Great Smoky Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/grsm) contains more than 380 miles of road thatll take you to its most popular places. In recent years, 9 million or so visitors annually visit the 800-square-mile expanse that straddles the N.C. -Tennessee line.
Cades C ove: The Mountain-edged valley in western portion of park held a same-name settlement, and a variety of structures churches, a working grist mill, barns, houses, etc. have been restored. Wildlife, from skunk to deer, is abundant. Downside: Its chronically overrun with tourists.
Cataloochee Valley: A bit less visited than Cades Cove, its also flush with preserved buildings from pre-park settlement. Keep your eyes peeled for elk. Popular with hikers is the seven-mile Boogerman Trail, a loop through an old-growth forest.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: Drive this six-mile narrow, winding stretch for forest scenery dotted with historic buildings and alongside waterfalls and streams. Its near Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Balsam Mountain Road: The 14-mile ridgeline road southwest of Cataloochee Valley and northeast of the Cherokee Reservation is often described as a hiking trail for cars. Access it via Heintooga Road from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The road to Newfound Gap: You drive 33 miles through forests that gradually change from hardwood to evergreen. It follows a generally northwest direction from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, at Cherokee (the best place to access it). Its mid-section is somewhat parallel to the Boulevard Trail, a 5.5-mile hikers delight that runs from the Appalachian Trail northwest to Mount LeConte. From the Gap, you can hike to Clingmans Dome (6,643-feet).
Mount LeConte: It may be the third-highest peak in the park (6,593 feet), but the draw is the famed hike-in LeConte Lodge (www.leconte-lodge.com), which is usually fully booked eight months to a year in advance. Reservations for 2013 open at 8 p.m. Oct. 1. Good luck.
Trillium Gap Trail: There are 800 miles of trails in the park, and the various trails all have their pluses. On this one you can hear underground streams coursing through the rocks. You may also see llamas hauling supplies to LeConte Lodge.