Get in the Spirit to Travel Again

Rent an SUV for your next trip to the Smoky Mountains
Sherry Mims

Surrounding yourself with natural beauty sounds like the panacea for wanderlust when you’re feeling cooped up and wondering what to do. While vacation planning can seem overwhelming these days, there’s a way you can get to the sights to see, such as the signature blue haze of the Smoky Mountains, that still allows you to feel like you have the place to yourself: A time-honored road trip. For maximum exhilaration, travel the rugged terrain of North Carolina or eastern Tennessee in a sport utility vehicle, which can handle sharp curves or bumps in the road while leaving room for camping gear and fellow travelers.

Consider renting a vehicle to add to the novelty. Whether you’re wanting something for show or simple practicality, Hertz’s rentals have never been better, and there are numerous options within the category of SUV, Minivan and 4x4. Along with the usual AAA member perks, such as free additional AAA drivers, a complimentary infant or child booster seat, and reduced fee on GPS, Hertz provides additional options with safety in mind. The Hertz Gold Standard Clean 15-step sanitization process follows CDC guidelines to ensure every vehicle is guaranteed clean, sanitized and ready to go. Add an additional layer of safety by joining the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program and enjoy an entirely touchless rental process. Visit for details.

Now that Hertz took care of the work—no pre-drive maintenance needed—there’s plenty of time to set your road trip up for success. The AAA Gas Cost Calculator will help you plan fueling, while will detail fun places to go. (Don’t forget to check any travel regulations or restrictions as well.

Smoky Mountains Road Trip Itineraries

Though most destinations in Southeastern Appalachia offer abundant mountain views, you might want to take a multiday drive through the Smoky Mountains, which navigates through mountain communities as well as the natural wonders in Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the nation’s most popular national parks. Too much of a commitment? Here’s where to go for shorter or last-minute travel ideas.

  • A veritable time capsule, Cades Cove Loop Scenic Road Trip features 19th-century buildings nestled in the woodlands, where wildlife sightings are not uncommon. The 10.5-mile trip, also encompassing picnic areas and campsites, is terrifically family-friendly.
  • Nearby Rich Mountain Road is recommended by Great Smoky Mountains National Park in particular for its “less-traveled” reputation; the one-way, 8-mile gravel road on a dry ridge goes north from Cades Cove over Rich Mountain toward Tuckaleechee Cove and Townsend, Tenn.
  • The thrilling 21.5-mile Tail of the Dragon Scenic Highway features 300 hairpin turns in an 11-mile portion (aka The Tail of the Dragon). In addition to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the road passes Nantahala National Forest and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
  • Longer, though no less beautiful, is the 86.5-mile Great Smoky Mountains Scenic Expressway. The tree-lined passage by the Nantahala River is especially colorful in the fall and spring.

With a little preparation, you can find the best road trip in the Smoky Mountains for you. The road ahead beckons, promising awe-inspiring scenery and, above all, adventure.