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  1. Default Chicago to Smoky Mountains via Shenandoah National Park

    We are planning our first road trip this year , from Chicago to Greater Smoky mountains on 5/23 - 6/1.
    I would like to drive to Shenandoah National Park first , then take the Blue ridge parkway all the way down to Smoky Mountains.
    I really like to do the skyline drive as well.
    On the way back I am planning to take I-75 from Gatlinburg to Chicago with no stops in between (9 hours drive).

    Is this too much to do in 8 days ? I would really like to get suggestions on the itinerary .

    Thanks for the help...

  2. Default

    Chicago to Front Royal by interstate is about 670 miles. I've tried experimenting with alternative routes involving some non-interstate roads and so far haven't found anything better. So that's two days IMHO.

    Front Royal to Waynesboro via Skyline Drive is one day if you're going to stop and explore some hikes in the park.

    Waynesboro to the Asheville or Cherokee area via the BRP is three days if you're going to stop at the various overlooks, pioneer cabins, etc.

    Then allow two days to explore the Smokies: one day for the Newfound Gap Road, one day for Cades Cove.

    Gatlinburg to Chicago is 580 miles, nearly all interstate. That's marginal for two days depending on how many drivers you have, whether you have children, and your own assessment of you how you wish to do it.

    So I make that 9 or 10 days. Therefore IMHO you need to cut something out but what that might be would obviously be up to you. I think doing less would be better than a series of long drives, and the speed limits on the BRP and in the parks will limit you even if you wanted to do them non-stop which I definitely wouldn't recommend.

    Just my thoughts and opinions - the experts here might have some better assessments and suggestions.
    Last edited by John259; 04-30-2014 at 06:13 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    As John mentioned above, Gatlinburg to Chicago is 580 miles. Online mapping programs may tell you "9 hours", but in reality, that's about a 10-11 hour drive AT LEAST. Online map programs don't allow for bathroom, fuel, food, and stretch-your-leg stops, nor do they account (usually) for traffic situations, construction, etc. Marginal for a 1-day drive (we usually recommend 550-600 miles for one day's drive), so be careful.

    Shenandoah's main road is Skyline Drive between Front Royal and Waynesboro. Three years ago, we drove through it. Stopping at a number of the pullouts, the visitor center, and for a picnic breakfast, it took us 5 hours. We wished we'd had a little more time to walk down a trail or two. The vistas, though, are what make Skyline Drive so much better than driving I-81 (which runs parallel to it).


  4. Default

    If you going to skip Skyline Drive (which would be a shame) then US340 through the Shenandoah Valley, parallel to and to the west of the park, is IMHO an extremely pleasant drive.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default You might like a little more time for a sat6isfying experience.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum.

    Whereas I have loved driving Skyline Drive and the BRP, I found I needed a break. Driving it all in one go can be tedious, unless you stop to explore some of the attractions, do some of the hikes or as a last resort, get back onto another highway. I have driven all of it, but not in one trip.

    That said, if you allow time for some out of car activities, you might find that you could be running a little short on time time for the complete trip as outlaid in your itenary.

    But to answer your question, it is doable. With a little more time you may be more satisfied with the experience.


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