#14 of 21 National Park Things To Do

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

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Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: A Waterfall Wonderland
Local Expert's Rating:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a one-way, scenic loop that is 6 miles long. The quick trip will provide plenty of views of mountains, streams, mills, and other historic buildings.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

Its name derived from a “roaring” mountain stream, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail twists and turns for six miles, forming a one-way looping scenic drive through the Great Smoky Mountains. The narrow roadway only allows cars—trucks, trailers. Unfortunately, RVs cannot fit on this road. Drive along the road and immerse yourself in the mossy green rocks and boulders as you gaze at the water rushing through the mountains.

The drive on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail begins at the Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead, where you can take a walking tour of the historic buildings and pick up a tour map of the roadway sights. Also, the trailhead for Rainbow Falls can be found just beyond the farmstead, a moderate 3-mile hike to a stunning  80-foot waterfall that will reward you with its radiance and beauty.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail also provides access to the Trillium Gap Trail. Hike the Trillium Gap Trail to reach Grotto Falls, the only place in the Smoky Mountains where you can stand behind the falls as the water cascades to the pool. If hiking to a waterfall is not your thing, the Place of a Thousand Drips can be reached by car. It’s one of two waterfalls in the park accessible by car—find it at stop 15, near the end of the beautiful and captivating Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

How do you get to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail?

At Traffic Light #8 in Gatlinburg, turn off the Parkway onto Historic Nature Trail Road. Follow this road to the Orchard entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park. The entrance to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail loop is immediately following the Rainbow Falls Trailhead.

Insider Tip:
-Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the scenic turnouts or to eat it at the waterfall after hiking the Trillium Gap Trail.
-There are no Visitor Centers along the motor trail and no turning back once you start, so packing a cooler with water and snacks is advisable.