- Smoky Mountains Smoky
Mountain Cabins •
Gatlinburg Tennessee Vacation Wedding
to the Smoky Mountains have a bewildering number of options from
which to choose. Whether its lodging, activities, or a good
place to eat, there are many options available to suit every taste
and pocketbook--if you can identify them. Two of the most often
asked questions we receive include where to stay and what to do
when you get here. We attempt to answer those questions in this
article and help narrow the myriad of choices available. We even
recommend some great places to eat.
We group the choices based on our
own experiences and make recommendations based on proximity
to each other to save a lot of time traveling from one side
of the park to the other. Remember, the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park covers more than a half-million acres.
You will notice that most of our suggestions
for activities involve getting out of your vehicle and enjoying
the best part of the area: the Park itself. However, you will
also notice that, for those who really do enjoy touring from
your vehicle, weve included some auto tours and described
a few attractions in the towns.
One final note before we turn you loose
to see what we suggest you try: Where we have more extensive
information about a particular feature, we have included a hyperlink
to that feature in one of our online publications.
ONE DAY or A WEEKEND:
If you only have one day or a weekend to
spend in the Smokies area, we make three very popular suggestions.
All three suggestions offer a great sampler of everything the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer: auto touring,
idyllic scenery and mountain views, historic structures, quiet
walkways, hiking trails, biking, camping, horseback riding,
and fly fishing for the elusive rainbow trout.
TIP: Get out of your vehicle and
enjoy the best the Great Smoky Mountains has to offer. Why breathe
the fumes of the vehicle in front of you if you came here to
have some fun?
Sugarlands Visitor Center
A good place to start your tour of the GSMNP
is the Sugarlands Visitor Center just inside the Park entrance
at Gatlinburg. It was named for the sugar maple trees, which
contribute to the Smokies fall splendor each October. Its
one of three visitor's centers in the GSMNP (the other two are
at Cherokee and in Cades Cove) and its a good source of
information about park activities induding naturalist-led hikes,
wildflower pilgrimages, and road closings. A theater presents
a film about the GSMNP every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour
and there are several exhibits about the Park. The bookstore
has a wide variety of publications for sale, including maps,
screensavers, photos, and film. This is also the place to secure
backcountry camping permits. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is
just inside the park entrance at Gatlinburg. As you leave the
Sugarlands parking lot, turn right onto Little River Road and
begin the scenic drive to Cades Cove.
TIP: If you are starting your one-day
tour from Gatlinburg (and we recommend it), have a brunch at
the Burning Bush Restaurant. It sits at the northern entrance
(traffic light #10) to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
and is only 2 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
The second suggestion involves a tour of
Cades Cove in the northwestern part of the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. Cades Cove is the most visited part of the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park--and for good reason. This idyllic
setting is a sampler of everything the Park has to offer the
Smokies visitor. Historic structures that dot the cove tell
the history of its early inhabitants. Wildlife is abundant and
can be easily seen--especially early morning and late afternoon.
Cades Cove itself consists of a self-guided auto tour that takes
you to preserved historic structures. It accords fantastic views
of the Smoky Mountains, which tower above the picturesque cove
and serve as guardians to Cades Cove's serene beauty; and is
one of the best areas in the Park to view the splendor of color
when Mother Nature empties her paint buckets in the Fall.
Auto Touring Cades Cove
Turn right out of the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot and travel about 17 miles on Little River and Laurel Creek Roads (Little River Road changes to Laurel Creek Road at the "Y" turnoff to Townsend). You will dead-end into the Cades Cove entrance.
The 11-mile loop road, which meanders through
Cades Cove and has pull-offs with trails to a number of preserved
historic structures built by early settlers. The self-guided
tour program allows you to visit each one at your own pace.
Bring a camera to capture a record of the history and natural
splendor of Cades Cove.
A short distance into the 11-mile loop brings
you to the first unpaved road out of Cades Cove. Called Rich
Mountain Road, this road climbs up and away from the Cove. A
pullout affords a great view back into Cades Cove and the Baptist
Church--one of the most photographed scenes in the area. Several
hiking trails are accessible from this route.If you follow Rich
Mountain to its conclusion, you will end up in Tuckaleechee
Cove and eventually to Townsend, Tennessee, which bills itself
as "the peaceful side of the Smokies".
About two-thirds of the way around Cades
Cove you will encounter Parsons Branch Road (closed in winter)
which also takes you away from Cades Cove. It leads you through
isolated, little-traveled areas of the Park and eventually takes
you to Hwy 129 and Fontana Dam.
TIP: If this is your first visit
to Cades Cove, ignore both the Rich Mountain and Parsons Branch
exits. This excursion is all about Cades Cove. Save the other
routes for your next visit. FACT: You will want to return!
Cades Cove - Fly Fishing for Rainbow
Crystal clear streams tumbling over age-old
boulders hide great prizes for the fly-fisherman searching for
the Rainbow trout. Abrams Creek flows through Cades Cove and
culminates in the spectacular Abrams Falls. A short way into
the 2.5-mile hike to Abrams Falls, the trail bends away north
in a horseshoe shape. Take this tangent a few hundred feet and
you will certainly find solitude, and you might even find a
Rainbow trout. To obtain a fishing permit that is good in both
the Tennessee and North Carolina sides of the Park, stop at
the Smoky Mountain Angler in Gatlinburg prior to your visit
to Cades Cove. The proprietors (the Thompsons) can also help
you with hand-tied flies recommended for the area and can even
outfit you with necessary items you might need.
Essentially, the Cades Cove campground sits
at the center of Cades Cove and most of the hiking trails are
accessible from the campground or the loop road. Hiking trails
surround Cades Cove and lead to special attractions such as
Abrams Falls and the view of the Baptist Church and the cove
from Rich Mountain.
The Anthony Creek Trail is accessible
from the far end of the Cades Cove picnic grounds. It courses
alongside a rushing stream, rises through a virgin forest, and
is popular because it is one of the shortest routes to Spence
Field and Thunderhead Mountain, two premier attractions in the
Crib Gap Trail was used by settlers
as a connector to the smaller Big Spring Cove. It's usually
a muddy horse track because it's used as an outlet from the
Anthony Creek horse camp and is also a connector linking Anthony
Creek Trail in Cades Cove and Turkeypen Ridge Trail.
Mill Creek Falls trail is an unmarked
trail, but it rewards the hiker with a waterfall 3 miles from
the Cables Mill parking area.
Gregory Bald Trail is a 4.5 mile
hike that leads to Gregory Bald, a ten-acre, dome-shaped grassy
area bordered on the North Carolina side by hundreds of azalea
shrubs, and on the Tennessee side affords a fantastic view from
about 2,000 feet down to Cades Cove. The trail is accessible
from the Cades Cove loop road--about 5.5 miles after entering
the cove continue through the junction where Cades Cove Loop
Road takes a sharp left turn. Follow the graveled Forge Creek
Road 2.2 miles to the turnaround at the end. The trail begins
along the upper end of the parking area.
There are about another dozen trails accessible
from the Cades Cove area--enough to satisfy the most avid hiker
and certainly enough to bring the visitor back to the cove for
Horseback Riding and Biking in Cades
For those who want to take in the Cades
Cove loop road at a slower pace, Cades Cove also offers the
horse lover as well as the biking enthusiast ample opportunity
for enjoyment. Horses are available for rent to take advantage
of the selected horseback riding trails. And bicyclists can
bring their own or rent one to take advantage of the special
hours set aside for bikes only--Wednesday and Saturday mornings
until 10am from May 10 until September 27.
Horseback riding is generally available
in Cades Cove from mid-March until November. For more details
(rates, exact dates, miscellaneous questions) call (865) 448-6286.
There are also 5 drive-in horse camps, with one in Cades Cove.
Horse camps are open March 17 to November 1. For reservations,
call 1-800-365-2267 (park code GRE) between 10am and 10pm or
visit the web site at http://reservations.nps.gov There
is a site fee of $30 and a maximum of 4 horses and 6 people
are allowed at each site.
Camping in Cades Cove
The National Park Service maintains a campground
at Cades Cove (and nine others). During summer and fall
sites can be reserved (only for May 15 until October 31) and
can be reserved up to 5 months in advance. For reservations,
call 800-365-2267 (park code GRE) or visit the web site at http://reservations.nps.gov.
Two tents or one RV and one tent with a maximum of 6 people
are allowed at each site. For backcountry information, call
Newfound Gap Road
Our third suggestion
is a tour of the Park via Newfound Gap Road. The 33-mile drive
from Gatlinburg to Cherokee North Carolina along Newfound Gap
Road (US 441) is the only route that completely traverses the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive offers a unique
opportunity to enjoy an abbreviated experience of everything
the Park has to offer, without necessarily trekking far from
your automobile. The drive takes about one hour, depending on
traffic. The experience can take several hours if you stop at
each of the suggested points of interest. June through August
and the month October are the busiest months of the tourist
season, and you can spend a lot of time looking at a bumper
in front of you. You shouldn't let the congestion discourage
you from the experience, however. If you want to avoid bumper-to-bumper
traffic, we would simply recommend you try the same experience
in April or May (wildflowers are already blooming) or after
peak fall colors. In fact, winter is even a wonderful time in
the Smokies. Quiet walkways, unforgettable views of the various
peaks in the Smokies, a vast variety of trees, flowers, and
wildlife; campgrounds, picnic areas--they all await you on this
wonderful journey. This road is closed to commercial traffic
as well. You begin your drive from Gatlinburg (or from Cherokee
for that matter--this travelogue assumes a departure from Gatlinburg)
and go about 2 miles to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Its worth
the stop here to view the displays of the natural history of
the Park, get an idea of what to expect on the drive, pick up
reading material to accompany your trip; and ask the Park rangers
those questions you always wanted to ask.
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center
you will turn left briefly before making a right turn onto Newfound
Gap Road. The road takes its name from a discovery in the 1850s
that Indian Gap, once believed to be the lowest point through
the mountains, actually was not the lowest point--hence the
name Newfound Gap. The road runs parallel to the West Prong
of the Little Pigeon River. Its cool, crystal-clear water is
inviting and cooling at the many pullouts accessible from Newfound
Gap Road. Ultimately the Little Pigeon River finds it's way
to the Tennessee River on its way to the Ohio and Mississippi
Rivers, which ultimately spill into the Gulf of Mexico.
At approximately the 1 and 2 mile points
from -Gatlinburg, you begin to see small signs indicating "quiet
walkways". These walkways, while you are still in Sugarlands
Valley, offer wonderful opportunities to view Fall color. The
valley takes its name from the multitude of sugar maples in
the area. As you move away from your vehicle down these quiet
paths you become surrounded by sugar maples, resplendent with
color. Early settlers used this tree for sugar and syrup. It
takes about 30 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.
As you continue along Newfound Gap Road,
a little over two miles you will come upon the Campbell Overlook,
which offers arguably the best vistas in the Park. Mt. LeConte
rises to 6,593 feet in front of you--the third largest peak
in the Smokies. The overlook is named for Carlos Campbell, who
wrote Birth of A National Park (available at the Sugarlands
Visitor Center). Campbell was a devoted outdoorsman and was
a devout supporter for the establishment of the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park.
Shortly beyond the Campbell Overlook, you
will approach one of the more interesting quiet walkways. As
you walk the path, look closely and you can still see the remnants
of old farmsteads--parts of fireplaces and foundations. You
can see the old roadbed, which led to White Oak Flats--what
is now known as Gatlinburg.
As you continue along US 441, you approach
the Chimney Tops at the 4.5 mile mark. Here you will
find the Chimney Tops picnic area, which is home to one of the
few remaining stands of mature cove hardwoods in the U.S. The
Little Pigeon River runs through the picnic area. This
river is named for the huge flocks of passenger pigeons, which
once filled the skies over the Smokies.
White settlers named the Chimney Tops after
stone chimneys which, if you use a little imagination, resemble
the peaks. This area, and many of the higher regions of the
Smokies, was once owned by paper and lumber companies, which
highly prized the spruce fibers growing there for making quality
paper. As a matter of fact, this prized resource and the thousands
of acres of forests held by these lumber companies were a key
obstacle in obtaining the land, which now makes up the Park.
If you are traveling from Gatlinburg, have
breakfast at the Burning Bush Restaurant--right at the
northern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you started from the Cherokee NC entrance and worked your
way towards Gatlinburg, finish the day by stopping at The
Peddler Restaurant. It's built around an old cabin belonging
to one of the area's early residents and adjacent to a stream.
You won't find a better steak in the area and the salad bar
is also one of the best. Expect to pay a little extra for the
aged beef, but the Peddler is guaranteed not to disappoint.
Plan your visit so you can select from lodging
in the Gatlinburg area. If you enjoy a great bed and breakfast
inn, stay at Hippensteal's Mountain View Inn (http://www.Hippensteal.com)
and enjoy their wonderful breakfast--save The Burning Bush for
your next visit, or the Buckhorn Inn in the Arts and Crafts
Community. Hippensteal's has a very romantic atmosphere and
boasts a splendid view of Mt. LeConte. The Buckhorn Inn (http://www.BuckhornInn.com)
was established in 1938 and today still serves as a tranquil
retreat on 25 wooded acres with views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
If you prefer a cabin or chalet, stay in
a property managed by Jackson Mountain Homes in Gatlinburg (http://www.jacksonmtn.com).
For a condominium, try Acadia Resort (http://www.AcadiaResort.com).
If a motel is your preference, stay at the Kingwood Inn (http://www.KingwoodInn.com).
Their hospitality is unbeatable and it's on a quiet side street
right up against National Park property, yet only 1-1/2 blocks
from the main Parkway. The Gatlinburg trolley stops at the front
If you need a great hiking outfitter, visit
The Happy Hiker in Gatlinburg (http://www.happyhiker.com).
For the angler, the Smoky Mountain Angler shop (http://www.SmokyMountainAngler.com)
is a must. Both shop owners know the area well and can make
suggestions that will make your visit a pleasant and successful
above assumed your interest in aspects of the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park and possibly a desire to avoid some of the crowds.
If you have more than a weekend to enjoy the area and you want
to sample some of the action in towns, you've got it made. You
can enjoy just about everything worth doing and repeat some
of the things you like best. Certainly, you should include the
activities described for "A Weekend", but you should
also include the following:
Pigeon Forge area
especially if the kids are along, has 22 rides, 40 shows, 50
craft showcases, and other attractions--all on 118 acres with
views of the Smoky Mountains. (865) 428-9488
The Ripley's Aquarium is supposed
to be finished in time for Fall 2000 (as of September 5, 2000
it is not finished). It is one of the most anticipated attractions
for the city of Gatlinburg.
TIP: Parking is at a premium and
relatively expensive, so plan your stay in lodging where you
can park your vehicle and take the trolley.
Governor's Palace - singing and dancing
on lavish sets, dazzling costumes on 3 stages. Features the
Blackwood Quartet. (865) 428-5888
In Sevierville stay at the Blue Mountain
Mist Bed and Breakfast inn (http://www.BlueMountainMist.com),
which sits on 60 acres looking out on the surrounding mountains.
The innkeepers are descendants of original settlers in the area
and have a wealth of historical information about the Smokies
area and inhabitants. Besides that, you get a delightful full
The Townsend entrance (northwest quadrant
of the Park) is the most convenient to access Cades Cove (described
above), which is the "must see" attraction in the
Tuckaleechee Caverns (http://www.smokymountains.org)
TIP: They are widening the road in
Townsend to four lanes (as of Summer and Fall 2000). The department
of tourism warns travelers of the construction, but fails to
mention that it causes no real problem, because 2 lanes are
open--which is how many lanes have been open for the past few
Park Web Site: Lots of Park info
Waterfalls - (http://www.RodsGuide.com/waterfalls.html)
hikes to waterfalls in the Smokies
Cataloochee is North Carolina's answer
to Cades Cove--without the crowds. This is a place to avoid
crowing and gain some solitude even in the Fall when foliage
color is at its peak.
Cosby area - The Cosby entrance to
the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the 2 quietest
entrances (Wears Valley being the other) and offers access to
some of the best hiking trails in the area.
Closest Airport: McGhee-Tyson by
Knoxville, Tennessee - (865) 970-2773
J & S Cafeteria (Pigeon Forge)
- great food and live music entertainment. If you are lucky,
Clyde Foley Cummings will be entertaining the day you visit.
Tastebuds Café (Sevierville) - Gourmet cuisine in the hills yet! Terrific food and everybody knows it so call for a reservation -
Directions to the Smokies: Visit
our web site at: http://www.rodsguide.com/DIRECTNS.html.