Southbound to the Smokies

May 5, 2004
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Southbound to the Smokies
Question: What is the best route to Cades Cove National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, from Indianapolis?

Noblesville, IN
[email protected]

Cades Cove cabin and visitor center is
but one part of Smoky Mountains park

Adventure Adviser: Hate to break it to you, D.R., but the only national park in Gatlinburg is Great Smoky Mountains. Cades Cove is, among other things, a campground, visitor center, and scenic drive in the park--hence your confusion. In any case, it's a pretty straight, 300-mile shot south from Indianapolis to Gatlinburg.

The best route is probably via windy, two-lane state roads, but I have a hunch that's not what you're looking for. Most direct: Take I-74 east to Cincinnati and pick up I-75 south. From there, it's about 260 miles to Knoxville, where you'll take I-275 south to U.S. 411/441 south. Gatlinburg, and the park entrance, is another 25 miles south. Once you're in the park, the Cades Cove visitor center is reachable via Newfound Gap, Little River, and Laurel Creek roads.

I have to be honest, though: If you're not totally wed to the idea of seeing resort-ish Gatlinburg, the most direct way to Cades Cove is from Townsend, Tennessee. Going that way means taking I-75 south to I-275 in Knoxville, and then cruising west on I-40/I-75 for one exit to U.S. 129 south. From there, take U.S. 321 east to the park entrance at Townsend. As always, it's smart to travel with road map in tow, just in case you're tempted to take any enticing side roads or change your route at the last minute. For park information, call 423-436-1200.

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