Favorite Fall Drives - U.S. 441 Norris to North Carolina
Pristine mountain lakes, East Tennessee’s largest city and the nation’s most visited National Park await travelers along U.S. 441. While it's a beautiful drive any day of the year, driving it during the fall can prove to be a magical experience.
On the northern end, coming out of Rocky Top, TN (formerly Lake City and Coal Creek), the highway twists and turns along the ridge line before winding its way down to Norris Lake and across the dam that ushered in the age of the Tennessee Valley Authority. A stop at either of the dam’s overlooks or the state park bearing its name provide excellent views of the magical colors of fall. You might also take time to visit the Lenoir Museum (which often features live mountain music), the historic town of Norris or the Museum of Appalachia.
The drive from Norris down to Knoxville takes about 30-minutes or so and U.S. 441 takes you straight through downtown Knoxville home to the University of Tennessee, the Sunsphere and the Urban Wildnerness (a great place to enjoy the fall colors on a bike or a trail). For a great detour, head over to Market Square and Gay Street where you will find plenty of dining, shopping and entertainment options including the historic Tennessee Theater, Tupelo Honey Cafe and Mast General Store.
Through downtown Knoxville U.S. 441 runs along Henley Street where it crosses the Tennessee River and becomes Chapman Highway. At Fort Dickerson Park you can get a nice view of the city in the distance, a little Civil War history, and a stunning view of a water filled quarry. On down the road as you pass through the community of Seymour, the Smoky Mountains start coming into view and you quickly understand why so many people head there each year, especially when the colors of the leaves begin to change.
Millions of people are familiar with the stretch of US 441 through the Smoky Mountain Resort towns of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. From the Dolly Parton Statue at the Sevier County Courthouse, to Dollywood and Gatlinburg’s new attraction Anakeesta, this stretch is heavily traveled and could definitely slow you down when fall arrives, so you may want to look for detours if you’re heading into the National Park.
The highest peaks in East Tennessee are found inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and U.S. 441 brings you closer to them. The road up the mountain takes you past the Chimney Tops, through the Loop (where the highway crosses over itself) and up to Newfound Gap on the North Carolina State Line. Along the way, cascading mountain streams, thick forests and stunning views of the Smokies make you feel like you’ve entered another world, a feeling greatly enhanced when Mother Nature’s paint brush sweeps across the landscape.