Newfound Gap Road Scenic Byway – NC
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Scenic
- LocationNC, TN
- Length16.5 of 31 total miles
The Newfound Gap Road Byway forms a vital component of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s circulation system and is completely contained within the National Park’s boundaries, It is often the first or primary means for visitors to acquaint themselves with the character of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all it has to offer.
Story of the Byway
The Newfound Gap Road Byway corridor, about 31 miles in length, lies wholly within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On either end, located just outside the Park, are the “gateway” communities of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of all of the 59 national parks, seeing more than 10.7 million recreational visitors in 2015. 60% of these visitors travel along at least a partition of the Newfound Gap Road Byway, about half as many that travel along the significantly longer Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors can find overnight stays in campgrounds along the byway and the LeConte Lodge or in the culture-rich gateway towns of Gatlinburg and Cherokee.
The byway begins in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Visitors can find plenty of fun recreation in this family-friendly town. Within a short walk, visitors can find a world-class aquarium (Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies), mini golf, mountain coasters, museums, arcades, and more, or they could choose to fly above the trees at the Gatlinburg Skylift Park. The Skylift Park has become an iconic symbol of Gatlinburg since the introduction of its yellow chaired lift and features the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in America as well as the best views of the Smokies.
Visitors will then travel into the heart of the park. There are countless opportunities for active recreation throughout the byway within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Visitors can explore a host of trails, campground, picnic areas, and trailhead immediately adjacent to the roadway that provide access to natural and cultural features. The byway is dotted with pull-offs and overlooks that provide access to resting points and spectacular panoramic views of the landscape. The Tennessee portion of the Newfound Gap Road Byway brings travelers to the Sugarlands Valley. The valley follows the beautiful Little Pigeon River and features the only trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to be designated as accessible to all users. As the road climbs along the north side of Sugarland Mountain, the river disappears, and the trees lining the road create a cavernous effect. The Campbell Overlooks provide spectacular views of Bull Head Peak and Mount LeConte. As the roadway continues to ascend, visitors are encouraged to stop at Chimney Tops Overlook to enjoy these iconic rock outcroppings. The picturesque setting is further enhanced by the steep slope on the right side of the road and exposed rock on the left, as well as a hairpin turn, the Chimney Tops Tunnel, and the Loop Over Bridge. Travelers can stop along the roadway to take hikes and then continue on the byway to ascend along pronounced curves to view beautiful overlooks.
The route then continues into North Carolina. After crossing through the Newfound Gap, the byway reaches Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies. A paved halfmile trail climbs steeply from the parking area to a 45-foot-tall observation tower at the “top of old Smokey.” Travelers can continue their journey and stop by the Luftee, Swinging Bridges, Webb, and History Exhibit Overlooks to enjoy interpretive waysides and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. As the roadway flattens, travelers enjoy views of the Oconaluftee River. This stunning freestone river parallels most of the route between its headwaters near Newfound Gap and the lower elevations toward Cherokee. Visitors may enjoy the picturesque view as the light filters through the birch trees and dense thickets of doghobble and rhododendron that cover over the riverbanks.
The route ends in Cherokee, North Carolina, a culturally rich town home to the Cherokee tribe. Here, visitors can experience Cherokee culture and traditions. Visitors should be sure to see the Oconaluftee Indian Village, “Unto These Hills” outdoor drama, and the Sequoyah National Golf Club while experience all of the outdoor recreation activities the town has to offer.
Begin at the Tennessee-North Carolina Border at Newfound Gap on U.S. 441. Travel down through the mountains with views of the Oconaluftee Valley past the Webb Overlook and Mingus Mill. Visitors will see the Oconaluftee Visitors Center as they leave the National Park. The byway ends at the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Reservation.
Points of Interest
At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Luftee Gap Overlook
The Luftee Gap Overlook is a beautiful roadside stop to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Situated outside the historic Mountain Farm Museum, the visitor center serves as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with all its natural beauty, outdoor attractions, and amenities.
Newfound Gap Road: The North Carolina Side
Begin at the Newfound Gap at the North Carolina/Tennessee Border. Drive through the mountains to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies The route then continues into North Carolina. After crossing through the Newfound Gap, the byway reaches Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies. A paved halfmile trail climbs steeply from the parking area to a 45-foot-tall observation tower at the “top of old Smoky.”
As you drive through the mountains there are many overlooks where you can stop by to enjoy interpretive waysides and panoramic views of the scenic mountains: the Luftee, Swinging Bridges, Webb, and History Exhibit Overlooks.
As you enter into the valley, enjoy the beautiful views of the Oconaluftee River. This stunning freestone river parallels most of the route between its headwaters near Newfound Gap and the lower elevations toward Cherokee. The picturesque view as the light filters through the birch trees and dense thickets of doghobble and rhododendron that cover over the riverbanks is exceptionally beautiful.
You will end your route in Cherokee, North Carolina. Experience the Cherokee culture and traditions as you explore the town. There are many museums and festivals as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation as you end your journey on Newfound Gap Road.
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