The timing of your Great Smoky Vacations determines how many other visitors you will encounter. Week days are always less crowded than the weekends. January, February, May, Early November and Early December are also less traveled months in the Smokies.
However, there are many places in the National Park that you can still enjoy without encountering large groups of people.
Cades Cove is a very popular attraction in the Smokies. If you get there early in the morning, you can avoid the crowds. Many of the trails are not utilized. Many travelers just stay in their car and only get out at the historic structures. You can encounter the wildlife and not even have to get out of your vehicle.
Rich Mountain Road is a scenic drive located on the loop road at Cades Cove at the halfway point, across from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. You’ll pass by waterfalls, streams and cliff sides as you drive up Rich Mountain and down the other side toward Townsend. Rich Mountain Road is about 7 miles long — be prepared for a winding mountain drive with plenty of curves and turns! There is an overlook that has one of the best views of the Primitive Baptist Church and the Valley below. Rich Mountain Road is only open April through November.
Parsons Branch Road offers another way to leave Cades Cove. The entrance to this gravel road is located right at the halfway point of the Cades Cove Loop Road. Parsons Branch Road is an 8 mile, one-way road, along which you’ll cross 18 creeks and see plenty of beautiful scenery. This road ends at US 129, which is also known as the Tail of the Dragon, a popular motorcycle drive just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Newfound Gap Road is surrounded by trails that are much less traveled. Yet, just as beautiful as other trails.
To visit the Jump Off, hikers will follow the Appalachian Trail northbound from the Newfound Gap Parking area. After a short hike on a gorgeous mountain ridge, you’ll be treated to a stunning drop-off with views of some of the most rugged parts of the mountains.
Charlies Bunion is another highlight on the Appalachian Trail near Newfound Gap. This challenging hike yields great rewards. The impressive mountain views and sense of seclusion are well worth some hard work on the trail.
Cataloochee Valley is another peaceful valley at the other end of the park that boasts historic sites, hiking trails, and wildlife. This peaceful mountain valley is famously home to a large elk herd and is one of the only places you can see wild elk in the Eastern US. Warning, the road is quite squirley on the way in. It is also a hike from the TN side of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Little Cataloochee Church was built in 1889 and served about 1,200 people who lived in Cataloochee Valley at the time. It is a white painted church surrounded by the Smoky Mountains and was a popular place for community gatherings. The well-maintained cemetery that is close to the church became the final resting place for many of its members. On Memorial Day, many descendants of the early Cataloochee families return to the church to decorate the graves of their relatives.
Tremont is home to some of the most scenic sections of river in the national park. Tremont is a trout fisherman’s paradise and has some gorgeous waterfalls and hiking trails.
Upper Tremont Road is one of the best Smoky Mountain scenic drives that still remains a hidden gem. Located near Wears Valley, this drive is more popular in the fall and is perfect for those looking for a peaceful drive. It’s about 3 miles in length and follows a mountain stream with several waterfalls. At the end of the road, you’ll reach the Middle Prong Trailhead, which offers an easy waterfall hike. If you want to stretch your legs some more, hike to Spruce Flats Falls at the Tremont Institute while you’re in the area!
The Middle Prong Trail in Tremont is a waterfall hike that’s well-known for being quite easy. After only 1 mile of hiking, you’ll be treated to several cascading waterfalls.
The Greenbrier Road follows along a stretch of the Little Pigeon River. You can stop to fish or even go for a swim! The scenic drive is about 6 miles long and offers views of large hemlock trees, maple trees and historic structures. Some of the structures you can see along the road are the John Messer Barn and the Tyson McCarter Place. The Greenbrier section is also home to Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains!