Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

by JP on May.12, 2009, under Outdoor Travel, Tennessee Hiking Trails

Gatlinburg, TN

Distance: 6 mile automotive loop

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail provides a very nearby opportunity to visitors of Gatlinburg to get out of downtown and see the Smoky Mountains as they were 100 years ago. This motor nature trail brings visitors to numerous historic cabins, beautiful overlooks, and deep into old growth forests and mountain streams while climbing up and down Piney Mountain. Visitors are likely to see Wild Turkey, While Tail Deer, and Black Bear among other fauna along the loop. No RV’s or other large vehicles should attempt to drive this narrow road.

Roaring Fork

Although the trail to Roaring Fork does not begin just outside of town, the history begins there. Roaring Fork was once the site of a small mountain community, and travelers will be able to walk up to three families in the community’s former homes (the Bales, Ogles, and Regans).  One mile from the Ripley’s Believe it or Not, on Cherry Orchard Road, the Ogle Farm, built in 1879, is located on the right. I have seen black bear wandering around this cabin on numerous trips to Roaring Fork, but unfortunately not so on the last trip (be sure not to be stupid like other tourist I have seen, and approach these bears).

Continue along Cherry Orchard until you see a sign to the right that warns of a “Very Crooked, Narrow One Way Road.” Take this road to begin the official part of the 5.1 mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Following along the Motor Trail, one will see several fantastic hiking trails that I will address on an individual basis later. Visitors will also notice a signs with numbers on them. These signs correspond to tour guide book that can be located in the visitors center, or to the left of the first marker (#1) for $0.50.

#2 marker indicates the location of a variety of tree species including the hemlock, tulip, and birch trees.

Roaring Fork

Marker #3 offers my second favorite view in across the Great Smoky Mountains in Roaring Fork. My favorite is just around the next two bends.

Roaring Fork

Marker #5 is located at the trail head to Grotto Falls.

Roaring Fork

Bales’ Place

Jim and Ephraim Bales and his family farmed this area ibeginning in the 1830’s. Jim even married into the family of the first cabin seen at this beginning of this journey when he married Emma Ogle. While these buildings are not the originals Jim lived in, they were built during the same period, and moved here by the park service to demonstrate the type of home that would have been located here.

Roaring Fork

Alfred Reagan Mill and Homestead:

The Reagans were likely the first Europeans to establish a farm in the Roaring Fork area, and Alfred Reagan and his brothers continued their lineage in the community with farming, milling, and even running a small general store at one time. Reagan’s tub mill, and brightly colored home can be seen

Roaring Fork Roaring Fork

The trails name sake can be seen throughout the drive, but visitors get a few closeups, like the shot below as the trail begins to descend back down the mountain, and cross several narrow bridges.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail finishes its loop a wonderfully named waterfall that drops right alongside the road. Go after a rain to see the “Place of 1000 Drips.” The photo does not do this area justice, as one can see water creeping and falling out of every rock crevice.

Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork

Trails located in/adjacent to Roaring Fork

Grotto Falls -1.2 mile one way

Trillum Gap - 6.5 mile one way to Mt. LeConte

Rainbow Falls - 2.8 miles to Rainbow Falls, 6.7 miles to Mt. LeConte


1. From Gatlinburg, Turn right at Light # 8.

2. Continue along road, and stay right at fork along Cherry Orchard Road.

3. Continue past Ogle Farm on the right until a sign indicating the beginning of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and warning of a “Very Crooked, Narrow One Way Road.”

4. After completing the loop, turn left onto 321 to return to Gatlinburg.

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