The Foothills Parkway West Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway West Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a beautiful 18-mile scenic drive along the crest of Chilhowee Mountain connecting U.S. Highway 129, about 22 miles south of Maryville, Tennessee, to U.S. Highway 321 about 9 miles from the Townsend, Tennessee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenic Foothills Parkway West is a favorite drive for motorists, bicyclists, and motorcyclists any time of the year.

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The narrow Chilhowee Mountain stretches for about thirty miles from the Chilhowee Reservoir/Little Tennessee River to Sevierville, Tennessee.
The highest point on the ridge is Look Rock at 2,700 feet above sea level. The Foothills Parkway West offers amazing views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south and, in stark contrast, the lowlands of the Tennessee Valley to the north.

The Miller Cove Pullout is a fine opportunity to ponder the unique geology of the Smoky Mountain region. Like it’s nearby cousin Cades Cove, Miller Cove shows us the effects of eons of erosion creating a low bottom land comprised of a stone substrate that is softer and faster eroding than the surrounding mountains.

Further along the Foothills Parkway West and looking north, you will notice the low, uniform bump-like hills stretching out towards Maryville. They are called Woodpecker Knob and Black Sulfur Knob. These Knobs represent the most northerly advance of the Smoky Mountain Foothills.

Beyond the Knobs the land flattens and stretches out in a more uniform appearance. This area was easier to traverse for native Americans and became known as the Warrior’s Path. Despite the militaristic implications of this moniker the route was largely used for commerce and trade over vast distances. It is believed that settlements in Georgia and Alabama could trade as far north as the Ohio River using the trail. The path was a major thoroughfare passing through the Cumberland Gap, America’s first western frontier.

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Look Rock Observation Tower

Look Rock is a popular spot to take a break from driving and stretch your legs. There is a great view of Happy Valley from the parking lot. Walking the half-mile long trail which begins across from the parking lot is rewarded with a fantastic 360 degree view from the Look Rock Observation Tower. Checking out the unique design of the tower itself makes the walk worth it; however, combined with the view, this experience really should not be missed.

The left turn onto Look Rock Campground Road above the tower parking area travels a half-mile to the Look Rock Campground. Unfortunately, the campground is currently closed. For information on other campgrounds in the National Park, visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park Frontcountry Camping.

Happy Valley Pullout is a great spot to view Gregory Bald and Slickrock Wilderness to the southwest. Happy Valley has been subjected to the same geologic forces as Miller Cove giving it a similar appearance.

Foothills Parkway West dead ends at the intersection with U.S. Highway 129 at the Chilhowee Reservoir. Highway 129 is a popular ride for motorcyclists heading south towards North Carolina and the “Tail of the Dragon.”

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Foothills Parkway West is marked in red in the top left quadrant of the map.

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