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What To Pack For A Drive Through The Smoky Mountains

Planning a drive through the Smoky Mountains? Find out What To Pack For A Drive Through The Smoky Mountains (like your camera, gum, and more).

For more help planning your trip, check out all of our travel posts.

Cars driving through the mountains with the words "What To Pack For A Drive Through The Smoky Mountains" digitally written above them.

We went to Asheville and Cherokee last month, and I so badly wanted to show Pete the Smoky Mountains. I knew he would love them. I had gone to see them a few months before, when I went to Gatlinburg and the beauty of them is unparalleled.

He packed the DSLR when we went because he knew it would capture the Smoky Mountains better than our phones would.

What we forgot to pack, though, was gum.

The altitude of the mountains makes your ears clogged, like when you’re on an airplane. It was hard to talk in the car as we were driving because no one had gum to chew so our ears would pop.

I’ll be sure to remember next time.

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Speaking of packing, this is just one of the packing lists we have on the site. For more, check out The Ultimate List Of Packing Lists.

What To Pack For A Drive Through The Smoky Mountains

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A map

There’s one main road that will take you from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, straight through the Smoky Mountains. There are a ton of roads that shoot off from that road, taking you to different locations like Cades Cove.

In the Sugarland Visitor’s Center, you can pick up a variety of maps for $1 each. You can get trail map, a driving map, and more for your $1 donation. If you’re coming from the Tennessee side, the Sugarland Visitor’s Center comes up pretty quickly, so you don’t have to get too far into the mountains without a guide.

A jacket

It gets warm in our part of North Carolina very early in the year. I’ve gone to the beach every March since we’ve moved. So when I went to the Smoky Mountains in April, I was expecting it to be warm. I was wrong.

My mom told me to pack a light jacket, and I’m really glad I did. When you get up into the higher elevations, it gets cold. At the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, the elevation is 5,046 feet — and that means snow on the ground in the springtime. If you’re planning on spending any time outside of the car, and it isn’t the middle of summer, pack a jacket.

An elk.

A camera

The most recent time we drove through the Smoky Mountains, we saw elk. There were so many of them hanging out, eating the grass and leaves. It was the first time that I had driven through and seen them.

A woman taking a photo while a traffic guard watches.

I got out to take a few photos with my phone and to talk to a ranger about how often he sees elk (he said every day). My pictures weren’t great. Pete took a bunch on the DSLR while I was talking to the park ranger, and his photos were amazing. He captured the elk perfectly. If you have a DSLR, that’s a great way to take these shots of wildlife and more of the mountains. At the very least, bring your camera phone.

Hiking boots

You can do so much hiking through the Smoky Mountains, even when you just pull off while you’re driving through. Some of the trails are afternoon hikes; others can take all day.

A sign for the Appalachian Trail.

No matter what hike you do, you’ll want to make sure you have hiking boots when you go. They’ll help you traverse the mountain and terrain. Although I do suggest you stay on the path, I know that sometimes you have to veer off it in case weather knocked down a tree or there’s a shot you really want to get. Be safe and make sure you’re wearing proper footwear. Flip flops won’t work on this trip.

Planning a drive through the Smoky Mountains? Find out what you need to pack in this post from


You need to pack gum for this trip. There’s a good chance you’ll be driving through twice (once on the way there, and once to get back home), so you need at least two pieces of gum per person. Plus, people just like chewing gum, so your travel companions might ask for a couple extra pieces.

Gum is perfect for mountain drives because once you start going up in elevation, your ears do get clogged. And that can really affect how much you’re enjoying the trip. Having gum handy will remedy your clogged ears quickly, so you can get back to enjoying the view.

Smoky Mountains State Park.

More Smoky Mountains Tips:

If you’re planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to check out our Free Fun In The Smoky Mountains for more ideas.

What else do you Pack For A Drive Through The Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.


Wednesday 22nd of August 2018

We especially love driving through in the fall. We live in Northeast Florida and it's been a joy to visit since I was a child.


Monday 20th of August 2018

Great info for traveling to the Smoky Mountains! Def will remember the gum.

Chas Greener

Wednesday 15th of August 2018

We drive through the Rocky Mountains all the time and we hope to do the Smoky Mountains someday too.

Trisha McKee

Wednesday 8th of August 2018

Yes, gum. That is something you do not think of but when going up in altitude, it is necessary. I love the camera too. That is another must.