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Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Curridabat, Costa...
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Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Hello all! I'm coming down to the Smokies this Monday, the 19th. My favorite place in the whole park has always been the Cades Cove loop.. so I was pleasantly surprised to find out there are two more roads that dissect off of the loop.. Rich Mountain and Parson's Branch(I can't believe I never saw signs for them). My question to anyone who might know is which one of these roads would be a nicer, prettier drive in Mid-March?

I realize that a lot of the trees and foliage will still be brown and not yet in blossom.. so despite this, which drive would you rather go on this time of year?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

Chattanooga...
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1. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

A call to the NPS might be in order, especially regarding Parson's Branch Road. Their website says it's supposed to have opened back on March 9, but spring clean-up on that road can often take a while. At the least, I would expect it to be quite muddy in spots, particularly in the early going.

As far as the beauty of the two roads, Parson's Branch is strictly deep woods, with no scenic vistas at all; there is a lot of nice creekside (and creek-crossing) driving out past Sam's Gap. It is a nice drive, but you do realize that Parson's Branch will bring you out of the park at a point where you'll have a long drive to get back to wherever you need to be?

Rich Mtn Road is a much easier drive, will offer views, and will bring you out down in Townsend.

Curridabat, Costa...
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2. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Thanks for the tips, smokies_hiker! Yes.. Parson's Branch requires about a 1 1/2 hr drive back along 129/Foothills/321.. but I suppose that would be half of the fun!

Regardless.. it does look like it will be fairly rainy the two days before I get there, so perhaps it'd be easier on my Civic to do Rich Mtn. Road. Even without any leaves, can I except it to be a pretty nice drive this time of year?

Mississippi
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3. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Keep in mind, there has been a rock slide at the TN/NC border on 129.

knoxnews.com/news/…

If I were going to choose one, it would be Rich Mountain Rd. Only made that drive in the fall, and it was nice. There are a few really nice vistas. The road might be a bit rough after the winter, so be sure to stop and ask at either a visitor center or ranger station...good idea to take it slowly in any season.

While the trees might not be filled out, I suspect many will already be blooming, as well as some wildflowers.

Greenville, Ohio
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4. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Rich Mountain road is one of my favorite drives...there is little to no traffic...there is a spot that gives you an incredible view of Cades Cove and... everytime I have been on it I have seen bears!! :-)

Townsend, Tennessee
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for Townsend, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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5. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Both roads - Rich Mtn and Parsons opened March 9 this year. Given closure of the Hwy 129 (Dragon) and likelihood for muddy conditions at Forge Creek (on Parsons Branch), Rich Mountain would be a better choice this time of year. Leaves are just starting to emerge and wildflowers starting to bloom - should be a nice drive.

Curridabat, Costa...
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6. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Rich Mountain Road it is! Thanks everyone for your input. I wish Maggie's Cafe wasn't being renovated at the moment.. sounds like a good place to stop for lunch once I reach Townsend.

Paris, Tn
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for Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge
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7. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

This hasn't been mentioned yet but there's quite a section of Parsons Branch road that shouldn't be considered much more than a rouch trail-like road. Top speed is 8 mph. We made this journey two years ago, and the trail got so jolting I was beginning to fear I was going to throw out the front alignment on our Cherokee. Plus, there were a few spots where my wife and I thought we were about to lose control of our bladders. As stated by an earlier poster there are a few nice little creek unoffs. After finishing this jaunt, we sort of had a "we conquered it" feeling. But, all things considerd, we're glad we drove Parson's Branch.

On the other hand, Rich mountain Rd is a constant, one way upward spiraling gravel road. Much more pleasent a drive and much nicer views of the cove. With many many spots to pull over and photograph.

Ray

Curridabat, Costa...
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8. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Turns out Parson's Branch was closed anyhow. Drove Rich Mtn at dusk and it was a beautiful drive! Only saw one other car and got some amazing pictures of Cades Cove. Thanks to everyone who offered advice.

Greenville, Ohio
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9. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Sounds great....will be down there in just over a week....looking forward to driving it again!! :-)

Indiana
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10. Re: Rich Mtn Road or Parson's Branch Road in Mid-March?

Just returned from the Smokies and I have to say Parson's Branch road was possibly the highlight of our trip. It was a beautiful, scenic and peaceful drive. Yes the road is quite bumpy and there were a few rough spots and quite a few stream crossings, but that's what made it such a neat drive. We were in a small car (Mazda 3), we did go very slow and did not have a problem. We truly felt like we were the only ones in the park that day! We never saw another vehicle. At the end of Parson's branch we turned right. The road followed along a lake where we stopped to picnic. It was also a very scenic drive. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we took it again the next day!