Foothills Parkway Loop

Backroads and byways: Foothills Parkway loop

Backroads and byways: Foothills Parkway loop

Backroads and byways: Foothills Parkway loop

Backroads and byways: Foothills Parkway loop

Backroads and byways: Foothills Parkway loop

Backroads and byways: Foothills Parkway loop

Destination

Foothills Parkway

Round Trip

95 miles

Eat At

Your house before you leave

Points of Interest

Any Overlook

Watch Out For

“The Man” on Hwy 129

Some weekend after you’ve gotten your Honey-do list taken care of, and you’re looking for an interesting after-lunch ride, keep this one in mind. It has some spectacular views of the mountains, quite a few miles along lakes and rivers, and can be done easily in an afternoon. Several times I’ve made this loop when I was looking for a good ride that got me back home in around three hours. Of course your time will vary, depending on how long it takes you to get to the starting point and how much time you spend at the overlooks. The destination is the Foothills Parkway, one of my all-time favorite roads, and the indirect path to get there takes us through the best parts of Blount, and good parts of Loudon County.

The blast-off point for this ride was the parking lot of Alcoa Good Times at the intersection of Topside Road (Hwy 333), and the Pellissippi Parkway (140). This route is pretty simple: 333 to 321, right on 321, left on 95 through Greenback. As you roll down 95, stay on your toes. This road passes several working farms and there are plenty of things to look out for such as driveways, tractor crossings, and the occasional “Omygoshwheredidthatcome-from!” turn.

Follow 95 until it brings you out on 411. Head south (right) on 411 for a few miles and be on the lookout for 72 on your left. Hwy 72 is sort of the connector that gets you to the really good stuff. Pay attention on this road, especially in the first few miles, because there are a few blind hill / turn combinations that can really sneak up on you. When you hit a long straight stretch you’ll know you’re getting close to the next turn, Hwy 129.

On this loop we catch a small section of the middle of 129, not the famous “Tail of the Dragon,” but the more scenic part that travels alongside the upper part of Tellico Lake, and past Chilhowee Dam and Chilhowee Lake. There is a temptation to grab a big handful of throttle through here, but keep in mind that Blount County officers, as well as State Troopers, are really serious about making examples of bikes on 129, so speed at your own risk. It’s a beautiful ride, slow down and enjoy it. Just after you pass Chilhowee Dam you will turn onto the Foothills Parkway.

I think the Foothills Parkway is a somewhat forgotten gem when it comes to motorcycle roads. With all of the attention Hwy 129 gets, people who aren’t from this area, and some who are, often miss out on how incredibly beautiful the Foothills Parkway is, and what a great ride it is. Over the years, I’ve spoken with several riders who come from Knoxville just to “ride the dragon” and they miss the Parkway because they are avoiding going through Maryville.

When I got my first street bike, I made countless trips from my home in Seymour just to go up and ride the Parkway. I’ve always thought that the Parkway was designed with bikes in mind. The long sweeping turns roll from one into another, you are always climbing or descending, and around each turn seems to be another great view. For the most part the asphalt is well seasoned and in very good condition. There are a few places where recent landslides have required some road repair, but there are only a few.

Coming from this direction later in the day, the sun is at your back so you aren’t fighting looking into the sunset. Not fighting the afternoon glare, your eyes can relax and take in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is on your right, and the overlook of the Tennessee Valley on your left.

Since the Parkway is an uncommercialized road, there are limited opportunities for people to pull out in front of you, so unless you are running a quick pace, it is very relaxing piece of Tarmac. But just because it doesn’t have convenience stores doesn’t mean you can completely drop your guard. There are several overlooks on both sides of the road, and remember that if the sun is at your back, it’s in the eyes of those coming toward you. Be sure to pay special attention to cars turning into or pulling out of the overlooks, and remember that near the top at the Look Rock / Top-O-the-World area there is nearly always some traffic.

When you exit off of the Parkway turn left on 321, and turn right at the BP Station in Walland. As soon as you turn right, you will cross a bridge. Immediately turn left onto Old Walland Highway. This section doesn’t last very long, but it runs along the river and through some incredibly beautiful unspoiled farmland. In the summer you can feel the cool air off the river. After only a few miles it dead ends into Ellejoy Road. Turn left here and it leads you behind out Heritage High School, back to 321. Turn right and you’ll be back in Maryville in a few miles. From this point you can follow 321 all the way back to 129 (aka Alcoa Highway), and ultimately back to Pellissippi Parkway, thus completing the loop.

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