Exploring the Foothills Parkway in the Smoky Mountains

Published Feb 4, 2021

For spectacular mountain views in any season, plan a road trip along the Foothills Parkway. From this scenic roadway, you’ll see the Smokies rise all around you, and each curve brings another far-reaching vista.

The Foothills Parkway has two segments, West and East. Authorized by Congress in 1944, the parkway has taken decades to build—the western route’s final “missing link” wasn’t completed until 2018. That segment of road is an engineering triumph, using nine bridges to carry the road over difficult terrain. You’ll traverse these bridges on the western parkway route.

Foothills Parkway West

Foothills Parkway West stretches from Chilhowee to Wears Valley, with 19 scenic overlooks including these:

  • Overlook 6, Look Rock. Stretch your legs with an easy, two-mile round trip hike to Look Rock Observation Tower for 360-degree views. Visibility can stretch up to 40 miles. Not into hiking? You can get great views from the parking area, too. Look Rock has a picnic area and the only bathrooms available on this drive.
  • Overlook 8, Emerine Gap. This is the only spot on the western parkway with views on both sides of the road. To the east lie the mountains and to the west are the town of Maryville and the vast Cumberland Plateau.
  • Overlook 11, Great Smoky Mountains Overlook. This overlook, located halfway along Foothills Parkway West, offers a breathtaking, panoramic view of the mountains from the parking lot’s eastern side.  
  • Overlook 16, Caylor Gap. Here’s a don’t-miss panoramic view near the Wears Valley end of your drive.

Foothills Parkway East

The shorter eastern parkway runs from the town of Cosby to Interstate 40. This route features four overlooks including these:

  • Overlook 3, Mount Cammerer. At nearly 5,000 feet, Mount Cammerer looms in your view. Hearty hikers can depart the parkway near Cosby and take an 11-mile round trip hike to a mountaintop lookout tower, but be aware that this hike is strenuous.
  • Overlook 4, Inadu Knob. Gaze at the summit of Inadu Knob, the last mile-high peak along the Appalachian Trail in this area. From that summit, the trail descends toward the river valley.

How to get there: Enter Foothills Parkway West at Chilhowee on Rt. 129 or at Wears Valley on Rt. 321. Enter Foothills Parkway East at Cosby on Rt. 321 or at the Interstate 40 entrance.

When your road trip is done, head back to your rental cabin to recharge. Find your perfect cabin with us at Colonial Properties Cabin & Resort Rentals.

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