & twisty roads. But trust me, it’s fun in a Jeep too!

And, like usual… we saw plenty of deer and bears that we spotted all along the backcountry roads of Gatlinburg:

gatlinburg_tn_black_bear deer_gatlinburg_tn

Overall, it was a weekend filled with lots of spontaneous adventure. We definitely had a ton of FUN.


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