The Five Best Smoky Mountain Scenic Drives
#1 The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles of gorgeous mountain scenery starting in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and ending in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina. The drive includes mountains, forests, picnic areas, campgrounds, and access to hiking trails. The Parkway is considered not only the best scenic drive in North Carolina but also the best scenic drive in the United States.
#2 Heintooga Road in Smoky Mountains National Park
If you want a more adventurous drive, consider taking the Parkway to milepost 458.2 and then make the drive to Balsam Mountain via Heintooga Ridge Road. Cross from the Blue Ridge Parkway National Park into the Great Smoky National Park, and you will pass Heintooga Overlook. If you want to find out what “car hiking” is, then continue on your journey and take a forest drive on Heintooga-Round Bottom Road. This one-lane gravel road runs along Balsam Mountain and ends with a trip down into Straight Fork Valley and Cherokee. This road is not safe for RVs, trailers, and other large vehicles. Learn more by watching The Day Hiker.
#3 Route 19
Route 19 is a beautiful, curvy mountain road that runs between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, North Carolina. Enjoy a drive through the forest as you wind along the ridges and into the valleys of Appalachia. Don’t rush though, especially if there is rain or snow! Relax, follow the speed limit, and soak in the beauty of the mountains. This Smoky Mountain scenic drive is home to a number of shops and overlooks to stop at, making it fun for the whole family.
#4 Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Music Trails (BRMT) of NC are a series of locations in 25 counties where visitors can engage with music heritage and history. BRMT sites feature traditional mountain music and dance venues, events, and educational opportunities. Learn about bluegrass, old time, blues, gospel, country, and Cherokee music and dance, as well as mountain traditions like ballad singing, square dancing, and clogging. Review the music trails guidebook, and begin planning your next mountain music tour. You can experience some of the best scenic drives in North Carolina, all while enjoying:
- concert series
- live performances
- contra and square dancing
- bluegrass jam sessions
- dance festivals
- and much more.
#5 Route 74, the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway
Route 74, also called the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, is joined by Routes 19 and 441 at various times. This four-lane highway through the heart of the Smokies goes from Bryson City to Clyde. If you continue on to 441, you can travel all the way to Athens, Georgia, or pick up Highway 85 to Atlanta.