Great Smoky Mountains National Park Off The Beaten Path

  • Off The Beaten Path
    by Stephen-KarenConn
  • Access Map to Spruce Flats Falls Trail
    Access Map to Spruce Flats Falls Trail
    by TravellerMel
  • Spruce Flats Falls
    Spruce Flats Falls
    by TravellerMel

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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    Hike to Spruce Flats Falls

    by TravellerMel Updated Sep 4, 2013

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    Access Map to Spruce Flats Falls Trail
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    A beautiful - and lesser known - trail; if Boyd hadn't gone on a birdwalk with a local group, we would never have found out about this one, as it is not listed on any trail map we have. This is an easy/moderate walk - not particularly steep for most of the trail, but it is narrow (there are spaces where two people cannot walk side-by-side), and there are some large rocks you have to scramble over. Two miles round trip (NOT a loop trail). It is a beautiful walk, though, and has gorgeous views of the mountains and streams. And the best part is, you will have the trail all to yourself!

    Directions: Navigate to GSM Institute at Tremont (locally known just as "Tremont"). Park in the lot and register with the ranger inside the office. Walk up the paved road toward the barracks; pass the buildings and look for the sign reading 'Falls Trail'. The trail ascends quickly up a series of switchbacks passing a water tower along the way. Bear to the right when you reach the fork, and stay on the main trail.

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    And the silence was unbroken

    by goingsolo Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    The beauty of the Smokies exceeded expectations. Then again, such expectations were grounded in a preference for points west, but, driving along Cades Cove Loop Road in the early morning stillness, I can't help but be captivated. A peaceful morning in a unique park with mountains shrouded in mist. Truly spectacular. I'm starting to get it now.

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  • WILDLIFE

    by missy1029 Written Oct 14, 2009
    Welcome Center
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    Visited the park many times, summer, fall & winter. ALWAYS see wildlife. The picture attached was at the Sugarland Visitor's Center. I also have pictures of Black Bear, Elk, Coyote and a large buck with a full rack, standing 4 feet from my car in Cades Cove. Hiking is always the best way to spot wildlife but it is alive and well in the SMNP. Enjoy the beauty from the car, from off the beaten path, campgrounds, etc. Take it all in and appreciate it the way me and my family do. Enjoy

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    Apples in Pigeon Forge

    by PinkFloydActuary Written Apr 18, 2006
    The Apple Barn, Pigeon Forge

    On the way through Nashville, we stopped at an outlet mall that had a store called the Apple Barn. The "real" Apple Barn is located in Pigeon Forge, which straddles the north side of the park. This tourist attraction has among other things, an ice cream shop, candy shop, restaurant, winery, and general gift shop. You can buy almost any apple related food item you can think of, shop for ornaments at their Christmas store, or watch the folks make taffy. While you may not want to leave the park specifically to come here, if you are staying outside the park, this would be a good place to start or end your day. Plenty to see and snack on!

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    Wildlife

    by goingsolo Updated Aug 12, 2005

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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Visitors to Great Smoky expect to see wildlife. Deer graze in the pastures alongside Cades Cove Loop Road and black bear forage for berries in the meadows. You don't need to venture far to spot wildlife in this park. It seems to almost find you.

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    Quiet walkways

    by goingsolo Written Aug 12, 2005

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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    While driving along US 441 between SUgarlands and Ocanaluftee Visitors Centers, you'll notice quite a few signs advertising quiet walkways. These are nothing more than short trails of about a quarter mile that are supposed to be "a little bit of the world as it once was", or so says the sign, and we all know that signs never lie. I'm not sure if they mean the world at large or the Smokies but I assume the latter.

    But most people drive through Great Smoky without walking on any of the trails and stick to their cars and the overlooks. That's what the park ranger said and those men and women certainly never ever lie. Anyway, the quiet walkways usually are quiet as everyone heads for bigger and better things. So a brief walk on one of those walkways can offer a respite from traffic, crowds and the world as it is now. Something to think about.

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    And the stillness gave no token

    by goingsolo Written Aug 7, 2005

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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    This is a park where time stands still. Its slow going on the one way loop road, but no one seems to mind. This isn't California, after all.

    The park is a veritable Yellowstone in terms of wildlife. There's a friendliness to the visitors that can be found only in the south. And a slow meandering through Great Smoky beauty.

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    Chimney Tops Trail

    by bigorange1103 Written Jul 22, 2005

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    Chimney Tops

    The Chimney Tops trail is my favorite. It is a strenuous 4 mile roundtrip hike. You would have to be in pretty good physical condition to complete this hike. We hiked it one spring morning and it was a day I will always remember. It starts going over a few bridges with beautiful views. Then you go through many changes in scenery. The end result is a view you will never forget!!!!!

    It is located off of Hwy 441, Newfound Gap road, on the Tennessee side.

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    Mingo Falls

    by bigorange1103 Written Jul 22, 2005

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    Mingo in April

    Mingo is located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. It is not in the national park but is definately worth the ride!!!! When you enter Cherokee, turn left onto Big Cove Road. Follow it a few miles until you see Mingo Campground and turn right. Park in the lot and the stairs are straight ahead. It is approx. .2mi. (just a bunch of stairs) to the top!! I believe it is the largest falls in the area and definately the easiest to get to.

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    Grotto Falls

    by bigorange1103 Updated Jul 22, 2005
    Behind Grotto Falls

    Grotto is located off of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail. There is a large parking lot at the trailhead. It is a moderate 2.4 mile hike round trip. It is steep at times and has areas where you will have to walk over logs and such but is a beautiful hike. You will feel like you are in a rainforest at times because of the cool breeze and canopy of trees above. This fall you can walk behind. Certian times of year there is less water in the falls. The picture here was taken in November and it was on the dry side. My mom did it in April and it was alot more impressive!!!!!

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    Laurel Falls

    by bigorange1103 Written Jul 22, 2005
    Upper Laurel Falls

    Laurel Falls is an easy hike and paved. The hike is 2.6 miles roundtrip. Once you reach the top you will cross a bridge where you can view the upper falls. The lower falls can be viewed but be careful because the edge is slippery from the mist off of the upper falls. It is located off of Little River Rd. about 3.5 miles from Sugarlands Visitors Center.

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    Ride the rails

    by bigorange1103 Written Jul 22, 2005

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    Just before we boarded for our trip

    Not in the National Park, but worth taking a look at, is the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. It is located in Bryson City, NC. Only about an hour away from Gatlinburg. They have great day trips for any time of the year. The 2 most popular are the Nantahala Gorge and the Fontana Trestle excursions. The Nantahala trip runs along the river and stops for a lunch break. We had a great picnic right on the river by a little waterfall!!!!!! They also have dinner trains and rafting trips.

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    Gatlinburg Trail

    by bigorange1103 Written Jul 20, 2005

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    River along the trail

    This is a trial I have long overlooked. It is the first trail head in the park even before you get to the Sugarlands Visitors center. It is right out of Gatlinburg on the right. We started a little further down by the big metal bridge that goes over the river. To our surprise, this was a woderful trail for us and our small children!!!! It is a flat and wide trail that follows the river for around a mile and a half and takes you to the visitors center. I am not postive about the mileage but we did it round trip with 2 small children and it only took us 3 hours. We also stopped alot!!!! It is great for anyone not wanting to really "hike". Just get out and enjoy nature. There are also some old homesites along the way. You will see old steps or chimneys where homes once stood.

    rating: easy

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    Chimney Tops

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Mar 10, 2005

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    The Chimney Tops

    The Chimney Tops familiar landmarks easily seen from Newfound Gap Road, 6.7 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. They are twin summits of quartzine and hard slate, standing 4,840-feet-tall. On the right peak is a 30 foot flue-like hole which gives the peaks their name. The Cherokee Indians called them Dukiskwal-guni (forked antlers). The steep slopes around the peaks are covered with mountain laurel, rhododendron, blueberry and sand-myrtle, all members of the heath family.

    A small trail head is beside the Newfound Gap Road at the base of the Chimney Tops. A four mile round trip hike will take you first down and across the Walker Camp Prong of the Little Pigeon River, then sharpy up 1,300 feet to the summit. The upper reaches of the Chimney Tops Trail are not very well graded, very rough, and steep. It is a strenuous climb. Extreme care should be taken on the bare rock summit area. While I was living in Sevier County a young man with a visiting group from Georgia fell to his death. Others have fallen and been seriously injured.

    The 360 degree views from the top are spectacular. A short distance above the trailhead is the very nice Chimneys Picnic Area along a rushing stream in a mature forest setting.

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    Alum Cave Bluff

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Jul 6, 2004

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    Karen at Alum Cave Bluff

    The only way to reach Alum Cave Bluff is by a strenuous 2.3 mile hike (one way). The trailhead is along the Newfound Gap Road, about 7 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There are two parking lots since this is one of the Park's more popular hikes.

    For the first 1.3 miles the trail runs beside a beautiful clear trout stream and then passes through Arch Rock, a dark, steep, narrow passage on a set of rock steps. If you hike the trail in late June or early July you will see an abundance of rhododendron in bloom. A little later in the season there will be blueberries to pick. A half mile before reaching Alum Cave Bluff, make a stop at Inspiration Point, a rocky outcrop which offers splendid views of the surrounding mountains. Just beyond Inspiration Point look toward the far the ridge and you may see an unusual formation called "Hole-in-the-rock."

    At the Alum Cave Bluff, you are exactly half way from the trailhead to the peak of Mt. Leconte, 6,593 ft elevation. Red squirrels and chipmunks hang out at the Bluff and beg for handouts from hikers. Be careful/ the red squirrels may bite fingers. They also know how to unzip backpacks and dig out your gorp or crackers.

    During the Civil War, saltpeter was mined here at Alum Cave Bluff and used in the manufacture of gunpower.

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