View from the double Arch Bridge at Natchez Trace Parkway.

11 Most Scenic Road Trips to Take in Tennessee

Tennessee, a southeastern US state, boasts stunning natural scenery, varied topography, and extensive cultural history. The state features a variety of picturesque road journeys that enthrall visitors, from the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains to flowing rivers and lush woodlands. Whether visitors are nature enthusiasts, history buffs, or simply seeking an escape into picturesque surroundings, Tennessee's scenic road trips hold wonders for everyone.

Travelers can appreciate magnificent sunsets over meandering rivers, drive through verdant woods abounding with wildlife, and explore lovely quaint towns bursting with rich traditions as they set out on these breathtaking trips. These scenic road trips will show visitors Tennessee's true splendor as they pass by famous monuments, important historical sites, and undiscovered gems.

Great River Road

Great River Road - Tennessee Highway 88 West Above U.S. Highway 51
Great River Road, Tennessee Highway.

The Great River Road is an iconic scenic route beginning at Reelfoot Lake and following the Mississippi River through Tennessee all the way to Memphis. The journey gives breathtaking views of the rushing river and passes through quaint river towns rich in history. Visitors will witness captivating sunsets gleaming off the water, with plenty of boating and fishing possibilities. There are wildlife sightings and lovely woodlands beside the road. People should take the time to pause at the notable Reelfoot Lake, renowned for its distinctive cypress trees. Visit charming riverside locations like Dyersburg and Memphis or discover historical places like Memphis' Cotton Museum.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Over looking mansion and green fields with horses with hills behind Natchez Trace parkway
Green fields along the Natchez Trace Parkway.

A historic route that travels through the beautiful landscape of Tennessee is the Natchez Trace Parkway. The picturesque route promises a trip through time, bypassing Native American monuments, historical sites, and beautiful natural scenery. Travelers will be enveloped by tranquil woodlands, undulating hills, and gorgeous scenery traveling along the route. Spend time exploring the Old Trace Drive, a historic Native American pathway, offering insight into the area's rich history. Tour Meriwether Lewis Park, the renowned explorer's ultimate resting place, and stroll through the restored ruins of Native American communities. The trip is a haven for nature enthusiasts with birdwatching, hiking, and camping options.

Ocoee River Byway

Highway 64 Leading into Cherokee National Forest
Leading into Cherokee National Forest.

The Ocoee River Byway in Tennessee, passing through Cherokee National Forest, is a beautiful must-see path for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. The Ocoee River, known for its fantastic whitewater rafting, follows this twisting route. Road trippers will encounter breathtaking views of the raging river, dense forests, and majestic mountains while traveling. Tourists can also take a relaxing stroll down the shoreline at the Ocoee Whitewater Centre. The byway also provides opportunities for camping, fishing, and hiking, so one can fully appreciate the area's natural splendor.

Cherohala Skyway

Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee in fall
Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee.

Next, visitors can retreat to the serenity of the Cherohala Skyway, a picturesque byway that crosses the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests. The drive will take people from the Tellico Plains of Tennessee all the way to North Carolina's Robbinsville. Through this gorgeous route, travelers will ascend to elevations of more than 5,000 feet, where they can see the stunning scenery of the mountains and valleys in the area. Tourists will be mesmerized by the breathtaking sights, flowing waterfalls, and lush vegetation as they travel. Visitors can also discover the hiking trails leading to secluded attractions like Bald River Falls and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, home to eons-old, soaring trees. Every turn of the Cherohala Skyway brings tranquility and magnificent surroundings.

Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway

Tennessee State Route 111 descending from the Cumberland Plateau into the Sequatchie Valley, near Dunlap, Tennessee
Descending from the Cumberland Plateau into the Sequatchie Valley, near Dunlap, Tennessee. Image credit Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

On this breathtaking scenic byway, visitors will travel through the lovely Sequatchie Valley. Expansive farmlands, quaint towns, and soaring cliffs will greet tourists as they travel along the winding roads. The journey passes through the enchanting Prentice Cooper State Forest, providing numerous possibilities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and taking in spectacular valley views. Travelers can explore the Sequatchie Valley Lookout in the charming village of Dunlap for breathtaking views that reach for miles. The Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway in Tennessee is the ideal choice for a tranquil and picturesque drive.

Cades Cove Loop

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove Loop Road, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove Loop Road, Tennessee.

The Cades Cove Loop, a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a must-see for history enthusiasts and nature lovers. Visitors pass through an idyllic valley encircled by impressive peaks on this 11-mile scenic trip. Travelers can see various species, such as black bears, deer, and wild turkeys, driving around the loop. People can spend time discovering the churches, log houses, and a functional gristmill, among the old structures that have been beautifully conserved. Tourists can also use the loop's picnic areas, hiking trails, and bicycle paths while taking in the breathtaking mountain views from the numerous overlooks. The Cades Cove Loop is a fascinating drive presenting an exceptional combination of scenic natural beauty and rich cultural legacy.

Smoky Mountain Byway

Aerial view of Foothills Parkway Valley
Foothills Parkway Valley.

For a trip at the edge of Tennessee's borders, visitors can go through the center of the Great Smoky Mountain Range via the scenic Smoky Mountain Byway, covering the area between the County of Loudon to Carter County. Travelers will be embraced by thick forests, gushing waterfalls, and pouring mountain streams as they travel along this gorgeous byway with the option to travel into North Carolina. Numerous chances exist along the path for picnicking, hiking, and animal viewing. Visitors must check out the city of Pigeon Forge for exciting adventures, including the Dollywood theme park. One of the most famous mountain ranges in the US, the Smoky Mountains, comes to life for tourists traveling along the route.

Screaming Eagle Trail

Fort Donelson river battery, part of the lower river battery, overlooking the Cumberland River
Fort Donelson River battery is a must-stop spot in Tennessee, just off the Screaming Eagle Trail.

The Screaming Eagle Trail, traveling across Tennessee's middle lands, is a thrilling and beautiful journey that bears the name of the illustrious 101st Airborne Division. Awe-inspiring sights and hints of the area's lengthy military history will be revealed as travelers maneuver the twists and turns. Tourists can visit Fort Campbell, a functioning military facility, to find out more about the region's significance and pay respect to the brave people who have served. The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium allow one to take a glimpse of the bustling musical legacy of Nashville. The Screaming Eagle Trail is a drive that honors the country's military history while also showcasing the area's natural beauty.

Historic Walton Road

The Cordell Hull Bridge, spanning the Cumberland River in Carthage, Tennessee
The Cordell Hull Bridge is a steel bridge erected in 1936 along Historic Walton Road. Image credit Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

The Historic Walton Road, a former Native American track turned wagon road, will transport road trippers back in history as they drive along it. Tennessee's heritage is shown through scenic farms and quaint tiny villages along this historic path. Discover the road's importance in early American history by exploring the portions that have been preserved. Make pit stops at significant sites along the journey, like the Black Rock Scenic Lookout, offering expansive views of the vibrant surroundings. Tourists can become familiar with the state's history and learn about the people who traveled the Historic Walton Road years ago by taking a road trip.

East Tennessee Crossing

The East Tennessee Crossing Meeting Clinch Mountain
East Tennessee Crossing Meeting Clinch Mountain.

The East Tennessee Crossing route provides an enthralling tour of the region's captivating scenery. Every turn will reward visitors with breathtaking views as they travel across the Appalachian Mountains, lush valleys, and next to clear rivers. People can discover quaint local towns that provide a variety of outdoor pursuits, shopping, and dining, such as Morristown and Dandridge. Tourists can also take advantage of the chance to go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the iconic Appalachian Trail, or fishing in the area's pristine streams. The East Tennessee Crossing gives visitors a fantastic experience by showcasing the area's scenic beauty and cultural attractions.

Woodlands Trace

The Centerpiece of the Homeplace Living History Farm
Homeplace Living History Farm, Woodlands Trace.

On the Woodlands Trace, travelers can see Tennessee's western border's beauty. The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is traversed by this picturesque byway, providing breathtaking vistas of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. As visitors travel this gorgeous route, they can take in the peace of the nearby woods. Discover the hiking routes to peaceful picnic areas and unknown waterfalls. An opportunity to experience nature firsthand, unwind by a lake, and take in the serenity of western Tennessee's scenery is the Woodlands Trace.

Tennessee's finest scenic drives provide various activities, from traveling alongside mighty streams to discovering old trails and hiking in majestic mountains. These road excursions offer plenty of chances to have unforgettable experiences, whether tourists are looking for excitement, peace, or an acquaintance with Tennessee's rich legacy.


More in Places