The Lakeway to the Smokies should be your next road trip stop.

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Located just outside of Knoxville at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River is Loudon County, Tennessee, a gateway to one of the South's favorite mountain ranges and a getaway with plenty of small-town charm. Loudon County goes by a few names—one of them is the Lakeway to the Smokies, a nod to the area's surroundings, which are filled with sweeping mountain views, serene lakes, and coursing rivers.

Tellico Lake
Credit: Brian Koellish/Getty Images

Antiques Abound

Loudon County is home to the east Tennessee town of Lenoir City, itself a destination for travelers seeking a charming downtown stroll, a visit to a historic restaurant, or outdoor fun. In Lenoir City, visitors will find several spots to shop and stroll, including The Lacy and The Lacy General Store for browsing and antiquing and the nearby Markets on Broadway, which houses a co-op of artists and makers. Downtown Lenoir City is also included in the stretch known as U.S. 11 Antique Alley.

In the city of Loudon, visitors will find fun shops in the historic downtown area including The Shoppes on the Square and Past Tymes Antiques as well as the Stimpson Seashell Museum, which is home to one of the largest collections of shells in the world.

Adventure Awaits

Loudon County is not just an antiquing capital; outdoor adventure and activities on the water also abound. Take advantage of the views along the area's lakes and rivers, then dive in. Fishing and boating are popular ways to explore the waters, and adventurous travelers also swim, water ski, canoe, and kayak the waterways. If you'd rather stay on land, check out the East Lakeshore Trail, a 31-mile trail system that lies along Tellico Lake and is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. (You can find a trail map here.)

Other must-visit spots in the area include the Tennessee Valley Winery, an award-winning winery and one of the oldest operating family-owned ones in the state. There's also Sweetwater Valley Farm, a dairy farm and cheese factory where visitors can sample cheeses and catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes workings of the factory.

Before you head on to other adventures, make a stop at Tic-Toc Ice Cream Parlor on Grove Street in Loudon. Everyone looks forward to its opening day each March, which is an annual sign of spring signaling warm weather to come. For more information, and to plan a visit, check out visitloudoncounty.com.

What's your favorite Tennessee destination to visit? Have you discovered any charming small towns this year?