Above Gatlinburg is yet another entrance into part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the auto known as Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This auto tour takes you through the Roaring Fork area of the GSMNP and gives you access to hiking, a several tremendous views of the Smokies and Gatlinburg itself.
Roaring Fork is named for the stream that courses through the area. Roaring Fork starts near Mt LeConte and runs downstream at a very fast pace, creating waterfalls and cascades as it reaches the lower elevations in Gatlinburg. The auto tour takes you through this historic area of the National Park and runs along side Roaring Fork almost the whole way. One of the most interesting features of Roaring Fork is known as the Place of a Thousand Drips which you pass right before you exit the auto tour and head back into Gatlinburg.
The people that lived in the Roaring Fork area were the first residents of White Oak Flats – the area that became Gatlinburg. The Reagans and the Bales established this rugged mountain community. They lived off the land and unlike the other auto tours of valley areas lie Cades Cove and Cataloochee, Roaring Fork is a sharp contrast. They built saw mills, they trapped and hunted for food. Their lives were very different from those that lived in the valleys. Nevertheless, getting to drive through this area and see the homes that the park service keeps up and the scenery that these settlers lived in is remarkable.
Along with the cabins and waterfalls that you will see along the auto tour there are also several trailheads:
- Rainbow Falls trail
- Trillium Gap Trail
- Baskins Creek Trail
- Grapeyard Creek Trail