I will be cross-posting this in the GSMNP forum, but I'm hoping there are some locals lurking here that can provide some good advice.
When I called in July to book our room in Townsend for October, our favorite hotel wasn't available on the first night of our trip. We decided that we'd take advantage of that by taking an alternate route into GSMNP that would put us on the road for 8 hours the first day instead of the usual 10. We'll be spending the first night at Lake Ocoee in Tennessee, then meandering our way up to the park, taking our time and enjoying sights that we don't normally see. Since I'm not as familiar with this part of the area, I'm looking for some advice about the best route to take.
Here's what we want to do: Wake up on Tuesday morning and enjoy the views of the lake for a bit before taking our time driving up 64 through the Ocoee River Valley. We'll stop at overlooks and will probably make a stop at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, though I don't know if we'll hike any trails there or not. We'll continue along 64 and will lunch at Nantahala Outdoor Center. Had planned to eat at Pizza By the River, but they just switched to Fall hours and are now only open on weekends. :( We'll spend a little bit of time on the NOC campus before continuing on our way. This is where I need help.
We want to visit Fontana Dam and the Road to Nowhere. Not planning to spend a lot of time hiking the Road to Nowhere, but we both want to get some photos of the tunnel surrounded by fall color. Once we're finished in the Bryson City area, we'll make our way on toward the main area of the park, taking our time because we plan to be at Clingman's Dome for sunset before eventually making our way on into Townsend for the night.
I need route advice regarding the best way to get to Fontana Dam from the area of Hwy 64 where we will be (near NOC) and the best way to get to Lakeview Drive. Is there anything else that we need to see as we make this drive that day? I'm not interested in driving Tail of the Dragon, though we'll be seeing both the south end and the north end of it on this trip, since we'll also be driving the Foothills Parkway West at some point during our trip. We stayed in Bryson City this summer, so we're already familiar with the railroad and Deep Creek.
Any advice or suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated. I'm excited about exploring these areas that are new to us.