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Heintooga Round Bottom Road

Heintooga Round Bottom Road is rugged and remote 14 mile and mostly one way gravel road that weaves its way down to into Cherokee North Carolina.  The road offers views of pristine forest, wildflowers, wildlife, and creeks.  You'll drive through and along side often untraveled areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Heintooga Round Bottom Road - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

For those of you who feel adventurous, or those just looking for that "off the beaten path" scenic drive through the mountains, Heintooga Round Bottom Road might be just what you're looking for.  The road is rough, remote, incredible scenic, and long.

With that being said, rough might not do it justice. Heintooga Round Bottom Road is a real rough and rustic mountain road, and one not intended for the casual driver or casual vehicle.

While probably drivable in a normal car in optimal weather, we would definitely recommend driving this road in at least a 2-wheel drive SUV with some ground clearance, or preferably a 4x4.  

We've driven this road a few times, and always in our Jeep Wrangler. We've never had to use 4-wheel drive, but the extra ground clearance and stiffer suspension was really helpful.

We don't say all of this to discourage you, but we just want you to fully understand what this road really is. The road and surrounding mountains are beautiful and fascinating. We'll take this road over any of the normal and highly traveled roads.

Directions to Heintooga Round Bottom Road

Heintooga Round Bottom Road is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Maggie Valley NC. Coming down the Parkway, towards Cherokee, turn right on Heintooga/Balsam Mountain Road at Milepost 458.2. The entrance will be obvious. Just look for the 3 separate entry ways going into the entrance.

Follow this 9 mile long paved road all the way to the end, where you will reach a large cul-du-sac and a picnic area.  You'll see the narrow gravel, and clearly marked Heintooga Round Bottom Road straight ahead of you (shown in the photo above).

Heintooga/Balsam Mountain Road are usually open from late May through October. They can close during at anytime though due to fallen trees or severe weather.

You can check the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway pages for closure information.

Heintooga Round Bottom Road - What you'll see

As you begin your drive, you'll notice almost immediately how the forest closes in around you. Through the entire drive, you see nothing but untouched, pristine and raw forest. The forest and wildflowers extend right up next to your vehicle as you slowly weave your way down from 5,535 feet to below 2,000 feet in Cherokee.

The road is narrow, but one way, so you don't have to worry about oncoming traffic until far later in the drive. There are plenty of pull overs as well, so you can stop and take photos. When the road turns to two-way traffic, there are signs clearly showing this.

There are no major scenic attractions as you wind down Heintooga Round Bottom Road. Instead, pay attention to the small things, like the little waterfalls along the trails, created as water cascades down the small rock faces. Pay attention to the variety of wildflowers, and look out for wildlife, including Black Bears, elk, and deer that are in this area.

The last third of the drive is our favorite, and you'll travel alongside a small creek that grows as you descend the mountain, eventually crossing a large bridge. You'll run across several trailheads as well, to trails into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including a trial into Cataloochee Valley.

Heintooga Ridge Road Bridge

If you stop and park before crossing the bridge, on your left and up in the woods, are two small waterfalls. You can hear them from the road. They aren't very photogenic, but worth the short walk to see them.

You can access the creek and the area under the bridge from this side as well. You can also drive across the bridge and access the creek from there as well.

Before they built the bridge, people used to drive through the water to cross the creek. It's too bad you can't do that anymore!

Heintooge Ridge Road - Below the Bridge

Below the bridge

From this bridge out to Big Cove Road is the most photographic area of the drive. You'll travel alongside the creek, which is full of small waterfalls and cascades. The photographic spots are endless, and the creek and surrounding woods are just gorgeous.

Heintooga Ridge Road

One of the many small cascades along the creek

You'll also pass by a small horse camp, and often see horses in this area, along with other families and people camping on the in the surrounding primitive campsites in the area.

Heintooga Ridge Road Along the Creek

You'll exit the area onto Big Cove Road, in Cherokee and pass the Cherokee Trout Farm. Turn left to head to downtown Cherokee. Be sure and stop by Mingo Falls on your way by.

Wrapping Up

The drive down Heintooga Round Bottom Road is wonderful and provides a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle often found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If you aren't worried about being away from people, and have the right vehicle, this is the perfect scenic and remote drive.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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