This 8-mi unpaved road follows a wagon track that has been used for more than 150 years. Some believe that Parson Branch and the road were named for ministers (parsons) who held religious retreats nearby, but others believe they were named for Joshua Parson, an early settler in the area. The road begins at the southwestern edge of Cades Cove Loop Road just beyond the visitor center at Cable Mill and comes out on U.S. 129. It is one-way from Cades Cove to U.S. 129. Although
unpaved, it doesn't require four-wheel drive except after heavy rains, when a few sections may become flooded or muddy. A few areas are rocky, so avoid this road if you have a low-slung car with little ground clearance. It offers no scenic vistas, but it runs through old-growth forests, with huge poplars and hemlocks (many dead from alien insect infestation) along the roadway. To get back to the Townsend area, turn right as you come to U.S. 129, go about 10 mi on 129, and then take the 17.5-mi western portion of the Foothills Parkway back to U.S. 321. Parson Branch Road is closed mid-November to mid-March and sunset to sunrise. RVs prohibited on this road.