Top 10 Scenic Drives in Tennessee

While Tennessee is known for its mountains, forests, and music history, these things are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg for what this region has to offer. Of course, visitors will continue to flock with good reason to Beale Street, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Smoky Mountains, but there are plenty of hidden treasures just waiting to be found. Begin your own treasure hunt of this great state, beginning with one of our favorite Tennessee scenic drives:

No. 10 – Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway Tennessee
Flickr user: Matthew Nichols

Starting Location: Collinswood, TN
Ending Location: Hohenwald, TN
Length: 38 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This is a nice bendy drive through rolling hills and lots of trees with an occasional bit of water to break up the scenery. Hungry travelers may want to stop and grab a bite at the 60-year-old Loveless Motel and Café, which is known for miles around for its chicken and biscuits. To take an invigorating stroll or camp overnight, check out Meriwether Lewis National Monument Park, which has lots of amenities.

No. 9 – Highway 66

Highway 66 Tennessee
Flickr user: Brent Moore

Starting Location: Rogersville, TN
Ending Location: Sneedville, TN
Length: 32 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This leisurely drive through Tennessee backcountry is an ideal way to pass an hour or so on a lazy day and can be stretched a bit by stopping to enjoy the scenery. The road is somewhat windy with little traffic and passes through rural stretches with old farmhouses and the sight of mountains on the horizon. Stop at Cherokee Lake for a quick dip or to set up camp for the night, and keep your eyes peeled for historic homes on the way.

No. 8 – Roan Mountain Road

Roan Mountain Road Tennessee
Flickr user: Brent Moore

Starting Location: Hampton, TN
Ending Location: Roan Mountain, TN
Length: 17 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This wooded mountain drive that twists and turns through Roan Mountain State Park has plenty of elevation changes and gorgeous views. Stop at the Roan Mountain State Park Visitors Center to learn about the region and pick up a hiking trails map. There is almost always something special going on in the park from tours of preserved homesteads to cross-country skiing in the colder months.

No. 7 – Marsh Creek and Cedar Creek Loop

Marsh Creek and Cedar Creek Loop Tennessee
Flickr user: Jimmy Emerson

Starting Location: Linden, TN
Ending Location: Linden, TN
Length: 22 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

With wooded hills, rural towns, and babbling creeks along this ride, travelers can see a quieter side to the state and take time to relax. On the way, you can’t miss the civil war iron furnace just off the side of the road. Once back in Linden, seize the chance for a walking tour of the historic downtown, which hasn’t changed much since the 1940s.

No. 6 – Woodland Drive

Woodland Drive Tennessee
Flickr user: chattaliuga

Starting Location: Benton, TN
Ending Location: Tellico Plains, TN
Length: 32 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive is less about nearby attractions and more about the beautiful views travelers this way will experience. It passes through lush woods where the trees often form a canopy over the road, and there is an array of small, quaint towns on the trip. The Hiwassee River, which parallels the route much of the time, affords multiple opportunities to pull over and commune with nature or drop a line to see if a fish will bite.

No. 5 – The Snake

The Snake Tennessee
Flickr user: David Ellis

Starting Location: Mountain City, TN
Ending Location: Bristol, TN
Length: 33 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

A favorite among motorcycles, drawing riders from across the country, this exciting trail dubbed “The Snake” has 489 curves through three high mountains with lots of steep drop-offs. Passing over Holstein Lake, there is ample opportunity to stop and hit the water for a quick swim to cool off in the summer, and the scenery in the Cherokee National Forest is first-rate. Be sure to stop at Shady Valley Country Store about halfway to browse the homespun wares and stretch your legs.

No. 4 – Jack Trail

Jack Trail Tennessee
Flickr user: Tyler Neu

Starting Location: Nashville, TN
Ending Location: Lynchburg, TN
Length: 87 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Check out attractions like the Grand Ole Opry before setting off from Nashville, and prepare to make multiple stops to explore on this route through middle Tennessee. In Smyrna, visit the historic Sam Davis Home to learn about the “Boy Hero of the Confederacy” and, in Wartrace, see where the first Tennessee Walking Horse is buried beside the Walking Horse Hotel. Finally, at the end of the route, quench your thirst with a sample at the conclusion of a tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

No. 3 – Cades Cove Loop

Cades Cove Loop Tennessee
Flickr user: John Malone

Starting Location: Townsend, TN
Ending Location: Townsend, TN
Length: 11 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Although this trip is relatively short, the ride through the Cades Cove area of the Smoky Mountains has particularly striking views. There are lots of historic sites on the way to stop and explore, such as the John Oliver Cabin and the Primitive Baptist Church, which provide peeks into what life was like in the region long ago. Athletic types won’t want to miss the five-mile, round-trip hike to Abram Falls, which has unsurpassed photo opportunities.

No. 2 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee
Flickr user: Eoin McNamee

Starting Location: Walland, TN
Ending Location: Gatlinburg, TN
Length: 49 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Beginning in the picturesque valley of Miller’s Cove in Walland with an array of historic buildings to explore and extending through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no shortage of recreational opportunities along the way. Consider a stop at the Sugarlands Visitors Center in Gatlinburg in between browsing the specialty shops downtown in order to learn more about the region. Chimney Tops Picnic Area is a good place to relax and recharge with lots of nearby hiking trails.

No. 1 – Cherohala Skyway

Cherohala Skyway Tennessee
Flickr user: Jim Liestman

Starting Location: Tellico Plains, TN
Ending Location: Tellico Plains, TN
Length: 23 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Full of mountain views, hidden lakes and streams, and lots of twists and turns to keep travelers on their toes, this drive along the Cherohala Skyway is one to remember. Stop at the Cherohala Skyway Visitors Center at the beginning of the route to learn more about the history and geography of the region. Indian Boundary Lake is a good place to stop for water recreation, such as fishing or swimming, and kayaking is an option on the Ocoee River.


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