Scenic USA - Tennessee

Newfound Gap Road

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Newfound Gap Road - Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Photo by Amanda Haddox
Amanda Haddox Photography
Inset photos courtesy of the National Park Service

     Imagine, there are nearly 400 miles of roads throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but only one crosses over the main mountain range. Chimney Tops - Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee The gap, a southern term for the dip between peaks, was found as the easiest place to get over the formidable Smoky Mountains. Apparently the original road followed Indian Gap before a better route was discovered. Simply called Newfound Gap, the name gained acceptance over time. Now a main park road, it climbs about 3000 feet through the forested mountains, over the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, to this overlook at the mile high gap.
     To the south, Clingmans Dome tops the Smoky Range at 6,643 feet. The Dome is the third highest peak east of the Mississippi River and the high point on the 2,144 mile Appalachian Trail. Straddling the state line, the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower rests high above the tree line, offering grand views in every direction. On clear days views are possible over a 100 mile range. But unfortunately Clingmans Dome Observation Tower - Great Smoky Mountain National park, Tennessee air pollution often limits views to fewer than 20 miles. The tower, built in 1959, is accessible over a very steep half mile paved trail from the parking area to the summit.
     Although it's one of the best scenic drives during the peak of autumn's brilliant foliage, the 33 mile Newfound Gap Road is an exceptional drive most any time from spring until late fall. From Cherokee to Gatlinburg, the Gap Road leads to picturesque streams, stands of sugar maples, scenic overlooks, picnic areas, alpine spruce and fir forests, walking paths, waterfalls and hiking trails. Brochures at the visitor centers list all the scenic wonders on this byway.

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