Scenic Auto Touring

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

Ogle Place

The Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkDeposit Photos

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.

The Alex Cole Cabin at Roaring Fork, GSMNP. Photo by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons
The Alex Cole Cabin at Roaring Fork, GSMNP. CommonsPhoto by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

Ephraim Bales Cabin

The Ephraim Bales Cabin in the Roaring Fork Historic District, GSMNP, by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons
The Ephraim Bales Cabin in the Roaring Fork Historic District, GSMNPPhoto by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Alfred Reagan's tub mill in the Roaring Fork Historic District, GSMNP, by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons
Alfred Reagan’s tub mill in the Roaring Fork Historic District, GSMNPBrian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

Waterfalls Accessed Through Roaring Fork

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is a 5.4 mile roundtrip moderately strenuous hike from the Trillium Gap/Rainbow Falls Trailhead.

Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky National Park
Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky National Park (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls is a 3 mile roundtrip moderate hike on the Trilium Gap Trail.

Grotto Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Grotto Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Deposit Photos

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.

Waterfall aptly named Place of a Thousand Drips on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Waterfall aptly named Place of a Thousand Drips on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.iStock

Trailheads

Rainbow Falls Trailhead
Bullhead Trailhead
Baskins Creek Trailhead
Trillium Gap Trailhead
Grapeyard Ridge Trailhead

Visitor Facilities

Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion is on the way to the Roaring Fork entrance with restrooms and picnic tables.