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Sunset at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway, affectionately known as “the drive through the clouds,” stands out as a premier scenic route skirting the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This roadway, envisioned as a serene passage through one of the nation’s most beloved landscapes, has been gradually unveiled over decades, offering drivers and their passengers unparalleled views of the park’s majestic peaks and rolling valleys.

View of the "Blue Smoky" of Smoky Mountains from Route 441 Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in TennesseeA Pathway Like No Other

With sections that traverse both the park’s northern and southern boundaries, the Foothills Parkway weaves through the Smokies, presenting a tableau of nature’s grandeur. The parkway’s segmented completion over the years has only added to its allure, with each stretch revealing its unique character and vistas.

  • Western Section: Connecting Chilhowee Lake to the quaint town of Townsend, this segment offers expansive views that include Thunderhead Mountain and the undulating profile of the Smokies. The lookouts along this route are perfectly poised for capturing the essence of the mountains, whether shrouded in morning mist or aglow with the last light of sunset.
  • Eastern Section: This portion makes its ascent from Cosby to Interstate 40, winding through a dense canopy of forest before emerging to present dramatic overlooks of the Pigeon River Gorge. It’s a journey that encapsulates the rugged beauty of the eastern Smokies, inviting travelers to pause and appreciate the sheer scale of this wilderness.

A Photographer’s Dream

The Parkway is nothing short of a paradise for photographers. Its varied elevations and clear, sweeping views offer endless opportunities to capture the changing seasons, diverse ecosystems, and day-to-night transitions of the mountain landscape. The golden hours of sunrise and sunset are particularly breathtaking, painting the sky in hues that enhance the natural splendor below.

Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.More Than Just a Drive

While the road itself provides a memorable experience, the Foothills Parkway also serves as a springboard for further adventures. Numerous trails can be accessed from the parkway, inviting explorers to venture deeper into the forest or ascend to peaks that offer their own rewarding vistas. It’s an invitation to step out and immerse oneself in the tranquility and beauty of the Smokies.

Embarking on the Journey

A journey along the Foothills Parkway is more than just a scenic drive; it’s an exploration of the heart of the Smokies. It offers a unique vantage point from which to witness the natural beauty and serene landscapes of one of America’s most cherished national parks. Whether seeking solitude, inspiration, or adventure, the Parkway welcomes all to discover the wonders of the Smoky Mountains from a road less traveled.

As a gateway to both the well-known and hidden treasures of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Foothills Parkway invites you to witness the seasonal spectacle of this magnificent landscape. It stands as a testament to the beauty and majesty of the Smokies, offering each visitor a chance to create their own unforgettable memories amid the clouds.