By Mike Steely
If you’d like to rise far above the increasing hustle and bustle of our area there are many overlooks around that are easy to drive to and safe to visit. Getting away for a Sunday or any day and taking the family along can be an exciting and visually pleasing adventure.
When someone in your family shouts “Road Trip” that’s the time to take a look around and find one or two overlooks you can easily visit. Some are very close to Knoxville and give you a great view of the city and the surrounding mountains. It’s also cooler atop the peaks than in the hot valleys below. You might want to take a picnic lunch and make it a dine-out with nature venture.
Sharp’s Ridge in town is a quick adventure and the overlook there offers a splendid view of the city and the Smoky Mountains to the southeast. Getting to the overlook is a simple matter of traveling down Broadway from I-640 and turning up Ludlow Avenue. That becomes Sharps Ridge Road.
Look Rock, one of the least visited overlooks, is located on the western prong of the Foothills Parkway just beyond Walland off Highway 321. The road tops the peak there and offers several pull off spots on both sides so you can look north or south. The “Look Rock” is a viewing area far down the parkway that juts out from the mountain and gives a great view of the Smoky Mountains in the distance over a wide valley.
The parkway going east, off Highway 321, has been closed for years because it had not been completed. Eventually it will stretch to Cosby. Later this year that spur is promised to open from Walland to Wears Valley, an 18-mile stretch that cost about $178 million and includes nine bridges along a two-mile stretch of that road.
Other nearby overlooks include House Mountain in Corryton, Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountain National Park, McCloud Mountain north of LaFollette, the Pinnacle Overlook in Cumberland Gap National Park, and the Clinch Mountain overlook between Tazewell and Bean Station.
The Cherohala Parkway begins just southeast of Townsend and is a popular place for overlooks especially for motorcycle riders. Lover’s Leap at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga is fantastic and there is also Chilhowee Overlook near Benton. Roan Mountain in extreme east Tennessee, south of Elizabethton on Highway 19E, is unique for the views and the top is basically bald with lots of laurel bushes.
Stopping at an overlook for mountain landscape or family pictures is great. If possible you might want to also plan a side trip to some of the inexpensive or free places and events going on during your outing. For instance, if you plan to go to Look Rock you might also drive over to Townsend and take in the museum and gift shop there. You could continue on to Cades Cove to picnic or drive the loop there to hope to see bears, dear, turkeys and other wildlife.
Getting away from home and work, with our without the kids or grandkids, can help free your mind of the clutter you accumulate at work or at home.