Inside the Park
Unfortunately, options are lacking for cyclists in the Smokies. There are no mountain-biking tracks in the park, and bikes are not allowed on most trails. The exception are these three short, flat trails: the Gatlinburg Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail and the lower Deep Creek Trail.
Cycling on the park roads is permitted but not recommended – even if you're a big fan of hills. The roads through the park are narrow, and with often heavy traffic to contend with, it's simply too dangerous to realistically consider.
One notable exception is the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Rd, which closes to motor vehicles from sunrise to 10am on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from early May until late September. Bikes are available for hire from the Cades Cove Campground store.
The landlocked Smoky Mountains are a challenging destination for boaters. About the only waterside transport near the park is at Fontana Village Resort, which offers one-way and round-trip boat transport across the lake for those seeking pristine trout-fishing spots and remote hiking trails. Contact the marina.
Bus & Shuttle
There's no public transportation within the park. A handful of shuttle companies offer private transport inside the park. The following outfits can take you to, or pick you up from, trailheads or transport you from lodging outside the park to in-park destinations. You'll need to reserve in advance.
Car & Motorcycle
- American Automobile Association (www.aaa.com) Along with maps and trip-planning information, AAA members also receive discounts on car rentals, air tickets, hotels and attractions, plus emergency roadside service and towing. It has reciprocal agreements with international automobile associations such as CAA in Canada – be sure to bring your membership card from your country of origin.
- Better World Club (www.betterworldclub.com) This ecofriendly association supports environmental causes in addition to offering emergency roadside assistance for drivers and cyclists, discounts on vehicle rentals (including hybrids and biodiesels) and auto insurance.
Tennessee and North Carolina recognize foreign drivers' licenses and do not require an International Driving Permit (IDP). However, an IDP, obtained in your home country, is recommended if your country of origin is a non-English-speaking one.
Some car-rental agencies require an IDP, so be sure to ask in advance.
Liability insurance covers people and property that you might hit. For damage to the rental vehicle, a collision damage waiver is available for about $20 per day. Collision coverage on your vehicle at home may also cover damage to rental cars – check your policy before leaving home. Some credit cards offer reimbursement coverage for collision damage if you rent the car with that credit card.
Most rental companies stipulate that damage a car sustains while driven on unpaved roads is not covered by the insurance they offer. Check with the agent when you make your reservation.
You'll find ample parking at visitor centers and at popular trailheads. However, these often overflow in the summertime, so go early to get a spot.
Throughout the US, cars drive on the right side of the road. Apart from that, road rules differ slightly from state to state, but all require the use of safety belts as well as the proper use of child safety seats for children under the age of five.
Speed limits vary. The maximum interstate speed limit in Tennessee and North Carolina is 70mph, although interstate speeds can drop to 55mph in urban areas. On two-lane highways, the speed limit is 55mph unless otherwise posted; on mountain roads it's 45mph unless otherwise posted. If you are pulled over by the police, do not get out of your car. Collect your license and other documents and wait for the officer to come to you.
Pay attention to livestock- or deer-crossing signs – tangle with a deer, cow or elk and you’ll total your car in addition to killing the critter. You can incur stiff fines, jail time and other penalties if caught driving under the influence of alcohol.