#11 of 24 National Park Things To Do

Little River Road: Overlooks, Trails and Waterfalls

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Little River Road: Overlooks, Trails and Waterfalls
Written by: David Angotti
Local Expert's Rating:
3.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The drive along Little River Road provides spectacular scenery, but this is not a great utilization of time unless the drive is combined with Cades Cove or Laurel Falls Hike. Also, bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the scenic spots along the way.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

The Little River Road gently winds between Gatlinburg and Townsend. Begin the relaxing drive at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg and enjoy the roadway’s easy curves as it snakes along the Little River. Eventually, the Little River Road dead-ends into Cades Cove. Along Little River Road, be on the lookout for seven signposts—each numbered to designate a point of interest.

Spanning 18 miles, the Little River Road drive includes overlooks, trailheads, picnic areas, campground access points and even a waterfall that can be seen from the road. Enter the Laurel Falls trailhead from the parking area at stop 2. The 2.5-mile paved trail takes hikers of all abilities to a beautiful waterfall; the ideal spot for pictures and a picnic. Stop 4, Metcalf Bottoms also offers a picturesque picnic site alongside the Little River. This site has picnic tables, grills and restrooms. After a bite to eat, enjoy a short walk along the trail to visit two of the park’s historic buildings.

Waterfalls are abundant along Little River Road. Park at stop 5 to take the short hike to the Sinks waterfall or stop 6 to view Meigs Falls. Meigs Falls is one of two park waterfalls visible from a roadway. The best time to see Meigs Falls from the road is during late fall and winter because during the warmer seasons foliage can obscure the view.

The Townsend “Y” is at stop 7, one of the most popular summer spots along Little River Road. Here the west and middle prongs of the Little River meet, forming a water playground enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

Insider Tip:
There is a non-marked overlook immediately before Maloney Point (stop 1.) This overlook has a paved parking and an amazing mountain view. Because it’s not marked with a signpost, it is usually not as crowded.

From Gatlinburg, head towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the main Parkway. When you see the Sugarlands Visitor Center on your right, turn right at the next road. Stay on this scenic road for about 25 miles of winding, beautiful roads until it dead-ends into Cades Cove.