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Nashville to Gatlinburg, route to The Smoky Mountains.

Nashville to Gatlinburg: Scenic Route to the Smoky Mountains


There's nothing quite like the open road, especially when you're steering a Slingshot towards the breathtaking Smoky Mountains. While the interstate offers the quickest path from Nashville to Gatlinburg, it lacks the magic that a more scenic route provides. We’ll help you get off the beaten path—revealing hidden gems and picturesque landscapes that’ll make the trip as unforgettable as the destination. 

How far is Gatlinburg from Nashville?

Map outlining scenic verses quick route to Gatlinburg from Nashville.

The journey from Nashville to Gatlinburg spans approximately 220 miles and takes around 3.5 to 4 hours of drive time—assuming you’re not stopping to see the sights. Gatlinburg serves as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it a prime destination for nature lovers and adventurers alike.  


As you cruise towards this scenic haven, you can expect a ride filled with diverse landscapes and changing vistas—setting the tone for the incredible natural beauty that awaits. 


June, July, August, and September are extremely busy in this region. To beat the weekend rush and enjoy a smoother ride, consider planning your trip for early in the week—and setting out before peak traffic hours.

Trolly on bridge in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Stops Around Gatlinburg

In Gatlinburg, you can stroll through the quaint downtown area, explore the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, or visit Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. When it comes to dining, don't miss out on local favorites like the Pancake Pantry or the Peddler Steakhouse. For a cozy stay, consider the historic Gatlinburg Inn or the luxurious Lodge at Buckberry Creek. Both offer stunning views and top-notch hospitality. 
Just a short drive away in Pigeon Forge, Dollywood is a must-visit for thrill-seekers and families alike— offering a mix of exhilarating rides, charming entertainment, and unique dining experiences. Looking for even more activities? Check out the Titanic Museum, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, or catch a live show at the Smoky Mountain Opry.

How to Get to the Great Smoky Mountains

Three 3 wheel motorcycles on the road.

The Scenic Route from Nashville to Gatlinburg

Map outlining the scenic route from Nashville to Gatlinburg.

If you’re not in a rush to reach the Smokies, you can tailor your journey to include a variety of attractions and hidden gems that you won't find on the quicker interstate route. Each stop offers a unique glimpse into the beauty and culture of Tennessee, making your journey to Gatlinburg just as memorable as the destination itself. 

Burgess Falls State Park


Only an hour and a half from Nashville, you'll find Burgess Falls State Park—a perfect spot to stretch your legs and soak in some natural beauty. This park features a short (but somewhat strenuous) 1.5-mile hike that wanders through lush forest, rewarding you with views of four stunning waterfalls and a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the open road. 

Cumberland Caverns



A little over two hours into your journey, you'll come across Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee. Recognized as a national landmark, this impressive cave system is the second longest in Tennessee—and ranks among the longest caves in the United States. Exploring Cumberland Caverns is a fascinating underground adventure featuring rock formations, expansive chambers, and subterranean waterfalls.

Fall Creek Falls State Park


Fall Creek Falls State Park comes highly recommended on review sites like Reddit and Quora, and it’s a must-stop if you're taking the scenic route to Gatlinburg. Located about two and a half hours from Nashville, this park is home to some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the region. The highlight? Fall Creek Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the eastern United States—plunging 256 feet into a lush gorge.

Knoxville's Urban Wilderness



This expansive outdoor park offers over 60 miles of interconnected trails and greenways, connecting you to a variety of natural and historical sites. You can explore a beautiful nature center, pristine lakes, dramatic quarries, and even a 600-acre wildlife area—all within the heart of the city. It's the perfect blend of urban and natural experiences.

The Quick Route from Nashville to Gatlinburg

Map outlining the quick route from Nashville to Gatlinburg.

For those looking to get to Gatlinburg from Nashville as quickly as possible, you’ll want to take the interstate. This route covers about 220 miles and takes around 3 hours and 45 minutes. While it lacks the charm and unique stops of the scenic routes, it’s ideal for travelers who prioritize speed and convenience. If you're in a hurry to reach the Smokies, this route is your best bet. 


The exits for Sevierville and Pigeon Forge can get backed up during busy parts of the day. To avoid unnecessary traffic, bypass Sevierville and Pigeon Forge and take the exit straight to Gatlinburg.

Things To Do In and Near the Smokies

Once you’ve arrived in Gatlinburg, the Smoky Mountains offer a wide range of activities that cater to adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. From scenic driving and river tubing to hiking and camping, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to explore the park’s extensive trail system, enjoy the stunning mountain views, or relax by a campfire under the stars, the Smokies provide endless opportunities for outdoor fun.

Slingshot in the Smokies.


One of the most exciting events for Slingshot enthusiasts is the annual Slingshot in the Smokies rally held in Maggie Valley. This event gathers Slingshot owners from all over the country for a weekend filled with rides, meet-ups, and fun activities set against the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. It's a perfect opportunity to connect with fellow riders, showcase your ride, and explore the beautiful mountain roads.

Winding road on Blue Ridge Parkway route in the Smokies.



For a stunning drive, take the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Smokies. This scenic journey offers stunning views and winding roads—perfect for a Slingshot adventure. The Parkway travels through the heart of the Smoky Mountains, providing endless opportunities to soak in the natural beauty and charm of the region.

Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains.


Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a must-visit for any traveler. While the half-mile hike from the parking lot is steep, it’s also short and paved—and the awe-inspiring, 360-degree views from the top are well worth the effort. On clear days, it’s possible to see up to 100 miles in every direction.

Mountain range seen from the Newfound Gap landmark.



Newfound Gap is a significant landmark in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, serving up incredible views and a connection to the famous Appalachian Trail. Located at an elevation of 5,046 feet, it’s the lowest drivable pass through the Smoky Mountains.

Downtown Bryson City, Tennessee.


Just a short drive from the Smoky Mountains, Bryson City is a charming town that offers the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and small-town hospitality. Visitors can enjoy activities like hiking, fishing, and rafting, while Bryson City's downtown area features quaint shops, local restaurants, and cozy accommodations. 

Long winding road on the Tail of the Dragon trail in the Smoky Mountains.



Tail of the Dragon is one of the most famous driving roads in the United States, renowned for its 318 curves in just 11 miles. Connecting to the scenic Fontana Lake, the Tail of the Dragon offers an adrenaline-pumping drive and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Riders and drivers from all over the country flock to this legendary stretch of road to test their skills on two, three, or four wheels. 

Dark and light green three wheel motorcycle on the road.

Road trip FAQ

Your Great Smoky Mountains road trip frequently asked questions, answered.