When you visit the Smoky Mountains, I absolutely recommend you drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. You’re reading a Dollywood blog, so obviously, I believe Dollywood should be first on your list, but a strong second priority should be to enjoy Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). If your visit occurs during spring, summer or fall (note this road is closed in the winter), I’m going to push you to consider Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. In fact, let this blog function as your guide to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail as you make your list of things to do in the Smokies. Why would I be so passionate about you checking out this route? Beyond the beautiful experience that it is, there’s a Dollywood tie! Keep reading and I’ll give you reasons you need to include this spot on your next trip.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is for Everyone
One of the great perks of visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the absence of an entrance fee. Many national parks charge each vehicle that drives through the property. You don’t have to pay when you visit GSMNP. In my opinion, this is an incredible value. You can load your visit to the Smokies with Dollywood thrills, entertainment, dining, shopping and get all the nature you want for FREE.
Another thing you need to know—it’s a motor nature trail. Yes, that means you can drive it. No matter your ability, you can get an up-close look at flora and fauna along a 5.5-mile-long, one-way loop. If you WANT to get out and stretch your legs and smell the mountain air, there are places for you to do that. If you want to enjoy it all from your climate-controlled vehicle, no one will bat an eye. I love opportunities to go at your own pace. I recommend this trail and Cades Cove for everyone from babies to grandparents.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Offers Many Experiences in One Place
The beauty of the Smokies is all around you when you make any stop in the area. What I love about side trips like Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is that it’s somewhat all encompassing. Whether you look to the right or left, you will enjoy mountain streams, beautiful bridges, forest growth, well-preserved log cabins, grist mills and other historic buildings. Toward the end, you can capture amazing shots of cascading waterfalls at Place of A Thousand Drips. It’s right next to the road on the left.
Speaking of waterfalls, I won’t judge you if you’re the type to chase them—it’s a rewarding journey. You find the trailhead to both Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. These hikes are considered strenuous, but they’re both very popular.
If you want a little fresh air, but don’t want to take a full hike, you could simply stop at one of the farmsteads and walk around imagining what life was like in the Smokies in years gone by.
I would be remiss if I did not emphasize that you should be on the lookout for wildlife! I recommend taking a Pink Jeep Adventure Tour because the guides know all the spots bears frequent.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Inspired Dollywood
Earlier, I mentioned there was a Dollywood tie to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Here it is: as we made plans for the opening of our newest land, Wildwood Grove, our design team went exploring in the Smokies to ensure we could make it as authentic as possible. The team walked away most-inspired by Roaring Fork. In fact, our Wildwood Creek is intended to resemble a stream you would see along that trail. We even painstakingly hand-selected each rock that we placed on the hillside of Wildwood Grove so it is as accurate as possible. We take you behind the scenes in this video leading up to the opening of Wildwood Grove.
To access Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at Traffic Light #8. Follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Look for the option to take the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail just past the Rainbow Falls trailhead. Buses, trailers and motorhomes are not allowed on this route. This road is closed in the winter.