Don't tell anyone, but the Foothills Parkway is an undiscovered gem. This scenic drive offers panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains to the east and the Tennessee Valley to the west. It's a favorite spot for photographers, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.
Foothills Parkway (West) offers a quiet respite from the crowds that often jam the roadways in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It never seems to be crowded. Even on the last weekend of October, prime time for visiting the Park, the Parkway was pleasantly uncrowded.
Once I got to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, however, it was another matter. There was a sign posted warning of a three hour delay at Cades Cove, and traffic was backed up near Sugarlands Visitor Center, at the turnoff for Gatlinburg.
There are numerous turnouts along the Parkway where you can get out and enjoy the view. The highest point is at Look Rock, where you can take a short trail to an observation tower for a nearly 360 degree panorama. On a clear day, you may be able to see all the way toClingmans Dome.
Photographers especially enjoy the Parkway for the effects they get at sunrise and sunset. Motorcyclists can take this route on their way to The Dragon, a twisty section of U.S. Highway 129 popular with bikers.
There are no restaurants or gas stations on the Parkway, but there's a ranger station and Look Rock Campground.
Foothills Parkway West stretches 18 miles along the crest of Chilhowee Mountain, from U.S. 321 near Walland and Townsend south to U.S. Highway 129 at Chilhowee Lake.
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