In southern Appalachian vernacular, a gap is a low point in a mountain ridge. New Englanders call such places “notches” while westerners refer to them as mountain “passes.” At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The old road over the Smoky Mountains crossed at Indian Gap, located about 1.5 miles west of the current site. Arnold Henry Guyot, a Swiss geographer, measured many Southern Appalachian elevations. He used a simple barometer to measure changes in air pressure to calculate mountain heights. In most cases he was within 2-3 percent of current values.
Arnold Henry Guyot’s work in 1872 revealed Newfound Gap as the lowest pass through the mountains, displacing nearby Indian Gap. When the lower, easier crossing was discovered, it became known as the “newfound” gap. A new road followed, and it became the forerunner of Newfound Gap Road.
Newfound Gap Road begins from Sugarland Visitor Center in Gatlinburg. Follow signs to Cherokee NC and you’ll climb about 3,000 feet into the mountainous landscape, traveling through fragrant woodlands that include pine-oak, evergreen spruce and cove hardwoods. This is one of my favorite day trips in the area. You will encounter NewFound Gap (mile marker 14.7), Clingman’s Dome (Entrance Road is about 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap), Mingus Mill (mile marker 29.9) and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum at mile marker 30.3. The Smokemont Campground and Nature Trail are at mile marker 27.2 and the Web Overlook at mile marker 17.7.
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in Tennessee. The view from the parking lot is just as beautiful as the view from the tower. Go on a clear day to get the full affect. The road to Clingman’s Dome is approximately 7 miles and is closed to vehicles December 1 – March 31.
NewFound Gap is a great place to go to see snow if there is no snow in the area where you are staying. On average, 69 inches of snow falls at the gap.
Mingus Mill is a historical building which is definately worth a quick stop.