Rocky Top Trail in Tennessee
Starting in Knoxville, coursing through the Tennessee Foothills and rising into the forested peaks of the Smokies, the Rocky Top Trail covers an Appalachian landscape loaded with history, music and outdoor fun.
A classic Southern city on the Tennessee River, Knoxville is known for the University of Tennessee Volunteers and for music. See big-name performers on stage at the historic Tennessee Theatre, comb downtown’s hangouts for local talent, enjoy the city’s summer concert series and stop by the Knoxville Visitor Center from noon to 1 p.m. for the WDVX Blue Plate Special (local live music and food). Root for the home team at a UT athletic game (the Lady Vols have won the most NCAA Championships in women’s college basketball history).
On your way south, you’ll pass through Rockford and Alcoa. Pedal along the Alcoa-Maryville Greenway or continue on to Maryville, where you’ll see the Sam Houston Historic Schoolhouse, the oldest one-room schoolhouse in the state, and enjoy the Foothills Fall Festival in season.
For a scenic mountain drive, continue along 129 and take the Foothills Parkway to Walland where it meets Highway 321. Continue east to a quiet side of the Smokies in Townsend and explore the world beneath the mountains at Tuckaleechee Caverns. Sign up for a nature workshop at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and take a leisurely trip down the Little River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Keep on 321 to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for zany adventures, including a head-over-heels ride at ZORBSmoky Mountains, an exploration of the deep at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and a hootin’-hollerin’ good time at Dollywood and the singer’s Dixie Stampede. The Little Pigeon River north of Gatlinburg is a good place to try whitewater rafting, thanks to milder but fun rapids. Look for craft shops as you’re leaving Gatlinburg headed toward Pittman Center. Set up camp in Cosby to access Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Jump on another section of the Foothills Parkway from Cosby to I-40, and loop west back toward Knoxville. Detour off I-40 at Clevenger, heading south on Highway 411 through Chestnut Hill to Dolly Parton’s hometown of Sevierville. Dazzle your senses with a spectacular Cirque De Chine performance and a meal at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, and then head back to Knoxville with a head full of tunes and a belly full of down-home cooking.