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Old 01-31-2016, 09:50 PM   #1
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Best route from Smokemont to Cade's Cove Campground in GSMNP

Planning to do Great Smokey Mountain National Park in June. I'm staying 4 nights in Smokemont Campground and repositioning to Cade's Cove Campground for another four nights. I'm pulling a 31' TT with a Silverado 3500 Diesel. Google maps has me circling the park to the south for 113 miles and 3 hours. Would it be better to just go through the park instead? Thanks for your help.
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Old 01-31-2016, 10:13 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Dshervin View Post
Planning to do Great Smokey Mountain National Park in June. I'm staying 4 nights in Smokemont Campground and repositioning to Cade's Cove Campground for another four nights. I'm pulling a 31' TT with a Silverado 3500 Diesel. Google maps has me circling the park to the south for 113 miles and 3 hours. Would it be better to just go through the park instead? Thanks for your help.

Depends on how comfortable you are with towing on a grade. From Smokemont to Newfound Gap you gain around 4,000 feet and then lose it again by Sugarlands visitors center. Total distance is around 30 miles. Then a narrow curvy park road to Cades Cove. There is one somewhat tight tunnel coming down toward Sugarlands. Total distance through the park is around 60 miles. The Google route includes the infamous "Tail of the Dragon" from Robbinsville to Maryville. No easy drive either way.
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Old 02-01-2016, 08:00 AM   #3
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The tail of the dragon is very popular with sports cars and motorcycles, and people come from all over to drive the route. It's great if you have one of these vehicles but, with 318 curves in 11 miles, probably not a good choice for any sort of RV http://tailofthedragon.com/

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Depends on how comfortable you are with towing on a grade. From Smokemont to Newfound Gap you gain around 4,000 feet and then lose it again by Sugarlands visitors center. Total distance is around 30 miles. Then a narrow curvy park road to Cades Cove. There is one somewhat tight tunnel coming down toward Sugarlands. Total distance through the park is around 60 miles. The Google route includes the infamous "Tail of the Dragon" from Robbinsville to Maryville. No easy drive either way.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:26 AM   #4
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The tail of the dragon is very popular with sports cars and motorcycles, and people come from all over to drive the route. It's great if you have one of these vehicles but, with 318 curves in 11 miles, probably not a good choice for any sort of RV http://tailofthedragon.com/
Drive the Tail in any sort of RV and you will see many one finger salutes back from the bikes and sports cars that "own it" that you are #1.

Not to mention, that while the "aggressive driving" may not be legal, it is what is is on the Dragon. And there are many cars and even more sport bikes that are on or near the center line apex point, that make your RV a big target for a deadly head on collision; proably not your fault, but something I am sure you would never want to live with. And yes, nowadays everyday is heavy sports car and motorcycle traffic.

I've driven it twice in sports cars (last time 2007), and won't go back. Way too crowded and way too crazy these days......

In short, I would NEVER ever take an RV on the Tail of the Dragon. Never.......

As for taking the road though the park, not a fan of that either in any sort of larger RV (but better than than the Tail imho). Big long grade up and big long grade down, the one Tunnel on the north side, and while curvy, it is like an interstate compared to the Tail. You'll not be popular with some other drivers, but it's not a racetrack like the Tail. Watch your brakes and use the many vista pullouts often to let others go by up and down and to gives your brakes a chance to cool off too on the way down too.

My suggestion would be to take the long way around the east side, but don't take 9 east of Cherokee, go south on 441 to Sylva and then east on 23 and pick up 40. It will probably be a 4-5 hour drive that way a but a much better / safer route in a large RV.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:35 PM   #5
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Thanks for the suggestions and the heads up on the dragon's tail. I had never heard of it. My trailer weighs 7400 lbs wet and my diesel should be able to handle the elevation changes using the engine brake for the downhill so I'm tempted to go over the top.
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Old 02-01-2016, 10:59 PM   #6
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I work in Great Smoky during summer and it is 26 miles from Smokemont to Sugarlands visitor center. There are 3 tunnels to go through on the Tennessee side between New Found gap and Sugarlands. Then it is 22 Miles to Cades Cv. from Sugarlands. I patrol Smokemont and the Hwy 441. There are many who drive Motorhomes and TT over mountain. Just make sure to use lower gear and do not ride brake. I drive 40 ft Phaeton over.
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Old 02-01-2016, 11:04 PM   #7
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route to Smokemont

I work in Great Smoky during summer and it is 26 miles from Smokemont to Sugarlands visitor center. There are 3 tunnels to go through on the Tennessee side between New Found gap and Sugarlands. Then it is 22 Miles to Cades Cv. from Sugarlands. I patrol Smokemont and the Hwy 441. There are many who drive Motorhomes and TT over mountain. Just make sure to use lower gear and do not ride brake. I drive 40 ft Phaeton over.
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Old 02-02-2016, 07:21 AM   #8
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Perfect! That's what I was hoping to hear. What a great place for you to spend a summer!
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Old 02-04-2016, 03:39 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Betr2Trvl View Post
Drive the Tail in any sort of RV and you will see many one finger salutes back from the bikes and sports cars that "own it" that you are #1.

Not to mention, that while the "aggressive driving" may not be legal, it is what is is on the Dragon. And there are many cars and even more sport bikes that are on or near the center line apex point, that make your RV a big target for a deadly head on collision; proably not your fault, but something I am sure you would never want to live with. And yes, nowadays everyday is heavy sports car and motorcycle traffic.

I've driven it twice in sports cars (last time 2007), and won't go back. Way too crowded and way too crazy these days......

In short, I would NEVER ever take an RV on the Tail of the Dragon. Never.......

As for taking the road though the park, not a fan of that either in any sort of larger RV (but better than than the Tail imho). Big long grade up and big long grade down, the one Tunnel on the north side, and while curvy, it is like an interstate compared to the Tail. You'll not be popular with some other drivers, but it's not a racetrack like the Tail. Watch your brakes and use the many vista pullouts often to let others go by up and down and to gives your brakes a chance to cool off too on the way down too.

My suggestion would be to take the long way around the east side, but don't take 9 east of Cherokee, go south on 441 to Sylva and then east on 23 and pick up 40. It will probably be a 4-5 hour drive that way a but a much better / safer route in a large RV.
I'd agree with the recommendation that one should not take an RV or travel trailer on the Dragon, and I think there's even a posted vehicle length limit at some point. I've driven it many times in cars, and it's a delight (not necessarily as dangerous as reports would suggest if you drive it carefully and avoid busy Saturdays in the peak seasons), but I wouldn't dream of taking my 34-foot class A up there.
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Old 02-05-2016, 09:29 AM   #10
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Coming from Smokemont you will going uphill on the easier NC side. If you can get through the tunnels, US 441 is your better bet as US 129 is as bad or worse from a curve standpoint just not as much elevation gain and like others have said it has become a dangerous motorcycle road.
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Old 02-06-2016, 11:29 AM   #11
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There are a couple of other things to be aware of in traveling through the park from Cherokee to Cades Cove. First the two tunnels on US 441 are round roofed with the curb side height advertised at 13' 6". The center is taller of course, but with repaving of the highway it could be a little shorter on the sides than advertised. I am not sure of the accuracy. Secondly when approaching Gatlinburg, at the Sugarlands Visiter Center there is a left turn onto a park road that goes to Cades Cove. The park road is called Fighting Creek Gap Road on the Sugarlands end and Little River Gorge Road on the Townsend end. I would not recommend taking that road to the Cove. The first part out of Sugarlands is not bad up to Elkmont Campground. At Elkmont Campground it changes names and follows the course of the Little River. At that point it becomes twisty and curvy with drop-offs on the right that fall directly into the Little River. Not a good road to take an RV or a trailer on. You should go on through Gatlinburg or better yet take the Gatlinburg bypass to Pigeon Forge to the Wear Valley road, US 321. The Wear Valley road is also a bit twisty and curvy with some minor elevation changes, but is a more manageable road. I have taken my 40' pulling a jeep across the Wear Valley Road. There are a couple of sections that will give you white knuckles for a mile or two, but is doable if you take your time and hug the center line.
Going a bit further to Sevierville and taking US 441 to 411 takes you through Maryville where you hit the Lamar Alexander Parkway US 321 to Townsend. This is several miles out of the way, cut insures no white knuckle driving. When you enter the park again in Townsend you will stay straight on 321 into the park. At the "T" Cades Cove Road is the right turn and takes you to the Cove. Be careful on the Cove Road to stay on the pavement. There are some spots on the road where dropping a tire off the pavement can damage an axle or a tire. Road maintenance needs to address these drop-offs, but they seem to get worse each year. You will love the Cove. It is one of our favorite campgrounds.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:31 PM   #12
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Thanks for the alternative way to go. That road seemed awfully small on Google maps. I appreciate you giving me the detailed directions.
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