The Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has recently received State Scenic Byway designation by both the States of North Carolina and Tennessee. Newfound Gap Road (US 441), stretching 34 miles between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, is a principle roadway that completely transverses the Park leading to the highest elevations.
Separate nominations were submitted to the states’ departments of transportation highlighting the road’s outstanding scenic, natural, historic, recreational and cultural values. These elements are intrinsic features that contribute to the character of the Newfound Gap Road, providing visitors with a leisurely motoring experience through scenic mountainous environments.
“Tennessee roadways travel through some of the most beautiful areas of our state,” said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. “The Scenic Byway designation draws attention to these roadways and gives drivers the opportunity to skip the interstate and explore a little more of Tennessee’s natural beauty.”
In a press release issued by the North Carolina Department of Transportation Conrad Burrell, who represents the Swain County Highway Division, said, “This route was an ideal candidate for the Scenic Byways program. It provides motorists the chance to experience beautiful mountain views, diversity of plant and animal life and remnants of the South Appalachians.”
Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said Park Service was extremely pleased that the two states sought this noteworthy designation indicating the importance of the roadway to the surrounding communities. “The road allows visitors and residents from North Carolina or Tennessee to access the other side of the Park with ease, without having to travel around the mountain ridge. It is also an important first step in applying for National Scenic Byway designation through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA),” he said.
Under the program, Newfound Gap Road would become part of a distinctive collection of American roads and eligible to compete for grants to fund different road projects. Designation as a State Scenic Byway or a National Scenic Byway makes the route eligible for grants through the FHWA for such projects as: roadway enhancements, recreation facility improvements, road shoulder improvements, and vista clearing/maintenance projects. In addition, funding could be used for protection of historical,archeological and cultural resources along the road and in areas adjacent to the road.