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  1. Default NYC- Nashville - Great Smoky Roadtrip

    Hi all,

    This is my first post, so I hope I'm posting in the right place, otherwise please feel free to redirect me.

    My best friend from college is flying to EWR (Newark, NJ Aiport) from the West Coast, to spend Spring Break here in NYC. This is going to be April 3rd and we are planning on a roadtrip to the Great Smoky Mountains in TN. We also wanted to stop in Nashville, since we both like country music and have never been there before.

    We only have from Tuesday 4/3 (after 6pm) to Sunday 4/8. I know this sounds like a crazy adventure, but we don't mind driving and need to catch up on a lot so basically what we wanted to do was leave Tuesday night and stop somewhere on the way after a 3/4 hour drive. Then proceed onto Nashville in order to spend Wed night and Thursday day there to then drive off to the Great Smoky ( don't know exactly where to stay) and spend Thursday night, Friday, Saturday in the area, to be able to hike and whatnot.

    I see google maps suggest to take I 81 S all the way to Nashville, but I was thinking I 64 W would be more fun, since I think it would be nice to stop in KY (Lexington) for lunch, and we wouldn't mind driving trough KY as opposed to MD, VA etc.. But it really just comes down to the most scenic route, so have any suggestions?

    Also, any suggestions on where to stay for a fun 2/3 days in the Smoky Mountains? We are 22/23 yro and like to hike and the outdoors, but we would also like to be in a fun place with a cool night scene ( restaurants, fun bars etc...).

    Thank you so much in advance for any help you can provide us with.

  2. #2

    Default That's a quick trip, so..... might think twice about the side-trip out I-64.

    Hello griznation (you aren't by chance a U of Montana alum, are you?),

    I think you'll like I-81 south into TN, then I-40 over through Knoxville to Nashville (that's the actual route you were considering--I-81 ends in east TN around 30 mi E of K'town). Going through WV on I-64 was, for me, awful the last time I did it. It was admittedly 10 years ago this summer, but the seemingly endless series of long grades and the beat-up road surface south of Charleston was something to avoid in the future. I was, actually, headed down I-77 so didn't travel too much of I-64 south of Charleston, but truth be told, I-64 west of Charleston was no picnic, either, traversing the highly industrialized river-bottom corridor which it does as it leaves the Cumberland Plateau enroute to Kentucky. By contrast, I-81 from Lexington, VA on into TN is quite scenic, and the miles will go quickly should you choose I-81 all the way to I-40.

    When in Nashville, I hear you must go to "Lower Broad", the live music/bar/restaurant district along the Cumberland River bottom on Lower Broadway street. My wife was there on business recently, and she raved about Roberts' Western World.

    For some hiking/cycling/paddling on the way back, give some consideration to the following: That second weekend is Easter Weekend and the normal activities/venues will likely see a surge in use. Add the fact that April can be fairly harsh in the Smokies, where lots of trails are at and above 5,000'. It wouldn't be the least bit odd to find yourself in snow and ice most anywhere with some elevation. The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) may be closed in segments receiving some late season snow, too, plus I think there's a section south of Asheville, NC which is closed for construction. For all of those reasons, you might look to Boone/Blowing Rock, NC as a starting point for some mountain outdoors experiences. There are back-country trails on Grandfather Mountain, the newest State Park in the NC park system, over in Damascus, VA you can rent bikes and ride a great rail-trail (Virginia Creeper Trail, or VCT), you can drive a conventional car nearly to the top of Whitetop Mountain, VA near Damascus, and you can paddle the Nolichucky River from the Nantahala Outdoor Center's outpost near Erwin, TN. Damascus and Erwin are on or close to the Appalachian Trail, and each are within an hour's drive west of Boone, and < 30 minutes west of them lies I-81. You can also look at driving the BRP up to, say, Fancy Gap, VA at I-77, then jump back up to I-81 for the trip back to NY.

    It may be early in the season, but I'd look up "The Crooked Road" online to see what, if any, of the traditional music venues are performing over the Easter weekend, as southwest VA claims to be the founding grounds of both country and bluegrass.

    All in all, the outdoor activities in the Smokies can be tough to enjoy if April weather is like it can sometimes be. The areas I mentioned are, on average, 1,500-3,000' or more lower in elevation than the High Smokies, and that can make the difference between a brisk Spring day in the mountains and a bone-chilling "no-go" day in a motel.

    I hope you'll enjoy planning and taking your Southeastern RoadTrip!

    Foy (ASU and U of M)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO



    NYC to Nashville via I-78/I-81/I-70/I-68/I-79/I-64/I-65 is over 900 miles, and is a bit too much for just a day and a half. There's actually no route that's faster - it's about the same as I-81/I-40 or I-80/I-76/I-71/I-65. You would be looking at a minimum of 16 hours total including fuel and bathroom stops to make that drive.

    The closest place with nightlife to Great Smoky would probably be Gatlinburg. That's about 4 hours from Nashville.

    Gatlinburg back to NYC is over 700 miles and would be at least 13 hours. Barely doable in one day.

  4. Default

    Thank you both for your super helpful insight into this . I really appreciate and will be following your advice. And Foy, yes I am a UofM alum, hence the passion for the outdoors. Go Griz!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Google Also Says...

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    ...that it is over 875 miles from Newark to Nashville. That is two full days of driving, not a few hours and then an easy day. Yes, you could get to Nashville in time for a late show on Wednesday night, but you'd be in no condition to enjoy it. You'd simply be much better off by taking it a bit easier on the way down, spending two nights on the road, say around Harrisburg and Knoxville. Stop at a few places along the way and get caught up over a beer or two in the evening when your driving is done rather than press on regardless of how you feel. You simply do not have the time to include Lexington. Then spend most of the day and the entire evening on Thursday enjoying Nashville, and head out for the Great Smoky Mountains all day on Friday, and spend Saturday and Sunday, again at a relatively re4laxed pace, getting back to Newark.

    I really think that if you come at this with a more realistic expectation for how much you can drive and still enjoy it, you'll have a much better trip, get to see the things and spend time at the places that seem to really matter to you, and sow your friend a better time.


  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by griznation View Post
    Thank you both for your super helpful insight into this . I really appreciate and will be following your advice. And Foy, yes I am a UofM alum, hence the passion for the outdoors. Go Griz!

    I graduated from Appalachian State U, Boone, NC, but attended a 6-semester hour 8-week field methods course run by the U of M Geology Department. Eight weeks in the Pioneers, the Tendoys, the Rubys, McCarthy Mountain, and the foothills in between. We were housed at U of M-Western, then named Western State College, in Dillon, so we whooped it up in the cowboy bars there on the weekends.

    I've been a regular visitor to MT ever since, including a week at the Hogback Homestead Cabin on Rock Creek in July of 2010 and 2011. I pull for the Griz as long as they're not playing the Mountaineers in the FCS playoffs! Great game in Missoula for the semis year before last, eh? Your guys took it to us.


  7. Default

    You all are probably right saying this is trying to fit way too much for just 4 days. I think I might just drive straight to Great Smoky ( with a stop somewhere in between for5the night) and just enjoy 3 days at the park... Thanks again for all the suggestions on things to do Foy.. I head Gaitlingurg is really touristy and probably not the best place to lodge correct? We are looking into motels, cheap hotels (decent quality) in order to be able to go out in the town at night without too much driving or no driving at all and trying to be relatively close to the hiking locations...any ideas on where to lodge? I have a feeling that staying in the NC part of the park would be better?

    And Foy that's amazing, Missoula really is a great town, living in NYC I definitely miss it! And yeah them Griz have done a great job that year. I'm hoping this next season will be just as good!

  8. #8

    Default The definition of polar opposites: NYC and Missoula, Montana

    Being a native North Carolinian, and growing up when even Raleigh had a population of well under 100,000, I am no fan of cities and urban/suburban sprawl, so I can well understand missing Montana's Garden City if life places you in NYC nowadays.

    But I digress: I know nothing about Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge other than it's possibly the most tourist-attraction riddled municipality in the US, with possibly the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand actually holding the title while Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge claims second place. All of my Southern Appalachians time has been spent some 250 miles northeast in the Boone/Blowing Rock, NC area with southwest VA and upper east TN being close by. I've never visited my home state's only NP (Great Smokies NP) nor have I ever been to Gatlinburg.

    If you were to decide to stay in the Boone/Blowing Rock area instead of going to the Smokies, staying close to either Sunset Dr or Main Street in Blowing Rock puts you within a short walk of lots of eateries and some bars. I think the Ragged Gardens Inn is a motel on Sunset and I seem to recall at least a couple more being on Sunset. Boone is nowadays a bit larger and more spread out, and given that my family owns a vacation home between the two, I haven't a clue where to book in Boone. A motel close to the ASU campus would of course put you close to the ASU bars and student-type eateries.

    Either Boone or Blowing Rock are close to lots of hiking trails at Grandfather Mountain, short hikes along the BRP, and longer hikes in and around the Julian Price Memorial Park and the Moses Cone Memorial Park, together comprising around 6,000 acres contiguous with the BRP so therefore within the NPS system. It's easy to search up trail maps of the +25 miles of trails within Cone Park and the more rigorous trails leading from the Mile High Swinging Bridge parking area on Grandfather (fee required to drive up) or from the BRP at Boone Fork Trailhead to the Calloway Peak summit of Grandfather Mtn. From Boone Fork trailhead on the BRP up the Crag Way trail is just over 3.5 miles and a 1,900' elevation gain. Not much by MT standards, but quite a huff for an old man like me. If you can summit on a clear day, the views are awesome, as you're a good 1,000 to 3,000' above everything else in sight at Grandfather's 5,947' Calloway Peak summit. The bike rental and shuttle service shops over in Damascus, VA are about 50 minutes from Boone, a bit more from Blowing Rock, and riding the 17 mile all-downhill segment of the VCT from Whitetop Station back to Damascus is a great way to see and enjoy the mountains while not breaking too much of a sweat. It's a wide rail-trail so the gradient is consistent and the lower 3/4ths of it are along some nice trout stream valleys. If you consider the VCT, call Blue Blaze Bike Rental and Shuttle in Damascus and book a pair of Trek Navigators and a shuttle ride to the summit (something in the $25-28 per person range for the rental including the shuttle). They'll get booked up quickly on Good Friday and Easter Weekend. I don't know if early April is too early to book a paddle through the Nolichucky Gorge with the NOC, but that should be a free phone call away. The good thing about running the Chucky with the NOC is their outpost is at the take-out, so you only have a single Class VI bus ride to the put-in, plus there used to be a steam room and hot shower facility there, too, so you can quickly get out of that cold wetsuit and clean up and snag your warm fleece without having to endure a bus ride back to the outfitter's office.

    All of that said, if you're keen on the Smokies and still want to paddle some, look up the NOC headquarters in Wesser, NC, from where you can paddle the Nantahala River with the take-out right at the NOC headquarters (and with hot showers/locker rooms available).


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Hotels in Gatlinburg that weekend start at $54 a night - that's for the Microtel.

    Yes, Gatlinburg is a tourist trap, but there's going to be more nightlife there than anywhere else near the park. If you want to sightsee and hike in the park, that really is your best option - it's right at the park entrance. Otherwise, follow Foy's advice.

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