Smoky Mountain

Knoxville to Asheville 40 of the Best Stops along the way

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Driving from Knoxville to Asheville is one of the most scenic and beautiful drives.  As you make your way through the Blue Ridge Mountains you will see roadside waterfalls and incredible mountain ranges in the distance.  It’s truly a breathtaking journey if you haven’t taken this trip before.

Distance from Knoxville to Asheville is about 116 miles and will take you just under 2 hrs with no stops.

What is between Knoxville and Asheville?

For your drive from Knoxville to Asheville, you might be looking for stops along the way or things you can add to your travel list.  Below you will find some great options to enjoy. 

We recommend that you get off of I-40, head down towards the Gatlinburg area, enjoy some time there, and then get back on the road to Ashville.  

Knoxville TN

Downtown Knoxville to Asheville

1) Zoo Knoxville

The zoo is located near exit 392 off I-40.  Here you will find about 1,200 animals at the 53-acre zoo.  A fun little fact, more red pandas have been born in Knoxville than in any other zoo in the world. 

They offer behind-the-scenes tours, safaris, and animal encounters.  They have a play zone kid’s cove where you can get up close to the friendly goats and sheep in the barnyard.

Also, there is a splash zone that is 5,000 sq ft, and you’ll find life-sized giraffes spraying water.  Visit your favorite animals today at the zoo.

Tickets start at $19.95 for children 12 and under, and for adults, they are $24.95.

Hours of Operation: Daily from 9 am to 4 pm (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas)

Address: 3500 Knoxville Zoo Dr, Knoxville, TN 37914

Kodak TN

2) Smokies Stadium

Stop by for a minor-league baseball game at the Tennessee Smokies stadium, located at exit 407 off I-40.  The 2023 season will start in April and end in September.   The stadium was built in the year 2000.  They also host special events throughout the year as well.

Address: 3540 Line Drive, Kodak, TN 37764

Baseball on the ground

Off the Beaten Path, places to stop off of I-40

To break up your drive, you could venture through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg TN, which takes you off of I-40 for a while, but you get to explore some fantastic areas and cities. 

Total drive without stops if you venture to Sevierville and Gatlinburg would be under 3 hrs without stopping.  From the Knoxville TN, area, you will take exit 407 from I-40 and head south.  

Sevierville TN

3) Little River Gem Mine

The mine is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm.  If you love rocks, gems, and minerals, this is your place to stop.  Kids always enjoy mining, and it’s fun for all ages.

Address: 2189 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, TN 37876

Gem Mining

4) Scenic Helicopter Tours

Want to view the Great Smoky Mountain National Park from above, what better way to do it than from the sky!  They offer several packages you can choose from, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Romance Package, Pigeon Forge & Bluff Moutain.  

Address: 1949 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, TN 37876

Helicopter Tour View

5) Forbidden Caverns

Did you know that Tennesee has the most caves in the United States? They have over 8,350 registered caves in the state.  They are open seasonally and will reopen in April of 2023.  The cave has a rare cave onyx that is still growing. 

Back in the 1940s, the cave was used to hide and make moonshine; the constant water supply helped them make their homemade whiskey.  The cave opened to the public in 1967 after years of excavation and development. 

The tour takes, on average, about 55 mins; you will find free parking for cars and small RVs.  

Address: 455 Blowing Cave Road Sevierville, TN 37876

Forbidden Caverns
silicon640c CC BY 2.0

6) Dolly Parton Statue

In this area, you will find so many things about Dolly Parton.  We’ll cover her Dollywood below.  The statue debuted in 1987 after Dollywood opened.  This statue is easy to visit and located in the center of the Sevier County Courthouse lawn. 

You can visit the statue on your own.  There is also a self-guided tour which includes two dozen stops on the walk and gives you information on this amazing country music legend in the area she grew up in.

Address: 125 Court Ave, Sevierville, TN 37862

7) Harrisburg Covered Bridge

You don’t come across a covered bridge every day.  Visit this historic covered bridge just east of Sevierville off US Hwy 441, which is about a 5-10 min drive from downtown.  The bridge was built in 1875. 

The bridge’s total length is 88 ft and about 10 ft wide.  It crosses over the East Fork Little Pigeon River.  The coolest thing is you can drive across the bridge and hear the wooden planks move underneath.  

Harrisburg Covered Bridge
ardee4 CC BY 2.0

8) Foxfire Mountain Swinging Bridge

Located in Foxfire Mountain, you will find beautiful trails and multiple bridges.  Here you will also find the longest swinging bridge in America as it crosses 70 ft above the east prong of the Little Pigeon River. 

It’s longer than a football field and stretches 335 ft across the gorge.  In addition, they also have a walking tree canopy tour, the Whispering Winds covered bridge, an obstacle course, a game of corn hole, and many trails to explore.  

Admission starts at $24.95 for ages 7 and up and children 4-6 are $11.95.  

Address: 3757 Thomas Ln, Sevierville, TN 37876

9) NASCAR SpeedPark Smoky Mountains

Have a need for speed?  Then visit the family fun park and enjoy go-karts, rides, and mini golf.  Need something more indoors; you’ll also find an arcade, mini bowling, and virtual reality gaming. 

For tickets, you can purchase an unlimited ride wristband to allow you many options to play. The wristbands start at 24.99 for guests 40” to 47” tall, and those over 48” start at 29.99.    

Hours of Operation are between Monday – Saturday

Address: 1545 Parkway, Sevierville, TN 37862

NASCAR speedpark
milst1 CC BY-SA 2.0

Pigeon Forge TN

10) Dollywood

Ready to have some fun?  Check out Dollywood, which is a family theme park owned by Dolly Parton. Featuring more than 50 rides, Dollywood was voted the #1 theme park in the United States in 2022 by Tripadvisor. 

During the holidays, explore the beautiful decorations and winter wonderland with more than 6 million twinkling lights at their Smoky Mountain Christmas. 

In the spring, join them for the Flower & Food Festival between April 21 through June 11 in 2023.  They also have a summer celebration and a Harvest Festival.  You will find fun for all ages here.  

Tickets start at $89 for 1-day access for ages 10+.  Under 10 and Seniors 62+ start at $79.

Address: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Dollywood Train
scmikeburton CC BY-ND 2.0

11) The Island in Pigeon Forge

The Island is a destination where you can come to find places to eat, shop, and play.  You will find many restaurants, over 40 retail stores, and loads of fun like an arcade, bumper cars, laser tag, amusement park rides, a carousel, The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, and more! 

You can purchase an unlimited rides pass which is good for 48-hrs, and you can ride everything as many times as you want for 2 days.  Tickets start at $35 and you can add on the ropes course for an additional $10.  

Address: 131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Ferris Wheel

12) Ole Smoky Tennessee Distillery

The Ole Smoky Tennessee Distillery is a corn whiskey distillery located on The Island where you can try some moonshine and whiskey. 

They have several locations, including two in Gatlinburg as well where they provide tours.  They are dog friendly and family-friendly.   They even have moonshine pickles, cherries, peaches, and pineapples.  

Address: 131 The Island Drive, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Knoxville to Asheville 40 of the Best Stops along the way
nick.amoscato CC BY 2.0

13) Titanic Museum Attraction

Explore this 2-story museum shaped just like the Titanic.  The ship was built at half-scale of the original ship, and you will find almost 400 artifacts here.  Experience what it was like to walk the hallways, the Grand Staircase, the parlors, and the cabins. 

Even feel what 28-degree water feels like and touch an iceberg.  As you board, you will receive a pass that was similar to an actual passenger or crew on the ship. 

You will then discover your fate in the memorial room, where you will see a historic wall with 2,208 names on it.  

Address: 2134 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863


14) Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster

Ride the first mountain coaster built in the Smoky Mountains.  It’s the longest downhill track in the United States and can go at a maximum speed of about 27 mph.  They are open year-round, even during rain and snow. 

The vehicles can hold two people comfortably but can also be ridden solo as well.  You control the speed with a braking system.  It takes, on average, about 7-8 minutes to cover the mile-long track.  

Address: 867 Wears Valley Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Gatlinburg TN

15) Emerts Cove Covered Bridge

Yet another covered bridge on our list!  Emerts Cove Covered Bridge is about 10-12 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg.  You can drive across this bridge, too; please note this is not a historic bridge like the Harrisburg one above. 

It was constructed in 2000 in honor of Frederick Emert, one of the area’s first settlers.  You will find the bridge at the intersection of Hills Creek Road and Price Cove Road.  It’s still a beautiful site to see, even though it’s not a historic site.

Emerts Cove Covered Bridge

16) Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Stop by to visit the country’s most visited National Park.  Here the Appalachian Trail passes through the center of the park, which runs from Georgia all the way to Maine. 

You will also find the highest mountains on the east coast of North America within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  

Roaring Fork Motor Trail

17) Roaring Fork Motor Trail

This is not your normal trail; you actually drive this one!  Enjoy the 5.5-mile-long, one-way loop that winds through old forest and beautiful scenery.  You will come across mountain streams, old log cabins, and gristmills.  This road is closed during the winter. 

To access the motor trail, it’s located just past the parking area for Rainbow Falls.  Along the route, you will come across the trailhead for Grotto Falls, which is one of the most popular falls within the park.  As well as the waterfall called The Place of a Thousand Drips, which is best viewed during the rainy seasons.  

Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls

18) Gatlinburg SkyLift Park / SkyBridge

Get transported to the top of Crockett Mountain from downtown Gatlinburg to 1,800 ft above sea level.  Explore the SkyTrail, and then time to conquer the SkyBridge! 

Test your fear of heights with the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America, which is 1,800 ft above sea level.  The bridge stretches longer than 2 football fields which is almost 700 ft.  Take your time and take in the incredible views that will leave lasting memories.  In the middle of the bridge, you will cross 30 ft of see-through glass.  The path is about 5 ft wide.  

Tickets start at $18.95 for ages 4-11, over 12 yrs old start at 32.95.  You can also purchase online and sky the line, they will also give you unlimited visits for that day of your visit too.  

Address: 765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738


19) Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum

Want to come to see more than 20K pairs of salt and pepper shakers from all around the world, this is your place!  See the changes in the shakers over the years, dating all the way back to the 1500s.  You will find numerous themes and colors throughout.  

Tickets are $3 per adult and also go towards any purchase in their gift shop.  12 and under are free.

Address: 461 Brookside Village Way Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Knoxville to Asheville 40 of the Best Stops along the way
Aludden1 CC BY-SA 4.0

20) Gatlinburg Space Needle

Explore the 407 ft tall observation tower, it’s about a 2 min walk from the SkyLift Park. They have 2 glass elevators to ride to the top, where you can see a 360-degree view of the amazing Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg.  They are open year-round.  

Tickets start at $9.95 for children between the ages of 4-11, and 12 and up start at $15.95.

Address: 115 Historic Nature Trail Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Gatlinburg Space Needle

21) CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains – Zipline Tour

Would you like to soar high above the trees? CLIMB Works offers a dual-line zipline tour.  Along the tour, you can zip down 6 different lines, walk across four aerial bridges and even rappel off a platform. 

Take an ATV ride to the top of the mountain for your 2-hour tour. Water is provided.  You must be 7 yrs or older, and the maximum weight allowed is around 250-270 lbs.  

Tours start at $99.95 per person. 

Address: 155 Branam Hollow Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

22) Gatlinburg Trail Trailhead

One of the only two dog-friendly trails in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this is a wooded 3.8-mile out-and-back trail.  It’s a flat trail and runs along the Little Pigeon River.   

The trail starts at Sugarland’s Visitor Center and goes to the City of Gatlinburg, it will take you about 45 minutes to walk in each direction.  Please note bears are in the area.  

Gatlinburg TN Trail

23) Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

This is a popular roadside overlook, giving you great views of downtown Gatlinburg. It’s located on the Gatlinburg Bypass, which is open 24 hrs a day and year-round except in inclement weather.  

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

24) Moonshine Mountain Coaster

Another alpine coaster!  This is a newer coaster and you can choose from single or double cars.  Speeds can get up to 30 mph and you can control it.  The total length is about 3000 ft and about 5 minutes long to ride. 

Children as young as 3 yrs old and 38” tall can ride with an adult.  They are located right on the Parkway in Gatlinburg.  

Tickets start at $5 for kids and $17 for ages 13+ when you purchase online.

Address: 306 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

25) Sugarlands Distilling Company

There is no lack of moonshine in the Appalachian Mountains.  Here at Sugarlands, you can come sample some of their award-winning spirits.  They also offer behind-the-scenes tours and workshops.  They are open daily except for Christmas Day.  

Tasting fees start at $5 per person, and you will receive a voucher to use towards any in-store purchase.  Tours start at $12 per person, and you can book online.  

Address: 805 Parkway Gatlinburg, TN 37738


26) Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Explore over 10,000 sea creatures in 10 themed galleries.  Here you will see sharks, penguins, turtles, a glass-bottom boat adventure, coral reefs, live dive shows, and so much more!  They are open 365 days a year.

Tickets start at $9.99 for children between 2-5, children 6-11 are $24.99, and 12+ start at 39.99.  They also offer combo passes to combine attractions in the area.  

Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Knoxville to Asheville 40 of the Best Stops along the way (aka Brent) CC BY 2.0

27) Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Area

Enjoy four seasons of fun. In the winter, you will find snow skiing, snow tubing, and snowboarding. In the summer months, you will find a mountain coaster, summer tubing, alpine slides, water rides, and more! 

You can take their aerial tramway to access from downtown, which transports you 2.1 miles, located at 1001 Parkway.  You can also drive but it can be closed due to inclement weather and during the winter, it’s only open to 4×4 vehicles and/or chains.  Parking is also limited. 

Address: 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738   

28) Hollywood Star Cars Museum

Do you love cars?  Explore some of the best Hollywood film cars, including the General Lee, Fast and Furious Collection, and the 1966 Batmobile.  They have over 40 vehicles from different movies and television. 

They also have vehicles that were driven by celebrities, including Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and more!

Tickets start at $8.99 for ages 6-12, and 12+ start at $14.99; purchase online for better pricing.  

Address: 914 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Fast Car

Hartford TN

29) Wildwater Pigeon Rafting and Zipline Canopy Tours

Enjoy whitewater rafting or zipline tours.  Their zipline tour actually soars over the Big Pigeon River and offers dual ziplines.  They offer two whitewater rafting options, one on the lower Pigeon River and one on the upper Pigeon River. 

The upper is a half-day trip and is great for novices and families.  The lower is ideal for a first rafting experience, and the age limit is as low as 4 yrs old.  

Address: 3555 Hartford Rd, Hartford, TN 37753

Whitewater Rafting

30) Smoky Mountain Outdoors (SMO) Rafting

Experience whitewater rafting with options for both the upper river and lower river.  You can also add on and do zipline adventures too, which include 9 ziplines, 3 sky bridges, and a 4-wheel drive adventure.  

Address: 3299 Hartford Rd, Hartford, TN 37753


31) Smoky Mountain River Rat Whitewater Rafting

Have fun on a guided whitewater rafting expedition on the Pigeon River.  They also offer rafting on both the lower and upper pigeon river regions. 

At their Townsend, TN location, you can choose river tubing and enjoy a more relaxing experience as you tube down Little River.  

Address: 3630 Hartford Rd, Hartford, TN 37753

Whitewater Rafting

32) Raft Outdoor Adventures

Here you will find two options for whitewater rafting like the above locations, both upper and lower Pigeon River.  The upper Pigeon is recommended for ages 8 and up. 

The lower Pigeon is good for ages 3 and up.  Along the way, you will be able to swim as well in some of the calm water locations.  

Address: 3635 Trail Hollow Rd, Hartford, TN 37753

Cosby TN

33) Foothills Parkway East Overlooks

Along the Foothills Pkwy, you will come across many overlooks you can get out and view.  From Gatlinburg, follow the parkway, which will lead you back to I-40.  If you are coming directly from Knoxville, take exit 443 for the Foothills Pkwy.

Foothills Parkway Scenic Overlook

34) Smoky Mountain Llama Treks

A little off the path, but who wouldn’t want to go hiking with some llamas?  Great for ages 5 and up!  Each hiker gets their own llama trail buddy.  You can choose from several different trails.  Don’t feel like hiking, stop by for a meet and greet! 

Farm-only visits start at $14 and up, and hiking starts at $5 and up.  

Address: 640 Padgett Mill Rd, Cosby, TN 37722


Waynesville NC

35) North Carolina Welcome Center, Eastbound

If you need to get out and stretch your legs or use the restroom, this is a fantastic rest stop along I-40 heading eastbound.  Located around mile marker 10. 

The visitors center is open daily between 8 am and 5 pm and closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. 

They have vending machines and parking to accommodate cars and RVs.  Make sure to check out their scenic overlook as well.   

Welcome to NC sign

36) Haywood Rest Area

If you are heading westbound on I-40, you can stop off at this nice rest stop, also located near mile marker 10.  They have restrooms and picnic tables.   

Asheville NC

37) Biltmore Estate

Explore America’s largest home, which has 250 rooms.  You can enjoy the beautiful home and estate that sits on 8,000 acres.  The Biltmore home has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.

They have beautiful gardens, a winery, shopping, dining, hiking trails, and more!  This home is breathtaking and amazing to see in person. 

You can visit Antler Hill Village, which is home to their winery and Farm.  They also have two hotels onsite, the Inn at Biltmore Estate and Village Hotel.  

Tickets start at $69 per adult when purchased online.  Kids 9 and under are free.  

Address: One Lodge Street Asheville, NC 28803

Biltmore Estate

38) River Arts District

Do you love art?  Visit the River Arts District, otherwise known as RAD.  It’s located along the French Broad River, and you’ll find many warehouses with colorful murals.  Lots of art galleries and a fantastic dining and nightlife scene. 

There are free walking tours, electric bike tours, and more.  Just down the road, you will find 12 Bones Smokehouse, which is a very popular spot for Asheville BBQ.   

39) The North Carolina Arboretum

Explore the beautiful arboretum and botanical garden on this 434-acre property.  Here you will find hiking and biking trails and several permanent garden exhibits like the Bonsai Exhibition Garden, wildflowers, and pollinators in the landscape between April and October. 

They have more than 65 acres of cultivated gardens.  During the winter months, make sure to check out their Winter Lights that happen mid-November through December.

Admission is per vehicle during normal operation (Winter Lights are additional).  The parking admission starts at $16 per vehicle.  

Asheville Arboretum

40) Asheville Breweries

Asheville NC has the most breweries per capita in the US.  So we had to add this to our list.  Each brewery is unique and you’ll just have to explore them to see. 

You will also find the oldest brewery in Asheville, Highland Brewing Company which was started back in 1994 by Oscar Wong. 

Today you will find more than 40 breweries in Asheville NC.  You’ll find many great spots to relax after your travels from Knoxville and Asheville. Make sure to check out our article on things to do in Asheville NC.

Asheville NC

How far is Asheville nc to Knoxville nc?

If you drive directly between Asheville and Knoxville on I-40, the distance is about 116 miles and will take you just under 2 hrs with no stops.

Final Thoughts

There are so many fun places to stop between Knoxville and Asheville. You could make it a several-day trip if you would like. The mountains are gorgeous, take in all their beauty and remember to leave no trace. Keep nature beautiful and pick up after yourself.

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