There Are Big Changes Coming to This Popular Road in the Smoky Mountains

marker of the state line of north carolina and tennessee

The summit of the Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park marks the border between Tennessee and North Carolina (photo by ehrlif/istock.com)

What you need to know about Newfound Gap Road in the Smokies

When my family visits the Smokies, we prefer taking the scenic route through Western North Carolina. My husband prefers driving on winding mountain roads. When the weather is warm, my kids love to stop in Cherokee and visit Oconaluftee Islands Park to play in the river. From there, we take Newfound Gap Road heading up and into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The good news for us and the millions of other National Park visitors who traverse Newfound Gap Road each year is that improvements are underway this year on the popular road. The 2020 Great American Outdoors Act is providing $11 million in funding to improve the National Park, and a portion of this funding is directed toward repaving the road’s sections near the Sugarlands Visitors Center near Gatlinburg. Additionally, several pull-out and scenic view parking areas along the road will also be repaved as part of the project. 

The popular Newfound Gap Road in the Smoky Mountains will see some much-needed repairs and repaving through September 2024. Only single-lane road closures are anticipated, so the road will remain open throughout the project. Still, visitors should expect to plan for extra travel time when driving through this area.

The Charlie’s Bunion hiking trail is located off Newfound Gap Road (photo by MST Photo/shutterstock.com)

About Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road (also known as the U.S. Highway 441) spans 31 miles from Gatlinburg, Tenn. to Cherokee, N.C. The two-lane curvy highway follows a valley through the mountains along the bank of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. It’s known as the lowest pass over the mountains through the National Park. Even so, it climbs to an elevation of just over 5,000 feet above sea level. This means that temperatures near the top of the pass will be about 10 degrees cooler than in surrounding areas.

Also, several popular hiking trails are accessible via Newfound Gap Road. These include Cove Hardwood Self Guiding Nature Trail, Charlies Bunion, Newfound Gap Overlook and LeConte Lodge. Like other popular scenic drives in the National Park (Roaring Fork Motor Trail and Cades Cove Loop), the drive is beautiful. It’s like taking your vehicle on a hike. Plus, there are plenty of spots to pull off and take in the scenery, whether you’re into hiking or not.

So if you’re heading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg, you’ll take Newfound Gap Road toward the popular Sugarlands Visitors Center. If you’re coming from Cherokee, you’ll take Newfound Gap Road toward the Oconaluftee Visitors Center.

sugarlands visitor center
Much of the repaving will occur between Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitor Center (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

What are the changes happening to Newfound Gap Road?

The project will consist of repaving segments of the road that are most in need. Primarily, this will take place between Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Smaller projects are also planned for parking areas and pull-outs along Newfound Gap Road along the higher elevations.

view from morton overlook
The views from Morton Overlook along Newfound Gap Road are spectacular (photo by Jerry Whaley/shutterstock.com)

When will the road close/reopen?

Ongoing road construction is going on now and is scheduled to continue through the end of September. This means that the construction will run throughout the busy season in the Smokies. However, only single-lane closures are expected. As a result, Newfound Gap Road will remain open throughout the summer. Travelers should plan for travel delays near Gatlinburg and the single-lane closures will likely slow traffic. You can see temporary closures on the NPS website. Additionally, some of the parking areas that provide access to scenic views may be closed temporarily.

In summary, the changes coming to Newfound Gap Road will consist of much-needed repairs and repaving to some of the most traveled sections of the road close to Gatlinburg. The 2024 project is scheduled to run from April through September. However, only single-lane road closures are anticipated. Travelers visiting the area during the project should plan a little extra time when driving through this area. 

Are you planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains? Be sure to check out our coupons page for area promos.

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