Roaring Fork Motor Trail

#1 in Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Roaring Fork Motor Trail
SuperT76/Getty Images

Key Info

Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Recreation, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.8scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

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.

See all Hotels in Great Smoky Mountains National Park »

More Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Newfound Gap Road
Sugarlands Visitor Center
Type
Time to Spend
1 of 9
#2 Newfound Gap Road

Also known as notches or passes, gaps are the low points in a mountain ridge. The Newfound Gap, which sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet, is the lowest drivable pass in the park. The 31-mile, scenic Newfound Gap Road – 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 the Newfound Gap, Mingus Mill, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum, and the Smokemont Campground and Nature Trail. 

Read more
SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images
See full list of Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park »

Explore More of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019