More to Love on the Long and Winding Roads of East TN
The 9 Lakes Region is already known for its long, winding roads and scenic vistas. Day tripping along back roads and through small towns is a summer tradition that dates back to the earliest days of automobiles. City folk would exit the hot, industrialized cities to enjoy cool mountain towns and resorts in East Tennessee.
Today, our lakes and mountains are the main attractions during the summer, but don’t miss out on a day checking out some of the “best of the best” that the 9Lakes Region has to offer.
To get your started, writer and blogger Heide Brandes visited the region in early April and took “four beautiful drives.” Three of those drives were along National Scenic Byways with stops in historic downtowns, museums, and scenic overlooks. Consider the drives below when you are ready for a day off the water.
When staying on Norris, Cherokee, or Douglas Lakes: The East TN Crossing Byway, along SR25, is the perfect summer drive for a picnic and a swim. The Byway connects two national parks- Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Traversing eighty three miles, the route crosses a mountain, winds around two lakes and three rivers and ends back in the mountains. If you are searching for a taste of summer bounty, the route will bring you through Grainger County’s famous fields of tomatoes and to the home of moonshining. If you are staying on Norris, Cherokee, or Douglas Lakes, discover some new, fun places to go.
Or, circle Norris Lake- The roads surrounding Norris Lake were laid out along the valleys and ridges beginning with SR 61, pure rolling farmland on SR63, and a photo finish across Norris Dam on SR 441. This 100 mile ride offers plenty of views and great food stops along the way. The twenty plus marinas on Norris Lake offer live music and pub grub for boaters and land lubbers alike. Some of the most popular stops are for the wings at Hickory Star Marina, Bubba Brews at Beach Island, and Cove Lake State Park in Caryville. Relax on the waterfront patios and soak up some local flavor and gorgeous views.
Travelers to Gatlinburg will love the Foothills Parkway which connects some of the most scenic vistas in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. When the strip is crowded, why not discover some new view of the Smokies? The east portion connects you to Cosby, a less crowded area of the Park and less crowded trails. The Cosby self-guided Nature Trail is an easy 1.1 mile loop perfect for families with small children or adults looking for a short hike to enjoy a peaceful walk.
The west drive of the Foothills Parkway features the “missing link,” 1.65 miles of road that traverses nine bridges and sweeping views of the valleys and towns below. A must stop is the Lock Rock Overlook pullover with plenty of parking and picnic tables. This is the highest point of the Parkway at 2640 feet. There is an easy 2.0 mile in/out trail to an observation platform. Plan for a photo stop, hike, and pack a picnic basket for lunch. Continue your journey and exit at Wears Valley. You can then spend the day exploring nearby Townsend and take a float trip along the river.
Another scenic drive is an eighty mile loop through the cities of Sweetwater, Lenoir, and Kingston, along Watts Bar, Tellico and Loudoun Lakes. Plan your trip to include time to stroll downtown Sweetwater, visit the Lake Loudoun Dam and Locks, and a stop at Fort Southwest Point for a selfie photo. This reconstructed fort dates back to circa 1797 when the Cherokee roamed this western frontier. Plan your trip for lunch or dinner at the popular waterfront Calhoun’s’ restaurant patio at Fort Loudoun Dam Marina.
While a day on the water is always fun, discover more by taking a short road trip.
Take time to Plan Your Visit– www.9LakesEastTN.com or ask for the guide: [email protected] Enjoy your visit! Whether playing on the water or on public land LEAVE NO TRACE and help us keep our 9 Lakes beautiful.