Douglas Lake Fall Driving Tour
Once fall arrives, the highways and winding country roads surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park become a dazzling kaleidoscope of autumn color.
To fully experience the grandeur, choose a quieter, alternative route with plenty of foliage, interesting attractions, photo opportunities, and pockets of local history. The Douglas Lake Fall Driving Tour winds by fertile farmland, well known commercial properties, and resilient family businesses. Expect to find scenic points on four-lane highways, two-lane roads, and narrow one-lane byways along this tour as you make your way to spectacular views of Douglas Lake, a reservoir created by the impoundment of the French Broad River.
Begin your tour in downtown Sevierville. Stroll through the historic district and enjoy the recently completed streetscape which has capitalized on downtown Sevierville’s existing strengths while making the area even more attractive and accessible. While downtown, be sure to visit the quaint shops and eateries. A must-see for visitors is the Dolly Parton Statue located on the lawn of the iconic Sevier County Courthouse at 125 Court Avenue. Created by renowned local artist Jim Gray, the six-and-a-half-foot statue was erected to honor Sevierville native Dolly Parton, an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, actress, author, and philanthropist. The courthouse itself is also remarkable. Built in 1896, it is an excellent example of Victorian architecture and features a traditional four-sided Seth Thomas clock in its tower. In the fall, century-old trees surrounding the courthouse turn brilliant hues of yellow and red.
Leave the courthouse traveling north on Court Avenue. At the traffic light, turn left onto West Main Street, travel one block and turn right onto Winfield Dunn Parkway (Hwy 66). In 0.5 miles, turn right at traffic light 16.5. At the intersection, turn left onto Old Douglas Dam Road. On the left you will see the Robert A. Tino Gallery, located in one of Sevierville’s oldest historic houses. The house was built in 1867 for Riley H. Andes, after he served in the Union Army during the Civil War. The Italianate and Queen Anne woodcarving was designed by Lewis Buckner, a prominent African American wood artisan and master cabinetmaker of his era, when the house was renovated in 1880. The Andes heirs sold the house to John Denton in 1942 and it eventually became the gallery of artist Robert A. Tino. For three decades, Tino has used his talents in oil, acrylic, and watercolor to capture the many scenes of the Smoky Mountains in remarkable detail. His work enjoys a devoted following of collectors that grows with each new release.
Continue 0.2 miles to Yett’s Store, a picturesque old country store on the right. Once operated by brothers Claude and John Yett, the store has not been in operation for several years but remains a reminder of a bygone era. Once a community gathering place, many “fish tales” have been told on the porch.
After passing the store, Old Douglas Dam Road ends. Take a right onto Winfield Dunn Parkway (Hwy 66), continue 1.5 miles, and turn right at traffic light 18.3 onto Douglas Dam Road (Hwy 338). Continue for 1.7 miles and turn left onto Alder Branch Road. In 0.5 miles you will discover Kyker Farms Corn Maze on your left. This is an authentic farm adventure featuring corn mazes, hayrides, and a pumpkin patch. A Tennessee Century Farm, the Kyker family has worked this land for nine generations – just over two centuries of continuous agricultural production.
Continue left out of the Kyker Farms Corn Maze parking lot. Just ahead on your right is Alder Branch Baptist Church and cemetery (take a slight left into the parking area). Although the church was rebuilt in 1928 after fire destroyed an earlier frame building used for worship, the history of the congregation dates to 1836 when a crude log structure was built near the “tap alders trees” that grew along a branch near the new church. The churchyard contains the graves of about one thousand individuals, many of whom were prominent Sevier County citizens. The cemetery predates the current church. The first interment was Thomas Atchley in 1836; the last two churches were built around the cemetery. A stroll through the historic cemetery easily brings to mind the famous poem by British poet Thomas Gray: Elegy written in a Country Churchyard.
Leaving the church parking lot, backtrack to Douglas Dam Road (Hwy 338) and turn left. Continue on Douglas Dam Road 2.4 miles and take a slight right onto Boat Launch Road. Drive a short distance to Union Grove United Methodist Church and cemetery, located on your right. A typical small country church, the exterior facade is red brick veneer and the churchyard contains graves dating to the mid-1800s.
Backtrack to Douglas Dam Road and take a right. Continue one mile where you will cross the French Broad River on a modern bridge that replaced “Old Shaky,” a notorious old bridge that was moved from Dandridge when Douglas Dam was built. The new bridge was a godsend because the old bridge had been condemned several years before the replacement was built, causing residents untold difficulties getting from one side of the river to the other. As you cross the bridge, observe a beautiful view of the French Broad River - the third oldest river in the world. Look to your right to see Douglas Dam, which was built by TVA in record time (less than one year) to provide power for the war effort during World War II.
Past the bridge, take the first right onto Douglas River Way and follow that to a circular parking area toward the Tailwater Area where you may get out of the car, stretch your legs and take great photographs of the dam. Backtrack up the hill and turn right onto Douglas Overlook Way. Take the first left and follow it to the picnic area which is located on a hillside that offers panoramic views of Douglas Lake with the Great Smoky Mountains in the background. Equipped with modern restrooms and a pavilion, this shaded area is a great place for a picnic.
Backtrack down Douglas Overlook Way and make a right on Douglas River Way. At the stop sign, take a right onto Douglas Dam Road (Hwy 338). In 0.6 miles, take a left at the intersection onto Douglas Dam Road (Hwy 139). Follow Douglas Dam Road 1.3 miles and turn right onto Underwood Cemetery Road. Drive to the top of the hill to Underwood Cemetery, a small well-maintained country cemetery. On a clear day, one can take in amazing views of the Smoky Mountains. Reputedly, Rindy Bailey, a legendary homeless woman who once roamed the nearby countryside and was found frozen to death, is buried in the cemetery in an unmarked grave. Some claim to have experienced her spirit there.
Return to Douglas Dam Road (Hwy 138) and turn right. Continue for 1.8 miles and turn right onto Winfield Dunn Parkway (Hwy 66). Travel 0.5 miles to the Sevierville Visitor Center on your left at 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway. There you will find clean rest rooms, helpful information specialists, and interesting displays detailing area history.
Turn right out of the parking lot and come back to Sevierville traveling south on Winfield Dunn Parkway (Hwy 66).