Off the Beaten Path
Join me on an adventure. Where will we go today?
In October 2023, I set out with my Mom and her two sisters to chase the Autumn leaves. Unfortunately, thousands of people had the same idea as we hit the peak foliage on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina. Crossing Newfoundland Gap was nearly bumper to bumper, with every available inch of parking taken from the reservation to Gatlinburg. We tried to drive the Roaring Fork Nature Trail, but traffic was at a standstill. We overheard that bears had been seen on that trail, and rangers had cut off traffic until they cleared. We did not see the bears ourselves as we turned around after waiting thirty minutes with no movement.
On the way home, we picked up the Foothills Parkway at Wear’s Valley and drove about forty miles. The parkway is still incomplete, but the drive is gorgeous, with several places to pull off. The elevation runs around 3600 feet, so high enough to see the Little Tennessee River, and higher elevation mounts at 5000 to 6000 feet. There was some traffic but nothing like that on the more well-known drives. We exited at Cosby, Tennessee, and went through Walland to Maryville. The southwestern part of the Foothills Parkway can be picked up at Chilhowe Lake. The drive is considered part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During the winter when the leaves are gone, the Maryville Overlook shows the town. The foliage was still too thick to see it on this trip. If you want a leisurely, beautiful drive with fewer tourists, consider the Foothills Parkway.