I-24 begins at exit 44 on I-57 in southern Williamson County, near the community of Pulleys Mill. The highway heads southeast into rural Johnson County, bypassing Goreville to the east. It reaches an exit at Tunnel Hill Road, which serves Goreville and Tunnel Hill. The highway continues south to its next exit at U.S. Route 45 (US 45) north of Vienna. It reaches its next exit at Illinois Route 146 (IL 146) in eastern Vienna. I-24 heads southeast from Vienna into Massac County. Its first exit in Massac County is at Big Bay Road, which serves the communities of Big Bay and New Columbia. I-24 continues southward, bypassing the community of Round Knob before entering Metropolis. The highway meets US 45 again in Metropolis and passes west of Fort Massac State Park. It leaves Metropolis and crosses the Interstate 24 Bridge over the Ohio River. After that, it continues into Kentucky.
I-24 crosses into Kentucky on a bridge over the Ohio River. It passes to the west of Paducah and intersects US Routes 60, 45, and 62. The freeway then passes near Woodlawn-Oakdale and Reidland and connects with US 68. The welcome center in Paducah is a historic house, Whitehaven. This is the only historic house in the country used as a rest area. East of this point, I-24 runs concurrently with I-69. Through his, it intersects US 62 and crosses the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers. The roadway travels along the north shore of the Cumberland River. I-69 splits off to the east just north of Mineral Mound State Park. I-24 continues east, away from the river. It runs through farmland for several miles. It passes south of Hopkinsville and interchanges with I-169. Near the Tennessee border, I-24 passes north of Fort Campbell. Afterwards, it crossing into Tennessee.
I-69 runs concurrently with I-24 for 17 miles (27 km) from Calvert City to Eddyville.
Clarksville to Nashville
Interstate 24 in Nashville.
I-24 crosses into Tennessee traveling in a southeasterly and northwesterly direction in Clarksville, Montgomery. The first interchange is with SR 48. I-24 then has interchanges with US 79, SR 237, and SR 76, and crosses the Red River. It then enters a long straight section, crossing into Robertson County, and has interchanges with SR 256, and SR 49 near Springfield, respectively. The route then enters the rolling hilly terrain of the Nashville Basin, and crosses briefly into Cheatham County, where it has an interchange with SR 249. I-24 then crosses into Davidson County, and has an interchange with US 431. The interstate continues for several miles through rural woodlands before coming to an interchange with SR 45 (Old Hickory Boulevard). Three miles later, I-24 crosses the Nashville Urban Boundary, widens to six lanes, and has an interchange with SR 155 (Briley Parkway), the northern beltway around Nashville. Less than a mile later, I-24 joins a concurrency with Interstate 65, where the combined routes carry ten through lanes, and travel due south. About two miles later, I-65 splits off, and I-24 enters downtown Nashville, where it has interchanges with US 41, US 431, and US 31E, as well as several city streets. I-24 then crosses the Cumberland River, and joins in a concurrency with Interstate 40, travelling southeast with eight through lanes, and two miles later, I-40 splits off eastwardly, heading toward Knoxville. Located at this interchange is also an interchange with US 41, and less than a mile later is an interchange with the eastern terminus of Interstate 440, which is also accessible from I-40 nearby. About a mile later is once again an interchange with SR 155/Briley Parkway near the Nashville International Airport, and I-24 continues southeast, bisecting a major residential area. Here I-24 carries eight through lanes, and beginning at the next exit, SR 255, the left lanes operate as HOV lanes during rush hour.
Eastern Middle Tennessee
I-24 continues southeast through the rapidly growing suburbs of Nashville, and crosses into Rutherford County near the city of LaVergne, where there are three exits. Beginning at this point, I-24 is relatively straight and flat for most of its distance through eastern middle Tennessee. The straightest stretch of highway in Tennessee is located on I-24 between Lavergne and eastern Murfreesboro, where the route is perfectly straight for about fifteen miles, although the median widens and narrows. Four miles later is an interchange with SR 102, which connects to Smyrna and the Nissan Manufacturing Plant. Another four miles later is an interchange with Interstate 840, the outer southern beltway around Nashville, and I-24 enters Murfreesboro, the largest suburb of Nashville. In Murfreesboro, I-24 has interchanges with SR 96 (which connects of Franklin), SR 99 (New Salem Highway), and US 231 (which connects to Lebanon and Shelbyville), respectively, and at the final Murfreesboro exit (US 231), the HOV lane designation ends, and I-24 narrows to six lanes and then four lanes a short distance later. Three miles later is an interchange with the
Joe B. Jackson Parkway, which serves as an outer beltway around Murfreesboro. I-24 then enters a rural area, and at exit 97 has an interchange with SR 64, which connects to Shelbyville. I-24 then curves to the south, then the east, and briefly enters Bedford County, and then Coffee County. At exit 105 is an interchange with US 41, and five miles later I-24 enters Manchester, where it has interchanges with SR 53, SR 55, and US 41, respectively. I-24 continues through a rural agricultural area where it crosses into Grundy County and has an interchange with US 64 and SR 50.
One of the most hazardous stretches of interstate highway in the United StatesMonteagle, where the highway crosses the Cumberland Plateau. Compared to grades elsewhere, Monteagle's 4–6% grade does not come close to the steepest (I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville features 5% grades in each direction as well as a 5% grade north of Nashville on I-24, near Joelton), but the slope is protracted over a distance of several miles. While all motorists need to exercise caution, truckers are particularly vexed by Monteagle, and many have died going through this area. As runaway trucks had been a regular and deadly occurrence, in part of the failure or inability of truckers to slow down to the 35 miles per hour (55 km/h) truck speed limit once on the slope, the eastbound lanes were rebuilt in the late 1980s. This work reduced the grade, widened the road, added a required stopping area with traffic lights for trucks prior to descending the mountain, and added two runaway truck ramps where a truck whose brakes have failed due to overheating can exit into a long pit full of loose gravel to safely stop. Owing to geography, these two ramps are on the left side of the grade. This stretch of highway inspired Johnny Cash to write a song about Monteagle Mountain. It is also mentioned in "The Legend", the introductory song for Smokey and the Bandit, which touts the protagonist's driving skill in having reportedly navigated his truck down the Monteagle Grade during a heavy rainstorm, despite an airbrake failure.
is located approximately 40 miles (64 km) west of Chattanooga on I-24 in
The Monteagle grade also has one of the three widest medians of any Interstate highway, with the others being I-8 through the In-Ko-Pah grade in California and I-84 through the Cabbage Hill grade east of Pendleton, Oregon. There is more than a mile between the eastbound and westbound lanes at one point. The eastbound lanes descend the mountain on one side of a ridge, while the westbound lanes ascend the other. Also of interest on Monteagle Mountain is the steep grade on I-24 north of Monteagle. This steep grade occurs for westbound traffic and features a sharp 45 mph (70 km/h) curve to the right while descending steeply at the same time. This downhill curve also features off-ramp approach style lane dividers, in order to slow both motorists and truckers.
Marion County, Georgia segment, and Chattanooga
After crossing Monteagle Mountain, I-24 travels for several miles through a relatively flat and straight segment before reaching an interchange with US 72 near Kimball and South Pittsburg. About three miles later, I-24 has an interchange with SR 28 in Jasper. Beyond this point, in a rare engineering feat, the east and westbound lanes split apart more than 1/2 mile apart, and contain farms, homes, and a few businesses in between. This was reportedly a result of extensively fought disputes over right of way acquisitions, and is also one of the widest medians of any highway. The route then crosses a mountain, and has an interchange with SR 27, and about a mile later, crosses the Nickajack Lake impoundment of the Tennessee River. Beyond this point, traveling through a gorge, I-24 is very windy for several miles. I-24 crosses into Hamilton County and Eastern Time Zone, and then into Georgia less than 1/4 mile later.
In the state of Georgia, I-24 travels for four miles (6.4 km), traveling along the southern flank of Raccoon Mountain and intersecting with I-59 before turning back north to the Tennessee River and around the northern flank of Lookout Mountain. The exits remain numbered according to Tennessee's mileposts. However, the mileposts are numbered according to Georgia's mileposts. This segment also carries the unsigned State Route 409 designation.
Upon crossing back into Tennessee and Hamilton County, I-24 travels through Lookout Valley for several miles, and has interchanges with several key roads, including US 11/41/72. Several miles later, I-24 curves sharply to the east, running on a causeway between the Tennessee River and the northern tip of Lookout Mountain, and about a mile later, curves sharply to the north. Entering Chattanooga, less than a mile later is a three way interchange with US 27 northbound, which is a freeway beyond this point. Forming a concurrency with US 27, the routes then curve sharply to the east, then to the west about a mile later, where US 27 splits off to the south as Rossville Boulevard. With interchanges with several city streets, I-24 travels through the inner city of Chattanooga. About a mile and a half later, I-24 reaches the "Ridge Cut", a one-quarter-mile (400 m) section of Missionary Ridge, between the 4th Avenue exit and the Germantown/Belvoir exit, where the interstate curves sharply to the north, then to the east again, crossing the ridge with an extremely steep grade. Accidents and severe congestion are common here. About two miles later, I-24 reaches its eastern terminus with I-75 in East Ridge.