Children playing in a field with a view of the smoky mountains.

A Sunday Drive Along the Sunny Side Trail

A tour through scenic mountain landscapes and eclectic small towns along the Sunny Side Trail.

The Sunny Side Trail starts at the foot of the Smoky Mountains and heads northeast up through the Tennessee Valley. Following it on its course and stopping along its 179 listed stops will bring you on a tour through a scenic mountain landscape filled with eclectic small towns, roadside attractions and the history of the early years of settlement and statehood. After all, they don't call it the Early Country Trail for nothing.

The Sunny Side Trail begins on the courthouse lawn in Sevierville, where the town's homegrown celebrity - Miss Dolly Parton - is commemorated in bronze. Dolly was only 13 years old when she first performed on the stage of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry in 1959, where she was introduced by none other than Johnny Cash. Since then, her fame and talent have rocketed to international stardom, but she never forgot that little town at the foot of the Smoky Mountains.

She became an influential booster of Sevier County's economy, culminating in Dollywood, the renowned theme park bearing her name in Pigeon Forge. All up and down US-441 - or simply, "the Parkway" - from Sevierville down to the resort city of Gatlinburg, there are around 30 Sunny Side stops. Highlights include the McMahon Indian Mound, the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant, the Old Mill Historic District and Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery.


Here, on the Sunny Side Trail, are two entrances into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One is right on the other side of Gatlinburg, the other - the Greenbriar Entrance - is just up US-321 at Pittman Center. You could choose to go through just one, but why? Established as a National Park in 1934, there are more than 800 square miles of preserved Appalachian wilderness, filled with rugged mountain peaks, ancient wooded slopes, clearwater streams, elk, black bear, preserved homesteads, churches and other buildings - including Emerts Cove Covered Bridge - from pioneer settlers, as well as an incredible array of stunning waterfalls. You can also check out the waterfalls of East Tennessee.


North of Pittman Center on US-321, you'll find the small town of Cosby, considered by some to have been "the Moonshine Capital of the World" during Prohibition on through the end of WWII. Once in Cosby, look for signs for the Foothills Parkway, Tennessee's oldest uncompleted road. Paralleling the mountain ranges of the park, this road climbs to incredible heights where vistas climb, that some folks didn't know were available to see from a car. Take it all the way to where it terminates at I-40 where you can either head west back toward Sevierville and Knoxville, continue further on Tennessee's scenic Sunny Side Trail.

My travels along the Sunny Side Trail will continue. Until then, make your travel plans at

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