|Trail at Metcalf Bottoms|
Little River Road Description
Little River Road is an 18 mile drive following the Little River from the
Sugarlands visitor center near Gatlinburg to the park entrance at Townsend.
At Townsend, the road changes names to Laurel Creek Road (sometimes called
Cades Cove Road) and continues
another 7 miles, passing Tremont and ending at Cades Cove. Little River
Road is one of the most popular drives in the Smokies. It offers numerous
places to stop and hike, camp, picnic, fish, swim, see waterfalls, and enjoy
everything the park has to offer. The road stays at a relatively low
elevation, so it does not offer the scenic mountain views that you will find
on Newfound Gap Road or the Foothills Parkway.
Along the Little River Road, 7 of the pulloffs are marked with signposts
like the one shown to the right. The signposts mark special points of
interest. There are many more pulloffs along the route. The 7 marked areas
are listed below. The numbers increase as you travel west from Sugarlands
visitor center toward Townsend. The 7 marked areas are:
of the Little River Road with the 7 pulloffs marked.
- Maloney Point is stop #1 on Little River Road. It is an overlook
with a paved parking area and a mountain view. There is another overlook
just before you get to Maloney Point. It is not marked, but also has
a paved parking lot and the view is better than Maloney Point.
- Laurel Falls trail is one of the most popular hikes in the
Smokies. See the hiking section below for more
details. Drive slowly through here because it is often crowded. There
are parking areas on both sides of the road, so people are often
crossing the road.
- Elkmont was once a logging community and vacation spot. It now
has a campground and several nice hiking trails.
Elkmont is 1 1/2 miles off Little River Road at the end of Elkmont Road.
- Metcalf Bottoms is a very nice picnic area beside the Little
River. It has plenty of parking, picnic tables, grills, and restrooms.
A short hike leads to Little Greenbrier School and the Walker sisters'
cabin, both built in the late 1800s.
- The Sinks is a short waterfall leading into a very deep pool.
(see picture on right).
It has a small, often crowded, parking area. It is a popular swimming
hole in the summer (but we don't recommend swimming here for safety
reasons). There is also a hiking trail starting at the Sinks parking
- Meigs Falls is one of a very few waterfalls that is visible
from the road. It can be hard to find because it is not clearly marked.
Look for a small parking area along the river side of the road about
1.2 miles past the Sinks. Trees partially block the view in the summer.
Late fall and winter is the best time to see it from the road.
- Townsend "Y", also called Townsend Wye, is where the middle and
west prongs of the Little River join. It is a wonderful and very
popular water playgound. The river is wide and peaceful, great for
wading or tubing. A grassy hillside overlooks the water and is the
perfect spot to spread out a blanket. There is a large parking area
here, but due to the popularity of this spot, it is often full in the
Best Hiking along Little River Road
There are several hiking trails along Little River Road:
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Smokies. The
2.5 mile round trip hike leads to one of the prettiest waterfalls in
the park. The trail is paved, making to possible to push strollers or
wheelchairs. There is a parking area at stop #2 along Little River Road.
The parking area often fills up, in which case you can park off the road
a little bit past the parking area and walk up, or you can park at
Maloney Point, stop #1, and walk up.
The Elkmont self-guiding nature trail is a loop just less than a mile
long at stop #3. The Little River trail, also at Elkmont, is a nice
wide gravel trail following the Little River.
From Metcalf Bottoms, stop #4, a short 0.6 mile walk leads to the historic Little
Greenbrier school. The trail continues another mile past the school
to the Walker sisters' cabin. Plenty of parking is available at
Best places to Picnic along Little River Road
There is a large developed picnic area at Metcalf Bottoms beside the Little
River. The picnic area has picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. There is
generally plenty of parking available. You can also spread out a blanket
and have a picnic at any of the many, many pulloffs along the river.
Restrooms with running water and flush toilets are available at the
Sugarlands visitor center, the Elkmont campground (stop #3), Metcalf
Bottoms (stop #4), and at the Townsend visotors center (off Hwy 321
near the "Y").
Best times to visit
Fall, when the leaves are changing, is a great time to visit any part
of the park. At this elevation, the leaves are usually at their peak
in late October.
Early summer is when the mountain laurel and rhododendron bloom along
the Laurel Falls trail.
The synchronous fireflies at Elkmont put on their show for about 2
weeks in early to mid June.
The Little River at the Townsend "Y" is a great place to cool off in the
heat of the summer.