Driving to the Great Smokies

We headed out from home in a light rain this morning… I love the safe feeling I get from having new tires, and both Big Red and our fifth wheel are sporting new shoes. It’s time for Sunday morning radio, and Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion is playing on my Public Radio app, and I am using the WAZE app from my iPhone for navigation purposes.

Ever since we started using the WAZE app, we have stopped using Gertie, the Garmin GPS. Gertie only comes out when we are in a dead zone with the cell phone and lose the use of the WAZE app. On our 9 week long trip out west this summer, we didn’t need Gertie at all. The iPhone is more of a problem in the Smokies, as there is little or spotty service in the National Park.

The weather deteriorated in north Georgia. We are creeping along in a frog croaking pounding rain. Cell reception is poor but radar shows we are at the northern leading edge of the storm system.

We stopped at the Smoky Mountain Visitor Center and made lunch and John took a nap before continuing on. We started seeing more colorful foliage along Hwy 441 N.

We entered the park from the southern side at Cherokee, NC. We were headed to a campsite near Gatlinburg, so we drove the length of Newfound Gap Road. US Hwy 441, Newfound Gap Road, is the only road across Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park mileposts start just outside Gatlinburg, TN, and end 31 miles later at the junction of U.S. Hwy 441 and the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC. Newfound Gap Road provides access to two visitor centers, hiking trails, Quiet Walkways, scenic vistas, and some of the highest points of any U.S. highway east of the Mississippi River.


We passed Oconoluftee Vistor Center and I settled in the truck passenger seat to enjoy the increasingly colorful woods and views.

As we got higher in elevation, the colors were closer to peak…

We continued along Newfound Gap Road to Newfound Gap. This area was crowded with people pulling over to take photos of the views. We were hauling the caboose and kept going, as there was no place to park and get out.
Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

As we came down in elevation, we started seeing more green in the woods. The Tennessee side of the park is much greener, with some views of southern facing slopes at peak.

As we exited Newfound Gap Road, we took the Bypass, avoiding all of the traffic through Gatlinburg, drove the Foothills Parkway and more back roads to Twin Creek RV Park. We set up as a rain shower moved in. The humidity was so high we were dripping by the time we were set up. Time for a shower and a quick nap for the driver before dinner : ).

About Holly Ritger

I am retired, enjoying being a grandmother, traveling to National Parks and other interesting places in our RV with my husband of 43 years, and visiting with friends and family. Hobbies: photography, learning about wildflowers and birds, and trees, and reading from my kindle.
This entry was posted in Great Smoky Mtn NP, North Carolina, north Georgia, Tennessee and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Driving to the Great Smokies

  1. Ingrid says:

    What beautiful fall colors. I’m so used to the dry air of the west…. that kind of humidity is hard for me to take. Enjoy those colors!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Holly Ritger says:

      The humidity was pretty high yesterday, at 96%. Very unpleasant till it cooled off. I don’t like it much either (especially Georgia’s hot/humid summers) but the secret is to be out camping on the west coast, or Utah or Colorado, and enjoy the summer out there! I am totally enjoying the fall colors, Ingrid 😊


  2. tybeegal says:

    What a beautiful drive! I remember driving that route some years ago in our RV and wishing there were space for us to pull over for pictures. It was so crowded with cars as the trees were at their peak and it was on a weekend to boot. Enjoy the mountains, cooler weather and fall colors……and maybe some bears. Thanks for the birthday card, I will share it with Eliza.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Holly Ritger says:

      I know Sherry, right?! But, we drove back down today to see the overlooks and colors but we were foiled by the sheer number of cars and people on the Newfound Gap Road today. I forgot it was Columbus Day and a lot of people seem to be taking a 3 day weekend here abouts. And, who can blame them! We will try again on Friday after the bad storms leave our area. Rough weather is a comin’! Today is the last nice day till the end of the week.


  3. placestheygo says:

    The colors you captured are gorgeous!! I do miss the bright reds of the
    maples.Some of the aspens get a pretty orange. Looks like a lot of other

    people had the same idea:)

    I sure don’t miss that humidity. Have a great time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Holly Ritger says:

      Thanks Pam and John. I love the reds, yellows, oranges and deep green of the evergreens together on the hillsides. I think there will be more reds and pinks later this week unless tomorrow’s rain and wind knock down the leaves. We saw the aspens turn once a few years ago. It was beautiful…


  4. Holly:

    Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful pictures. We have a cabin near Pigeon Forge. We are going in early November and hoping to catch some of those beautiful fall colors.

    Keep dry on your camping adventures.

    Mary Beth


    • Holly Ritger says:

      Hi Mary Beth! Thank you. I found out how the foliage was doing by following posts in facebook and on the park website. Know that Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are still mostly green but I bet after a few nights in the forties the end of this week that will change dramatically. Most of my colorful foliage shots are at higher elevations along Newfound Gap Road. Driving south from Gatlinburg, the color starts near Chimney Tops… Have a wonderful time in your cabin. We are keeping dry and warm… snug as a bug in our RV. Sleeping with the windows open and hearing the rain was delightful last night!


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