Driving through the peaceful side of the Smokies in Eastern Tennessee will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country: mountainsides covered in deep forests, and meadows awash with a riot of wildflowers in full bloom during the spring and summer. Your drive will also take you through several picturesque towns along the way. Each of these towns can trace its history to further back than most can remember, but all are still bustling hamlets with lots to see on your way through.
Located in the foothills of the Smokies, Maryville offers those who live here a chance to get away from the noisy confines of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Maryville is the county seat and has the advantage of being the “Gateway to the Smokies.” With a little diversion, you can stop by the Sam Houston Schoolhouse, Maryville College, or take a cruise into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Be sure you stop by the Blue Goose Farm and Vineyards and visit their sampling room.
Named after the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA, now “Arconic”) in the early 20th century, the town of Alcoa is home to one of the largest aluminum smelting operations in the south. If you plan to cruise through town, don’t forget to stop in at Hot Rod’s 50’s Diner or the Texas Roadhouse for a meal.
Townsend is only a short drive from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and a drive through will take you past several museums dedicated to preserving Appalachian culture. Visit the Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum, look at the vintage steam locomotives and browse the museum. Stop in at Wood-n-Strings Dulcimer shop, browse the selection of handcrafted wood instruments, and you may even hear a few of the locals striking up a tune.
Friendsville is a tiny town of fewer than one thousand people founded by a group of Quakers who moved to the area from New Garden, NC. Today, the town continues its quiet life and is very popular with many retirees. The town sits on either side of the W. Lamar Alexander Hwy and offers the Whispering Cove Marina, a marina and restaurant on Fort Loudon Reservoir. The rest of the town is mostly single-family homes that go by as you pass through.
The town of Louisville sits in the perfect location, close to Fort Loudon Reservoir, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and several neighboring towns like Alcoa and Knoxville. Like many of the small towns in the area, most of the town is given over to single-family homes and small businesses. However, the reservoir plays a large part in finding things to do with fishing, boating, waterskiing and more. The town is a blend of old homes — many of which date back to the 19th century — and large, new, luxury homes built by those who commute from here into Knoxville.
Cruising through Rockford on Hwy 33 will take you past the Egwani Farms Golf Course on your way back on the other side of this small town of less than 1,000. If you are looking for a quiet place to live, you can’t beat Rockford, but if you are passing through and need a meal, you will find a great selection of friendly locally-owned restaurants in nearby Maryville.
One thing to keep in mind is that despite these towns being wonderful to visit, families live here, too. During your driving tour, even though you’re supposed to be looking at the sights, make sure keep a close eye on the road, as well, to protect and respect the towns’ citizens.
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