Foothills Parkway
June 15, 2024

When you come to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a lot of ways to enjoy the natural scenery! If you don’t want to go for a hike, that’s okay! Go for a relaxing scenic drive instead. Take a moment to learn about one of the many routes in the park. Here is a guide to the Foothills Parkway!

1. Construction of the Foothills Parkway

Construction of the Foothills Parkway began in 1966. It was supposed to be 71 miles long, stretching from I-40 south to US Chilhowee Lake at US 129. The second section was built in 1968. While the plans included 8 phases, construction has slowed due to lack of funding and environmental concerns. Park officials completed the “Missing Link” in December 2018. This stretch of road is 1.65 miles, and it connects the 2 completed sections. Visitors can now drive 33 miles from US 129 to US 321 in Tennessee.

2. Things To See on the Foothills Parkway

Look Rock in Great Smoky Mountains

There are a lot of wooded areas on the Foothills Parkway. What you’ll see changes with the seasons. In the warmer months, there are green leaves on the trees and colorful wildflowers on the ground. You may also see some wildlife as black bears come out of hibernation and wander around low-elevation areas. Take advantage of the nice weather and stop by one of the picnic areas along the way to have a delicious meal in the fresh air. There are also overlooks which are great for admiring the mountain views. When it gets cooler, the once-green leaves take on all kinds of fiery hues. If it snows, you’ll get to see a real-life Winter Wonderland. Keep in mind that some portions of the road may close temporarily due to hazardous conditions created by weather or maintenance. With that being said, keep an eye on the Smokies Road Info Twitter Page (@SmokiesNPS) for the most up-to-date information.

3. Highlights of the Foothills Parkway

As you drive along the Foothills Parkway, keep an eye out for the scenic overlooks. These are spots where you can look out and admire the breathtaking mountain views. On the Foothills Parkway East, there are pull-offs where you can see Mount Cammerer, a peak in the Smokies that is 4,298 feet in elevation. On the other hand, the scenic outlooks on the Foothills Parkway West look out on Cades Cove Mountain and Thunderhead Mountain. Some of the most notable include the Capshaw Branch and the Emerine Gap overlook. You can also see views of Look Rock in this area. This is the highest point on the Foothills Parkway West, coming in at 2,650 feet. Want an even better look? Park the car and take the 1-mile round trip hike to the observation tower! Additionally, the scenic outlooks may also have picnic areas which provide a great place to stop for a delicious lunch!

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the Foothills Parkway! Interested in other scenic drives in the area? Explore our other list of the best scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains you don’t want to miss!