If you're in a hurry, you can get from Birmingham, Alabama, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in about five hours. However, you'd miss out on a lot of fun along the way. Consider going on a Birmingham to Gatlinburg road trip soon to discover all the national and state parks, points of interest, and cities that many people skip over. Since you'll want to spend about a week exploring along the way, take your RV with you. Put on some country tunes and drive along with this Birmingham to Gatlinburg RV road trip itinerary.
Tennessee is home to the Great Smoky Mountains, but you may want to check out other national parks using this guide from RVshare.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You can find many scenic places to explore in the Great Smoky Mountains. Consider heading out on the 11-mile loop to Cades Cove, where you can see lots of restored historic buildings, including a working grist mill. Another option is Mount LeConte, which has the highest guest lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains; you can see for miles in any direction on a clear day. Newfoundland Gap is the lowest drivable gap in the park, and it offers amazing sunrise and sunset views. Make time to stop at some of the waterfalls, such as Rainbow Falls, Abrams Falls and Laurel Falls, when stopping at the Great Smoky Mountains on your road trip from Birmingham to Gatlinburg.
Both Alabama and Tennessee have some terrific state parks that you'll want to include on your road trip itinerary from Birmingham to Gatlinburg. Going a few miles farther north will allow you to discover amazing state parks that you might otherwise miss.
Monte Sano State Park
Monte Sano State Park is a 2,140-acre state park on the east side of Huntsville, Alabama. This park has a small museum dedicated to the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was instrumental in building this state park and many others during the Great Depression. Over 22 miles of hiking and biking trails with varying degrees of difficulty are available. Play on the 18-hole and the nine-hole disc golf course spanning the entire top of Monte Sano Mountain. If you can, time your visits to coincide with the biannual Japanese festivals, where you can watch karate and kendo demonstrations, listen to Japanese harp music and experience a Japanese tea ceremony.
Rock Island State Park
The U.S. Freestyle Kayaking World Championships have been held at Rock Island State Park near Rock Island, Tennessee, and you can partake in some kayaking fun when you visit this park. You'll also want to go hiking along the Eastern Highland Rim to see the 30-foot Great Falls. The water was used to power the historic textile mill that's still located at this state park. While you should keep an eye on the weather as the water can rise rapidly, you're sure to enjoy hiking through the Caney Fork Gorge. After a full day of exploring, swim, and play on the sandy beach at the head of Center Hill Lake.
Burgess Falls State Park
See the four waterfalls at Burgess Falls State Park, which is located near Sparta, Tennessee. One of them crashes down more than 130 feet. You can paddle a canoe or kayak to the base of this waterfall. Then, head downstream just a little for some fishing fun. Anglers often catch large and smallmouth bass and bream at this park. Climb the trail to the observation deck where you can watch many raptors in flight.
Frozen Head State Park
Spread across more than 24,000 acres near Wartburg, Tennessee, Frozen Head State Park offers many opportunities for exploring. Much of this park has been left in its natural state, and you can see that firsthand when you hike on the 50 miles of hiking trails. Watch for birds as you hike along because this park is part of the South Cumberland Mountains Important Bird Area. Bring your mountain bike and ride along the Lookout Tower Trail to the summit of Frozen Head Mountain. Flat Fork Creek is regularly stocked with trout that anglers easily catch during cooler months.
Panther Creek State Park
Panther Creek State Park is located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation about 6 miles west of Morristown, Tennessee. Hike along over 30 miles of trails to discover the immense natural beauty of the Holston River Valley. Some of these trails are also open for mountain bikers and horseback riders. Fish weighing up to 20 pounds are often taken from the 30,000-acre Cherokee Lake. You can rent a boat to fish from the water or enjoy a day of paddling fun from a vendor in this park. Your children will love visiting this park as it has a playground and a pool. Challenge friends to a game of disc golf on the 18-hole course.
If you decide to follow a more northerly route to your road trip itinerary from Birmingham to Gatlinburg, you can stop and visit a few interesting places along the way.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Spread across 35,000 acres near Decatur, Alabama, this national refuge is a great place to capture wildlife photos. Over 295 species of birds have been spotted in this park, including cranes that are celebrated during a January festival. You may also be able to see 74 species of reptiles and amphibians along with many other animals.
Over 32 miles of underground adventures await you at Cumberland Caverns, located near McMinnville, Tennessee. You can go on easy cave-walking tours as well as more ambitious expeditions. You can even spend the night in this cave if you feel like leaving your RV for a night.
You can see over 800 animals at Zoo Knoxville, where they have successfully bred more red pandas than any other zoo in the world. Grab a ride on the Zoo Choo train. If you get hot while visiting the zoo, cool off at the Clayton Splash Pad. Climb the two-story Encounter platform and feed the giraffes. Don't even think of leaving the zoo without a ride on the Fuzzy-Go-Round Carousel. Young children will love playing in their special indoor play area.
On your road trip itinerary from Birmingham to Gatlinburg, you'll have the opportunity to see some lesser-known yet equally fascinating cities up close.
This city is in northern Alabama on the shores of Wheeler Lake. The area along the Tennessee River is known for its immense scenic beauty, and you can get great barbecue with white sauce in many local restaurants. Consider Decatur campgrounds like Point Mallard Campground, which has a dump station, or Cowford Campground. You may also want to check out these other Alabama campgrounds and dump stations.
Sparta, Tennessee, is a small town with folks who will warmly welcome you to stop and see them. The Calfkiller River runs through the town, and there are seven buildings on the National List of Historic Places. Consider camping at Ragland Bottom or Big Puckett’s Campground. If these don't offer what you're looking for, then consider other nearby options, including those in the Great Smoky Mountains. RV dump stations are available at the Love’s Truck Stop or Twin Lakes Catfish Farm and Campground in nearby Baxter, Tennessee. You can also choose from these other Tennessee dump stations.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Oak Ridge rose to international fame for its role during the building of the atomic bomb, and you can visit many attractions related to the Manhattan Project. You can also go off-roading on Windrock Park Lane or play on Tellico Reservoir. Consider camping at Melton Hill Campground or at Soaring Eagle Campground, though there are a variety of other outstanding Tennessee campgrounds. Nearby RV dump stations are located at the Flying J Truck Stop in Knoxville or at Riley Creek Campground in Kingston, but don't overlook other dump station options in the area.
Knoxville, Tennessee, is the biggest city, outside of Birmingham, that you'll pass through on your road trip from Birmingham to Gatlinburg. There's plenty to do in this community, including visiting the Ijams Nature Center and the Sunsphere. Knoxville campground options include Clinton/Knoxville KOA, which has a dump station, or Southlake RV Park. Dump stations may be available at the Flying J Truck Stop or at the KOA campground.