Photo by Victoria Stamey / Little River Canyon National Preserve in Northeast Alabama.

In this region, you don't have to go far to see something unique and wonderful. Some of the prettiest sights to see in Appalachia are a short drive away. There's something nostalgic about a scenic drive - traveling the outdoors from the comfort of your car, packing a picnic, stopping to take in the view.

Read on for a roundup of our favorite scenic drives in the tri-state region.

Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway

60 miles along Tennessee Highway 28

This 60-mile scenic byway between Walden's Ridge and Cumberland Plateau winds through bucolic farmland interspersed with charming towns with brick main streets, mom-and-pop shops and delicious restaurants serving up classic Southern comfort food.

Though the drive is lovely enough, recreationists can find other ways to explore, such as cycling, geocaching and even hang-gliding. Steeped in history, the idyllic farmland of the Sequatchie Valley is a must-see. From Cherokee Nation tribal lands to Civil War conflicts, and moonshiners, there is a story around every corner.

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Scenic Drive of Little River Canyon National Preserve

11 miles along Alabama Highway 176

If you're looking for true nature immersion, don't miss the stunning scenery of Little River Canyon National Preserve near Fort Payne, Alabama. This southern section of Lookout Mountain is the true gateway to Appalachia. A scenic drive along Alabama Highway 176 traces the rim of the canyon through lush forests opening onto stunning views of coves and waterfalls.

Bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the beautiful viewpoints, and stop for a photograph with the distinctive Mushroom Rock that appears to grow out of the road.

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Ocoee Scenic Byway

26 miles along U.S. Highway 64

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Photo by Bob Butters / A stunning mountain lake view from Chilhowee Recreation Area on Ocoee Scenic Byway.

Following the winding rapids of the beautiful Ocoee River, this drive is a classic. The site of the whitewater canoe and kayak events of the 1996 Olympics, the river is a world-class destination for whitewater boating. Sadly, the distinctive Ocoee Whitewater Center, a popular roadside stop that housed trail maps and area information, burned to the ground in April 2022.

Begin your scenic drive in Cleveland, Tennessee, or McCaysville, Georgia, and be sure to take the 7-mile spur, Forest Road 77, to the Chilhowee Recreation Area to take in long-range views of the Tennessee Valley, Cumberland Mountains and the mountains of Georgia.


Your guide to summer adventure

Plan your day trips in Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama using Thrive's Watershed Moment Map. Contact Thrive Regional Partnership for a copy at

When you go

Please remember to enjoy the region's natural places respectfully and responsibly. Keep in mind the Leave No Trace principles such as:

1. Plan ahead and prepare: Check the weather and bring a map.

2. Dispose of waste properly: Do not leave trash or leftover food.

3. Leave what you find: Examine and appreciate, but do not take cultural or natural objects.

4. Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance.

5. Be considerate of other visitors: Protect the quality of the experience for other visitors.