"Knoxville & the Great Smoky Mountains" Knoxville by HSC123

Knoxville Travel Guide: 120 reviews and 232 photos


We traveled east on Interstate 40 one afternoon in 2005 while en route to North Carolina from NASHVILLE. This entire stretch is hilly, but the terrain gets increasingly mountainous the closer one gets to Knoxville, gateway city to the Great Smoky Mountains. Along the way, I-40 ascends and descends a landscape of hills and mountains while passing through a series of small Appalachian towns including Lebanon, Cookeville and Crossville. These towns, with their hilly natural backdrops and clusters of tall, roadside signs advertising restaurants, motels and gas stations, beckon travelers looking for a pit stop. (Actually, we ended up stopping for gas in Lebanon and eating lunch at a Cracker Barrel near Crossville).

Eventually, we crossed into the
Eastern Standard Time Zone just as the afternoon rush hour was getting into full swing in the city of Knoxville. Tennessee's third largest city, Knoxville boasts a smattering of modern skyscrapers intermingled with older brick buildings. The most noteworthy sight on the Knoxville skyline is the Sunsphere, an observation tower capped with a giant, reflective, gold sphere. This unusual, eye-catching landmark was originally built for the 1982 World's Fair. In addition to being a bustling, high-rise city, Knoxville is also home to the University of Tennessee, (although we could not see any part of the university from the highway).


Continuing further east, The road out of Knoxville serves as a gateway to the popular mountain resort towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, both located southeast of the city. Unfortunately, I-40 arcs northeast, bypassing the towns, so we did not catch a glimpse.

Instead, we followed the highway into some serious peaks just north of
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here, "falling rock" signs and sharp curves tested my white knuckle driving skills. After passing through a tunnel, we soon reached the North Carolina state line.

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  • Last visit to Knoxville: Dec 2004
  • Intro Updated Apr 20, 2013
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