Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall color drives in East Tennessee

Peak fall color season is here. If you have not already planned your drive, then now is the time to do so. Weather conditions can bring the fall color in early. Right now the mountains are awash in fall color of deep reds and golds that have long been associated with autumn.

East Tennessee is surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. You can drive almost anywhere to take in the brilliance of autumn. The town of Knoxville is also within driving distance to the Cherokee National Forest. It is virtually impossible to visit this part of East Tennessee without taking a fall color drive.

Fall color in the mountains
Living here has helped me develop an appreciation for our scenic wonders. Here are some of my favorite fall color drives for East Tennessee. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sevier County
This road trip is an autumn tradition for people who want to combine the fall color drive high end (or low end) shopping.From Knoxville, take TN 33/ TN 71 to U.S. 441 and follow the signs. The fall color drive takes you through Sevierville to the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. East Tennessee is often referred to as the “Heart of the Smokies”.

Each Sevier County town has family friendly and upscale restaurants. Among other restaurants, Gatlinburg has the Hard Rock Cafe, barbeque, pizza, Italian, Bubba Gump and Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon. Pigeon Forge also has an Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon eateries include Mama's Farmhouse Restaurant, Captain Jim's Seafood Buffet and others. Sevierville has everything from the Olive Garden, Applewood Farmhouse, Smoky Mountain Cheesecake Cafe and just about any other restaurant that you can think of.

Fontana Dam

Fontana Dam and bikers
The portion of U.S. Highway 129 from East Tennessee to Fontana is one of the most dangerous roads in the country but it also one of the most beautiful. It is also one of the most popular bike rides in the country and popular as a fall color drive. 

At 481 feet tall, Fontana Dam is the tallest concrete dam to have ever been built east of the Rocky Mountains. This fall color drive isn't one to be taken lightly. From Knoxville take U.S. 129 through Maryville for several miles. Turn left onto TN-28 and follow the signs. The link above has additional directions.

Simpler path of Cades Cove and Foothills Parkway
If a simple fall color drive is calling you, then Tennessee has you covered. The time honored tradition of packing a picnic lunch and heading to the mountains is just as popular for us as it was during our grandparents time.

Deer eating in Cades Cove
Cades Cove
This is a popular destination for autumn driving and wildlife viewing. Wild deer, wild turkeys, black bears and small animals await you on this fall color drive. It is only nine miles from Townsend, 30 miles from Gatlinburg and just under 60 miles from Cherokee, North Carolina. This fall color drive carries you through brilliant mountains into the cove.

Once you arrive, this portion of the Smoky Mountains has an eleven mile one way loop. Visitors will see wildlife, historic cabins and old churches. There is a picnic area on the left as you arrive and blanket or tailgate picnics are common. This link has detailed driving directions. General directions for this fall color drive are to take U.S. 129 to U.S. 321 and follow TN 73 straight into the park.

Foothills Parkway
A short fall color drive is Foothills Parkway. It connects US 129 with US 321. The route is just over 15 miles and you have to do some driving to get there. However; you pass through some of the most pristine wilderness that any fall color drive has to offer.

I think that East Tennessee has some of the most spectacular fall color drives of anywhere else in the nation. Do you agree?