Date Explored: October 11, 2011
Weather: Overcast, 59°
GPS: 35.701812, -83.513432
Editor's Note: The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will open for the season, weather permitting, on March 25, 2016.
This is one of our favorite spots to visit each time we are in Gatlinburg. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a one-way, seven-mile, paved road that winds up and down the Smoky Mountains National Park and along Roaring Fork creek.
There are several historical homes and buildings along this route, with signs explaining the significance of the structures. There are two waterfall trailheads on this road: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls.
My favorite old building on this trail is Alfred Reagan's tub mill. It is a small mill that was used to grind grain. The setting is very picturesque, as the mill sits right on the trail, next to Roaring Fork.
One of the reasons I enjoy this drive so much is because of the rich, thick forest of trees, rocks, and streams that surround the narrow road. I like to think of it as a hiking trail that you can take your car down. It's very narrow at times, with large boulders and trees lapping at the pavement.
Another favorite of mine along the trail is a tiny waterfall known as "The Place of a Thousand Drips." It is a complex of very thin waterfalls coming out of various high rocks, with a cliff-like interface. There is a small cave or rock dwelling of some sort high up on the rocks, but it is quite dangerous to get to.
The amount of water on "Thousand Drips" is not impressive, but what makes it so unique is how the water takes different paths down the rocks and into nature-made channels embedded in the stone. It almost looks like it was intelligently designed and created by man, but it's 100% natural.
I highly recommend traveling down the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, especially after a nice rainfall. There's just something about the dense forests of the Smokies after a good rain.
The road is accessible by Airport Road in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is closed during the winter months.