Fall foliage season in the Smoky Mountains is nearly upon us, as mountain vistas across East Tennessee don a stunning array of reds, oranges, yellows and deep earthy tones.
Blount County, Tennessee, the “Peaceful Side of the Smoky Mountains,” offers some of the best views during this season, and the opportunity for a quiet escape against a breathtaking backdrop.
Foothills Parkway, located off US Highway 321 in Walland, is a not-to-miss destination for those looking to experience vibrant fall foliage in the Smokies. This parkway is less busy than other roads in the park, making it a great place to get away from crowds and traffic.
The 16.9 miles of parkway traverses the western flank of Chilhowee Mountain in Blount County, intersecting with US 129 at Chilhowee Lake. Along the way, the road meanders up the mountain beneath a canopy of trees, with scenic pull-offs and overlooks interspersed throughout.
Each scenic overlook offers a unique panoramic view of the mountains with grassy areas ideal for picnicking, relaxing or photography.
One of the most popular destinations along Foothills Parkway is Look Rock, a natural observation ledge overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An easy half-mile hike leads to the observation tower that provides a spectacular 360-degree view.
Car and motorcycle enthusiasts will find Foothills Parkway to be of particular interest: where US 129 intersects with the Parkway, the road becomes the world-renowned section of highway to the south known as “The Dragon” for its 318 curves in 11 miles. “The Dragon” is an exhilarating experience as sports cars and motorcycles navigate the twisting road.
While the Parkway is a wonderful experience for motorists, it’s also a prime target for bicyclists. The crisp mountain air and beautiful scenery attract road bikers who enjoy the challenging uphill climb followed by a downhill decent through the mountains.
Blount County and the Foothills Parkway are easily accessible to those traveling to the area. The McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) is less than 20 minutes away with easy access to major highways like I-40 and I-140.
The area also boasts a plethora of options for accommodations with fall foliage views. Dancing Bear Lodge, a resort located in Townsend and just 10 minutes from Foothills Parkway, offers luxury cabins with comfortable places to lounge and enjoy the scenery like rocking chairs, porch swings or their fire pit. Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro, located at the Lodge, serves regionally inspired cuisine with fresh, quality sourced ingredients for an exceptional dining experience.
Situated just one mile from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tally Ho Inn is another great option providing mountain beauty with their private balconies and terraces.
While staying in the Blount County area to ride or drive Foothills Parkway, visitors can also take advantage of other activities like the numerous hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or walking or biking the Alcoa or Maryville Greenways. Cades Cove, a valley surrounded by mountains, has an 11-mile paved road with historic buildings and an abundance of wildlife that can be experienced by car, on foot or by bike.
Those looking to experience the “Peaceful Side of the Smoky Mountains,” and Foothills Parkway, are encouraged to visit www.smokymountains.org or contact the Blount County Chamber of Commerce at (865) 983-2241 for more information on accommodations, travel and dining and entertainment options.
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