If you are looking for a different kind of auto tour while you are in the Smoky Mountains, why not try Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (RFMNT). Roaring Fork is located above Gatlinburg so it is easy to get to and it is a completely different experience than visiting areas like Cades Cove and Cataloochee. Whereas those areas were valley communities, the Roaring Fork community was a mountain farm town.
The people that made their homes in the Roaring Fork area were a hardy bunch. Instead of choosing the easier life in the valleys –Cataloochee and Cades Cove – the people that settled these areas were looking for homes in the woods on top of the mountains. They built their community along the streams where the rushing water could be harnessed and used to power water wheels that would grind grains and help with cutting lumber into usable boards. They had full service farms that were designed to keep their family going but they also had other industries that keep them busy during the off times of the year.
Today, you can ride through this history filled area of the Smokies. You get to pass, cabins and other structures that once made up this community. You even get to see a tubmill. The tubmill is driven by the flow of the water on a horizontal wheel instead of the more traditional, vertical wheel. The tubmill was a more efficient form of water power and it was easier then having to build a water chute. These tubmills were located in many of the communities around the Smokies and there are still several in the boundaries of the GSMNP that visitors can visit and admire. This, in and of itself, is worth the trip along this auto tour but you also get to see plenty of waterfalls and cascades. In fact one of the most popular cascades areas in the national park is known as the Place of a Thousand drips and it is located near the exit of this one way road.
To find RFMT, head to Gatlinburg. Drive along the Parkway until you find Historic Nature Trail Road. If you have been coming to the area for quite a while you will know that this road used to be known as Airport Road. Turn onto Historic Nature Trail road and head up the mountain. You will pass the Space Needle and other Gatlinburg attractions as you go up the hill. Once you come to a stop sign, you will go straight across his road and follow the signs and Cherokee Orchard Road around the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.