Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail near Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Enjoy historic buildings, leaf-peeping views, trails and waterfalls.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5-mile one-way scenic road is just inside the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
From Gatlinburg, take the Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard Road which is the entrance to the national park. On the way, make a stop at Ogle Place and stretch your legs on the Noah “Bud” Ogle self-guiding nature trail. It’s a walking tour of an old mountain farmstead complete with tubmill and wooden flume plumbing system.
Proceed down the road to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail’s entrance near the Rainbow Falls trailhead parking lot. Enjoy leaf-peeping, hiking trails and waterfalls along the way until the road exits the park at the end of the loop.
Passenger cars and trucks are allowed on this seasonal road from April 9 through November 28, 2021, weather permitting. Buses, trailers, and RV motor homes are not permitted on the motor nature trail.
Historic Buildings on Roaring Fork
Alex Cole Cabin
While now located at the Jim Bales Place, the Alex Cole cabin was originally located just below Cole Cemetery, near the heart of the Sugarlands. Cole was one of many mountain guides from the Sugarlands. The cabin was probably built around 1850 by Cole’s parents or in-laws. The cabin is located within the Roaring Fork Historic District, but has its own listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ephraim Bales Cabin
Alfred Reagan Tub Mill
A plumbing flume diverted water from Roaring Fork, which splashed over and turned the mill’s tub-wheel turbine. The turbine turned a grindstone in the millhouse which broke down corn and wheat into corn meal and flour. The mill, constructed around 1900, is still operational.
Waterfalls Accessed Through Roaring Fork
Rainbow Falls is a 5.4 mile roundtrip moderately strenuous hike from the Trillium Gap/Rainbow Falls Trailhead.
Grotto Falls is a 3 mile roundtrip moderate hike on the Trilium Gap Trail.
Place of a Thousand Drips
The Place of a Thousand Drips is viewable from the road near the exit of the motor nature trail. The waterfall is most scenic after a healthy rain.
Rainbow Falls Trailhead
Baskins Creek Trailhead
Trillium Gap Trailhead
Grapeyard Ridge Trailhead
Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion is on the way to the Roaring Fork entrance with restrooms and picnic tables.