The Foothills Parkway East Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Foothills Parkway East Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This scenic drive over Green Mountain is lovely any time year; however in the fall, it provides some of the most vibrant displays of color we’ve ever seen in the Smokies! The road begins at the Foothills Parkway Exit #443 on Interstate 40, approximately 21 miles east of its interchange with Interstate 81. This section of the Foothills Parkway East is 6 miles long ending at the intersection with Highway 321 in Cosby, Tennessee.

fall-foliage-kenneth-keifer-foothills-parkway-heysmokies

Vibrant fall foliage along the Foothills Parkway East in Cosby, Tennessee. (photo: Kenneth Keifer)

Along with your standard displays of red, orange and yellow, the foliage colors along the Foothills Parkway West are vibrant shades of fuchsia, peach, maroon, and neon yellow. The forest truly looks like a giant bowl of Kellogg’s Froot Loops cereal! Sounds outrageous we know, but it is unbelievably spectacular! It’s hard to say when it’s peak viewing time; however we usually start checking it out in early October so we don’t miss out.

The Foothills Parkway East is a favorite of motorists and cyclists, and offers Three Scenic Pullouts which we’ve outlined east to west:

The First Pullout faces north with a splendid view of English Mountain. This high ridge which dominates the north rises 3,629 feet above sea level. Part of its imposing appearance is due to the lowland expanse separating the two. The valley below averages 1,300 feet above sea level. The difference in these two elevations is comparable to a 140 story skyscaper. To offer some perspective, consider the the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, has 163 stories.

mt.-cammerer-gsmnp-heysmokies

Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower in Cosby, GSMNP

The Second Pullout is after the drive crests and you begin to descend into the Cosby watershed. This amazing view to the south is sometimes referred to as the Heart of the Park.  The high ridge stretching out to the left and right is the state line divide of Tennessee and  North Carolina which is considered the “heart of the park.” The state line divide is also the path of the famous Appalachian Trail. The left most knob of the ridge is Mt. Cammerer with its historic fire tower (an awesome hike but that is another blog). Scanning to the right Low Gap is easy to pick out as seen rising above the Cosby Campground. Further right and the second highest peak in the park, Mt. Guyot, rises 6,621 feet above sea level. Far to the right you may even see the third highest peak in the park, the “Island in the Clouds,”  Mt. LeConte rising 6,595 feet above sea level.

The Third Pullout offers an excellent view to the west of the Cosby community with the spine of the Smoky Mountains working their way toward Cades Cove. It’s not unusual in this large parking area for families to gather in the evening with their lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the sunset.

The Foothills Parkway West dead ends at Highway 321 in Cosby, Tennessee. Taking a left here and traveling west is a 23-mile scenic drive to beautiful Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

INSIDER TRAVEL TIPS: Since the Foothills Parkway East is a short jaunt, we want to suggest a few other fun and interesting things to do while you’re in the Cosby neck of the woods. Don’t miss a visit to visit Carvers Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant and take a short walk on the enchanting  Cosby Nature Trail near Cosby Campground in the National Park. Stop by the the Sub Station Italian Restaurant and have a killer meatball sub…and tell Chef Frank his friends at HeySmokies say hello! For more info, check out our HeySmokies blog …feeling great in COSBY!

foothills-parkway-east-gsmnp-heysmokies

Foothills Parkway East is located, and noted in red, in the upper right quadrant of the GSMNP map.

More Hey Smokies Features:

No thumbnail available
Smoky Mountain Parking Passes Required...
Smoky Mountain Parking Passes Required. On March 1, 2023 Great Smoky Mountains National Park launches the ‘Park it Forward’ program requiri[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Hellbenders
Smoky Mountain Hellbenders...
Smoky Mountain Hellbenders are the largest aquatic salamanders in the national park. You may recognize the Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganien[Read More >>]
Spur Tunnel Repairs Begin
Spur Tunnel Repairs Begin...
Smoky Mountain road closures set to snarl traffic. Spur tunnel repairs begin. Northbound Spur traffic will be one lane beginning January 3 t[Read More >>]
New Year Beans And Greens Recipe
New Year Beans And Greens Recipe...
New Year Beans And Greens Recipe. What is behind the Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Years day? Some folk[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail Mushrooms...
Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushrooms are always in season! Trametes versicolor (common name Turkey Tail mushroom) is a decomposing polypore[Read More >>]
Christmas Cookie Recipe
Christmas Cookie Recipe...
Christmas Cookie Recipe. When the holidays arrive in the Great Smoky Mountains there are many HeySmokies sweet treat favorites but the tradition[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Long Cold Full Moon
Smoky Mountain Long Cold Full Moon...
Smoky Mountain Long Cold full moon is on the rise! Smoky Mountain Long Cold Full Moon is on the rise! The final full moon for 2022 will appe[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!...
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash! Who wouldn’t love a beautiful ornamental tree, not too large or too small, with an abundance of [Read More >>]
Laurel Falls Trailhead Closure
Laurel Falls Trailhead Closure...
Laurel Falls Trail Closure Laurel Falls Trailhead closure will begin Monday, November 7, 2022 and end Thursday, November 17, 2022. A geotech[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories...
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories. The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in strange and unexplainable occurrences that some say are supernatural. We h[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe is the perfect side dish for any meal and sometimes it is a great meal all by itself. All you ne[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Hunters Full Moon
Smoky Mountain Hunters Full Moon...
Smoky mountain full hunters moon HeySmokies.com Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon. Most of the time, the full moon isn’t completely full. We [Read More >>]
Take a Scenic Drive on Moonshiner 28 near the Great Smoky Mountains!
Take a Scenic Drive on Moonshiner 28 near the Great Smoky Mountains!...
Take a Scenic Drive on Moonshiner 28 near the Great Smoky Mountains! Perhaps no image is more stereotypical of the rural South than that of the [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut...
Love is in the air for Smoky Mountain Elk. Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is on. The call of the wild echoes in the Smokies as Bull Elks seek mates.[Read More >>]
10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains
10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains...
10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. Packing the 10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains is like your insurance [Read More >>]
All You Need to Know About Snakes in the Smoky Mountains
All You Need to Know About Snakes in the Smoky Mountains...
Yes, there are 23 species of snakes found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but only 2 of them are poisonous; so don't let that keep y[Read More >>]
Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region
Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region...
Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region. Giant Hogweed looms large on it's march toward the Smokies. Giant Hogweed can reach up to 20-f[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Southern Fried Green Tomato Recipe
Smoky Mountain Southern Fried Green Tomato Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Southern Fried Green Tomato Recipe is the perfect solution to all the extra tomatoes from your garden. The HeySmokies.com culinar[Read More >>]
The Big Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Big Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park...
Big Creek ranger district is found on the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a small campground for 12 sites for tents onl[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Parsons Branch Road Opens
Smoky Mountain Parsons Branch Road Opens...
Smoky Mountain Parsons Branch Road Opens after a six year closure. GSMNP officials celebrated the reopening of Parson Branch Road with a ri[Read More >>]