A true example of wilderness and frontier life awaits visitors mere blocks away from downtown Gatlinburg on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This 6-mile auto loop travels through time, beginning in modern Gatlinburg and moving back to early 19th-century homesteads, and finally regressing to primal, unspoiled nature.
The trip begins on Cherokee Orchard Road. In the 1920s and ’30s, this area was a 796-acre commercial orchard and nursery with over 6,000 fruit trees. A short three miles later stands Noah “Bud” Ogle’s Place, located at the end of Cherokee Orchard and the beginning of the one-way motor loop. The Ogle homestead beautifully illustrates pioneer engineering—this was one of the few area homes of the time with running water, naturally pumped into the house from a nearby spring via log troughs.
Part of the motor trail follows the original road bed, which was hewed with picks and shovels in 1850. Like many old roads, it took the path of least resistance by way of the creek. The wagon passage served as an access route to White Oak Flats (now Gatlinburg) for the 25 families carving an existence out of these heavily forested hillsides. Three of their homesteads lie along the roadway—those of Jim Bales, Ephraim Reagan and Alfred Reagan. Of the many areas settled in the mountains, Roaring Fork was one of the most unforgiving, largely due to the boulder fields which made farming extremely difficult.
Trails to three dramatically different waterfalls begin on the motor loop. Thousand Drips Falls, a small but nonetheless spectacular waterfall, can be seen from the road near the end of the trip; these thin streams of water have been cutting away at the bedrock for centuries.
For popular trails in Roaring Fork, download the map on our Maps page.