Newfound Gap is the most famous drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And it is the lowest drivable pass at an elevation of 5,056 feet through the Smoky Mountains. It stretches from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North California. Along the way, you can see amazing views and many other things when you travel about 33 miles. Enjoy the fresh mountain air with the fragrance of pine and spruce by rolling down the windows. Newfound Gap road offers access to the park’s visitor centers, hiking trails, nature walkways, etc. And there are also many lookouts which give the best views. Here are some of the best things to do on Newfound Gap Road.
Sugarlands Visitor Center
Sugarlands Visitor Center is the best place to start your driving tour. This visitor center is the famous one in the Gatlinburg area. The visitor center features a small museum with a 30 minutes video presentation and it has retail shops which make it more attractive. You can purchase a Newfound Gap Road driving tour booklet which shows a detailed history and details of all the stops along the road.
The Campbell Overlook is about 4 miles along the Newfound Gap Road. And from that place, you will be able to see a perfect view of Mount LeConte. This overlook is named after Carlos Campbell, who was instrumental in helping to develop the Great Smoky Mountain, National Park. You will be able to see mountain laurel, blueberries, myrtle, and rhododendron in this area.
Chimney Tops Picnic Area
The Chimney Tops Picnic Area is about 6 miles along the roadway and you will have to take a left turn to reach the place. This picnic area is very popular when the weather is warmer and it is a popular stop for families. From this place, you can hike through the Cove Hardwood Self-Guiding Nature Trail. You can take this trail during the spring season where you can see wildflowers and mosses in the park. Take a drive for about half a mile where you can see five pull-offs that offer impressive views of Chimney Tops.
The main point which everyone wishes to see is the ‘Newfound Gap’ where President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood to establish the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park. There is a plaque to show respect for the Rockefeller Memorial at that place. All of these are found at 14.7 miles along the Newfound Gap Road.
Clingmans Dome Road
Clingmans Dome Road is the extremely popular stop on the Newfound Gap Road map that leads to Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. It is one of the popular destinations for both tourists and locals in the Smoky Mountains. This is the place where you can take panoramic views of the national park and you can see hundreds of miles across the treetops. There are five beautiful places to see on the way to Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains and they are:
- Indian Gap
- The Fraser Fir
- Clingmans Dome
- Weeping Wall
- Spruce-Fir Nature Trail
As you start your drive to reach the other side of Newfound Gap Road, you can stop at the place called Smokemont which is the site of Cherokee villages, a CCC camp, and farms. There are trails around this area and there are lots of tent sites in the Smokemont area. And this area is not very crowded.
If you take a drive through the North California side of the road, you will see the most popular destination called ‘Mingus Mill’. This is an old grist mill built in 1886 and it was restored in 1937 by CCC. This mill uses a water-based turbine instead of using a water wheel to power all the machines in that building. You can purchase freshly ground cornmeal and flour in this place.
Alum Cave is one of the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. And it is also the shortest trail to Mt.LeConte. The parking is sometimes crowded but the trails are the visitor’s favorite with some magnificent views. Bird watchers can enjoy this place by seeing the Peregrine Falcons. You can see the nest of Falcons which is visible from the Inspiration Point which is about 2 and a half miles up the trail. Alum cave doesn’t contain any Alum and it is not a cave but the Bluff’s has a history going back to the 1800s where the Epsom salts were mined for medical purposes.
Newfound Gap is one of the popular roads to take a drive in the Smoky Mountains. And also there are many other places to visit in this park. Check out the other popular places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.