The lowest drivable pass in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Gap Road (US 441) has an elevation of 5,046 feet. The scenic roadway travels between the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, up and over the mountains and into Cherokee, North Carolina. The 31-mile stretch of mountain road is the only fully paved road in the park and the only one that travels through the park’s center.
Begin a driving tour of Newfound Gap from Gatlinburg and you’ll climb about 3,000 feet into the mountainous landscape, traveling through fragrant woodlands that include pine-oak, evergreen spruce and cove hardwoods. The pace is faster along Newfound Gap Road in comparison to the Cades Cove Loop. Mile markers make it easy to locate sights such as the Mingus Mill (mile marker 29.9) and Newfound Gap at mile marker 14.7. Other points of interest include the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum at mile marker 30.3, the Smokemont Campground and Nature Trail at mile marker 27.2 and the Web Overlook at mile marker 17.7.
When driving Newfound Gap Road be prepared for cooler temperatures, even during the summer months. Because of the elevation, the air temperatures along Newfound Gap Road may be as many as ten degrees cooler than the lowlands. If you plan on getting out and enjoying any of the scenic overlooks, a light jacket may be needed.
Insider tip: About 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap is the turn-off for Clingman’s Dome. Follow the road seven miles to the Dome, the highest point in the park and the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet. The walk to the Dome is very steep (there are benches where you can rest) but the view at the top is a full 360-degrees of the Smoky Mountains. If you don’t want to walk up to the highest point, there still are many photo opportunities from your car.
From downtown Gatlinburg, take the main Parkway towards the National Park and Sugarlands Visitor Center. From here, simply follow the signs to Cherokee, NC and enjoy the scenic route and plentiful overlooks.