Tennessee is a driver’s paradise, with so many options for scenic drives. We’ve shared previous articles to explored these great drives in Tennessee such as the devilishly twisting Tail of the Dragon, the smoky Tennessee River Gorge, and historic attractions of the Natchez Trace. In this article, we feature these less well-known routes that deserve your attention for year round driving pleasure.
The Tennessee Antebellum Trail
If you want to see historic antebellum mansions, gaze upon lush horse farms, and visit sites from Civil War history, then this eighty-mile drive will provide them all. Take this Middle Tennessee drive through Davidson, Williamson, and Maury counties. The Tennessee Antebellum Trail offers more than fifty historic sites for you to tour. It starts off Nashville, continues through Franklin, then south to Columbia. If you wish, you can return to Nashville on the Natchez Trace. Visit the official website for a detailed map and brochure. You can see the Hermitage, the Carnton Plantation and Carter Houses in Franklin. If you have time, spend the night in Franklin, to enjoy all of the charms of its historic downtown. If you are dining in Franklin, consider Zolo’s or Sol Restaurant. The tour also takes you to Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Travelers Rest near Brentwood, Rippavilla Plantation, as well as the James K. Polk Home and the Athenaeum in Columbia.
Cherohala Skyway gets its name from two National Forests, the “Chero” comes from the Cherokee and “hala” from the Nantahala. The Skyway is fairly new; it was opened in 1996, so it is still relatively undiscovered. This route has been designated a National Scenic Byway as well as a National Forest Scenic Byway. The Skyway is about 43 miles in length. You begin at the visitors’ center in Tellico Plains, known as “The Little Town with the Big Back Yard”. Consider a stay at the Farmhouse Inn or the Mountain View Cabins. Have a meal at Tellico Grains Bakery or Tellico Kats Deli on the River. Then follow 165 and 143 eastward through the Cherokee National Forest. The views are amazing, as the rolling mountains stretch out as far as the eye can see all around you. You will end up in Robbinsville, North Carolina. As you drive along, you will climb from about 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5400 feet above sea level when you cross over into North Carolina at Haw Knob.
Cades Cove Loop Road
This scenic route is an eleven-mile drive, with several offshoot routes, so that it may take you as little as two hours or as long as a day to compete. It is one of the most popular drives in the state and is busiest on the weekends. The route is open year round from sunrise to sunset. Cades Cove is a beautiful valley in the Tennessee portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sites along the look include the Primitive Baptist Church, Missionary Baptist Church, Cooper Road Trail, Cable Mill Area, Cades Cove Nature Trail, Dan Lawson Place, and Tipton Place. A less traveled middle connecting road which is part of Cades Cove is Hyatt’s Lane. Hyatt Lane is named for a family who lived here back in the 1830s; it is even older and follows the Indian trace across the cove.
Overton County Switchbacks
Begin your Overton County drive in Monterey, Tennessee. From Monterey, head north on Hanging Limb Road TN 164. You will be following the East Fork of the Obey River. Dappled with cool shade even on the hottest day. You’ll pass through Norrod Hollow, Windletown, and Crawford. Just beyond Crawford, turn left at the T intersection on to TN 85. Soon you will be in all forest, with some tight curves and interesting cliffs. Then follow TN 85 for some of the sweetest switchbacks you have ever driven. The road is gloriously remote throughout its length. But the very best is the Wilder Highway section of 85 where you have a switchback descent down into a beautiful, rural valley alongside Cub Creek. Continue through Allred, Falling Springs, and Solomon Hollow. The landscape opens up and you soon have views of the surrounding mountains. Stop near the old red barn to make a few photos. Turn left on to TN 52 (which is also still 85) and proceed along to Alpine along the Jamestown Highway, and continue west to Livingston, the county seat. Have a meal at Tennessee Barbeque. If you like woodland scenery coupled with hairpin turns, then you will find delight after delight. Not many people know about this route, so you are quite possibly going to be the only one enjoying it when you are there.