From musical highs to the mountain heights

Head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, says Chris Coplans

"Memphis is in a very lucky position on the map. Everything just gravitated to Memphis for years," guitarist Steve "the Colonel" Cropper once said. Walking past BB King's blues club on Beale Street, you can't help but agree. Elvis overshadows much here: from Graceland to Sun Studios. And then, 200 miles east of Memphis is that other great Tennessee music city, Nashville, the country music capital of the world, home to the Grand Ole Opry and its legendary radio show.

But if western Tennessee is all about the music, then eastern Tennessee is all about the Smokies. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border, is a mere two-hour drive from Nashville. It's the most visited national park in the USA and encompasses 522,419 acres of the southern Appalachian mountains.

Just outside the park are several gateway communities, including Gatlinburg, which has the widest range of accommodation. Six miles away is Pigeon Forge, home to Dolly Parton's very own theme park, Dollywood (dollywood.com), and the Titanic Museum Attraction (titanicpigeonforge.com) – the story of the ill-fated passenger liner transposed to the mountains of landlocked Tennessee.

Alternative accommodation can be found at Townsend, close to the park, with a range of good sleeping options, including the magnificent Gracehill B&B (gracehillbandb.com) perched high in the mountains with a spectacular 360‑degree view.

The main road through the park is US 441, which will take you to the highest point, Clingman's Dome at 6,642ft. Off US 441 at the Tennessee end is a small road leading to two marvellous waterfalls and ending at Cades Cove, where you can rent a bike for a scenic 11‑mile loop.

At the southern entrance to the park on 441 is the Blue Ridge Parkway, a two-lane byway that snakes along the ridge of the Appalachians for 469 glorious miles, one of America's most spectacular drives. No billboards or commercial traffic, just stunning vistas, mountain ridges stacked one behind the other until blending into a distant horizon, and valleys so deep that the light can barely penetrate.

The 250 mountainous miles along the backbone of North Carolina are the most impressive. Along the way you'll pass the laid-back mountain town of Ashville. It's a great place to loaf around for a few days.

F Scott Fitzgerald stayed at the rustic Grove Park Inn Resort in Asheville while visiting his wife Zelda (who was committed to a local sanatorium). You will also find the world's largest holiday home in Asheville: the Biltmore Estate, now a historic landmark, with a ritzy inn offering accommodation (biltmore.com).

An equally spectacular but shorter drive is the Cherohala Skyway (cherohala.org) which crosses the crest of the Great Smoky Mountains. The 42-mile long byway follows a mile-high ridge, winding through forests of hardwoods and evergreens on the way from Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness