These Are the Best Ways To Navigate Traffic in Pigeon Forge, From a Local

aerial view of the parkway in pigeon forge

An aerial view of the Parkway in Pigeon Forge during Rod Runs (photo by Daniel Munson/

Local offers tips on the best roads to take when visiting the Smoky Mountains

The great tourism mecca of Sevier County grew along a single spine known as the Parkway. The road connects Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the vast majority of tourism destinations in the area. As a local, I’ve seen it during the busy times of the year. It can be nearly impossible to navigate the traffic on arrival. On Sunday mornings, it can be almost impossible to navigate leaving. Also at various times throughout the year – especially during Rod Runs – it’s just impossible altogether. But over the years, I’ve learned a few tips to help navigate the traffic around Pigeon Forge and the surrounding areas.

Traffic cams in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg

There are a handful of webcams available in the area. If you’re hoping to get a look at Gatlinburg in real time, I’d look at the Gatlinburg Space Needle camera. The options are more limited in Pigeon Forge, but you can at least see if traffic is moving with the webcam from The Inn on the River.

downtown sevierville
Traffic in Sevierville is usually not as bad as in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

Tips for Sevierville

If you’re trying to get to Sevierville proper or the western end of Pigeon Forge – Highway 411 is your friend. It’s accessible either from the south at the Chapman Highway exit in Knoxville or from Newport to the North. In my experience, traffic rarely backs up as deep on 411. It also offers a few more escape routes if you do run into trouble. If you’re feeling brave and have a good GPS, you can dive off and take any number of the local roads to cut across traffic. From the South, I only recommend doing this in the most extreme circumstances. In fact, if you’re coming from Knoxville and traffic is terrible where 411 intersects with the Parkway, I’d continue up to Veterans Boulevard. It connects to Collier Drive which comes out near the NASCAR Speedpark and the Tanger Outlets in Sevierville.

Cars on the Road during Rod Run
During car shows, Pigeon Forge traffic can be very thick (photo by Morgan Overholt/

Tips for Pigeon Forge

Veterans Boulevard is a blessing. I make it a habit to say a little prayer of thanks every time I turn onto it. Veterans Boulevard, also known as the back way to Dollywood, is accessible off 411 and is what you need if you’re trying to get to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Stampede or any of the myriad of pancake houses located on the “Gatlinburg” side of Pigeon Forge.

If you’re not going all the way to the east end of Pigeon Forge, you can take Veterans to Collier and take Ridge Road. From there, you then connect to Sugar Hollow, which takes you to the Hollywood Wax Museum and is relatively close to places like WonderWorks and Titanic. Both Ridge Road and Veterans Boulevard connect to Teaster Lane. Teaster Lane is wonderful if you’re staying in Pigeon Forge and need to get from one end to the other.

If you’re coming from the South – basically through Knoxville – and your destination is deeper into Pigeon Forge, Highway 321 is your good friend. You’ll want to go through Maryville into Townsend and take the scenic drive through Wears Valley. You’ll arrive in Pigeon Forge near the Island. You can go straight across the Parkway to connect with Teaster and get to Dollywood or the other side of Pigeon Forge without ever putting a tire on the Parkway – except to cross it.

traffic in gatlinburg with space needle in background
Gatlinburg was built to be walkable, so navigating the traffic can be harder (photo by Morgan Overhotl/

Tips for Gatlinburg

Now, we’re talking gridlock. There have been times, caught in the traffic between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge that I’ve considered pulling off to the side of the road and simply claiming squatter’s rights. I live here now, y’all. If we’re going to Gatlinburg, we’re going the back way. I like taking Highway 321 through Cosby. Coming from the Tennessee side, it’s exit 435 in Newport. From the North Carolina side, take Exit 447 in Hartford. Either way, 321 comes out right at the start of the main drag in Gatlinburg. There’s a parking garage right there and you’re not far from the Aquarium and the entrance to Anakeesta. Once in Gatlinburg, there are not a lot of great options. Gatlinburg is meant to be walked.

However, River Road splits from the Parkway and runs parallel. There’s some parking back there, and it’s the way to go if you’re trying to get to Ober Mountain. If traffic is terrible coming into the main drag from the Pigeon Forge side, you can take a left at the light onto Cherokee Orchard Road and hit Historic Nature Trail where you might eventually find some parking.

If you’re arriving from Cherokee, there is one other option if you’re approaching from somewhere like South Carolina. You could get off Interstate 40 near Clyde in North Carolina, take Highway 74 into Cherokee, and come to Gatlinburg through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a beautiful drive but adds 25 minutes to the trip. If you know for sure Gatlinburg traffic is a nightmare and you’re trying to get to somewhere on the southern end of town, this might make sense. But, if you’re going this route in the winter, check ahead. The road through the mountains gets closed frequently for inclement weather. 

Do you have a favorite alternative route in the Smokies? If so, let me know in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “These Are the Best Ways To Navigate Traffic in Pigeon Forge, From a Local”

  1. Please stop sending tourists on backroads!!! They drive in the middle of the road going under the speed limit and nearly hit people head on dozens of times a day or more. DO NOT SEND CLUELESS DRIVERS ON SMALL WINDING ROADS. DO NOT SEND CLUELESS DRIVERS ON ROADS LOCALS DEPEND ON TO GET TO WORK IN A TIMELY MANNER!!!!!

    • Ma’am I’m sure many folks will attack you for this comment but you are right in saying it and I’ve been a tourist on them back roads I’m born and raised rural nc i dont recall the name of the trail i ended up on but it was a gravel 1 1/2 lane that came out on the state line and i had trouble navigating it

  2. Tabatha I agree with you.The people who live here need a break . They live off of the tourist true but they don’t have to have them in their faces 24-7. I live over the hill from Piegon Forge and we come often but we know when to come when it’s not so crowded. I’ll say this anything worth enjoying is worth waiting for. Patience dear friends

  3. REALLY? Those people who travel to get to work in PF or Gatlinburg need those back roads. Don’t send a multitude of tourists there to back them up too. I would like to be on time!!

  4. I COMPLETELY agree. STOP! I work home health in sevier county, and my patients depend on me arriving timely. The backroads are my lifesaver.

  5. Stop encouraging clueless tourists to use our lifelines. Besides not knowing where they’re going, they trash our neighborhoods. EMS and Police need those toads too when responding to the wrecks caused by impatient tourists. Enough is enough. We live in Cosby.


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