OK, so this may not me an unheard of trip but I’m going to include it. I had a great time driving for a while on the B.R. P. in 2003 and I plan on doing t again in late September of 2004.The drive is beautiful. This is not a route to take if you plan on driving fast. This is a leisure drive toping out at 45. Believe me you won’t want to go any faster as you will want to get out of your car every now and then and take in the views. This time I will stop and make some hikes along the ways as well. I will try and post more info when I return from my trip. OH, take a drive to Cherokee, NC first and get yourself a bag of BOILED PEANUTS. You gotta try ‘em.
When in Gatlinburg, take a day to drive over the Smoky Mountains National Parkway, a 33-mile trip, into Cherokee, N. Carolina to visit the Harrah's Cherokee Casino. Allow about one hour for the 33 mile trip because the speed limit is 35 MPH and the roads are constantly winding and going through high elevations. Enjoy the mountain scenery through the park on your way to the fun of the casino. The casino is operated by the Cherokee indians and proceeds benefit needy Cherokee families. There are no live gaming tables, but thousands of excellent video gaming machines with various games, including video slot machines and keno. Parking is free and a free shuttle bus will take you right to the door. Enjoy!
Biltmore Estate Winery was one of the places I really wanted to check out while visiting the grounds. I learned a lot about the way wines are made here during the self guided tour of the winery.
At the end of the tour you have the option to taste some of the wines they make here. If you go there with kids and they want to be part of the tasting experience, just ask for plain grape juice.
They also have a Wine Shop here where you can buy some really cool wine accessories, gourmet foods and any kind of Biltmore Wine you can think of!
The hike to the summit of the Chimney Tops is accomplished in just a few miles, measuring in at just 2.0 miles one way, but it still presents quite a challenge. The first mile up is relatively easy, but the last mile, particularly the last section on the Chimneys themselves, can be taxing for some hikers—especially those with a fear of heights. We climbed it easily enuf, it was the getting down part that was quite daunting.
In order to find the Chimney Tops Trailhead, look for the Chimney Tops parking lot, which is off Newfound Gap Road, if you are driving in from Gatlinburg it is the parking lot after you cross the first tunnel—from the parking lot, the trail leaves the road, crosses a stream, and begins to climb. For the most part, the trail consists of loose rocks, which makes it easy to twist an ankle or fall, so in order to help eliminate these possibilities it is important to wear proper shoes and mind your footing. The trail climbs up through the forest, following and crossing a cascading mountain stream via several bridges. As mentioned before, the trail to the summit is 2 miles long, 4 miles roundtrip, and it climbs 1335 feet—it is considered a strenuous hike that requires caution and strength, so pace yourself. But if you are hike enthusiasts don't miss it for sure!
For us it was a misty day so we didn't quite get the magnificient views, however the climb down in zero visibility was a thrill indeed!
The Pigeon River, located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, offers breathtaking scenery and heart-stopping thrills! This magnificent river begins in North Carolina and continues through Tennessee. Our trip sure was an adventure, our guide Randy was just recovering from a couple of broken ribs and with his rib tickling humor he guided us thru a 2 hour long rafting experience that was as good as any other we'd been on. We were surprisingly a part of the rescue team as one woman from another raft fell into the rapids, as our raft was the closest to her we had to paddle up to her and pull her in. It was an eventful ride as they let us get into the water, flipped our raft and got us to drift at one of the rapids.
Cataloochee is one of the places I really enjoyed visiting! Part of the adventure was just getting there. Since we stayed in Cosby, we decided to take road 32 and then the dirt road into the valley instead of the highway. The drive through the lush forest was fantastic and breathtaking at times. It took us about 50 minutes to get there from Cosby (we stopped few times for pictures).
The road is very narrow and very bad at times, but we managed to get there OK. On the way back we decided to take the 2 miles well maintained gravel road to highway I-40 and the Foothills Parkway into Cosby, instead of the steep (at times) dirt road and 32.
In the early 1800s all of the valley belonged to Colonel Robert Love, a post-revolutionary war land speculator. He granted homesteads to people who would settle here and improve the land. The earliest settlers that were found on record were the Caldwells (1814), the Hannahs, the Bennetts, the Nolands, the Palmers and the Barnes families.
In 1910 about 1200 people lived in Cataloochee. It is the best place in the park to see historic buildings from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
Wildlife is also abundant here and we encountered a lot of it while visiting the valley.
Biltmore Estate was on my things to do list while visiting the Smoky Mountains since it was an easy 2 hours car ride from Cosby.
I was really impressed with the estate and the pictures are worth 1000 words. Make sure you get your ticket online before you go, so you can beat the crowds. Also, I highly recommend the audio guide for the house tour. It is money well spent especially for first time visitors.
You are not allowed to take pictures inside, but you can take plenty of them outside and in the gardens.
The gardens at Biltmore Estate are fantastic. They are very well maintained and I can honestly say that you can easily spend one entire day here just exploring the gardens. The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect.
If you are on the grounds just for a short visit (as we were), make sure that at least you check the Italian Garden and the Rose Garden.
River Bend Farm is another fun stop while visiting the grounds. Here you will learn how life and work was on the estate in the 1890s.
There is a tiny ice cream shop here that sells home made ice cream. It is really good and you should try it.
In fact, all the ingredients used to cook all the meals they serve here are produced on the grounds.
If you are fortunate to visit Biltmore Estates late spring 2010 you will also have the chance to enjoy the Antler Hill Village. Construction was taken place when we visited in June 2009 and unfortunately the only thing we could enjoy here was the sign of this future attraction.
Most people coming into Gatlinburg, forget about the outspoken beauty of the National Park. One day is not even enough time to explore this picturesque environment. From Cades Cove to numerous hiking trails, the beauty of this park is unparrelled in the East. Take some time with your family or loved ones and explore this bountiful arena. It is truly a breathtaking experience.
We tried to drive to the area of the Smokies where the elk have been released, but it was a very windy road. The kids got bored, so I gave up. But my mom who went with us enjoyed the scenery.
Here she is with my kids (of course being a boy, my son had to make a dumb face for the camera) *sigh*
This is a 5mi. hike from Gatlinburg and is a wonderful experience. You will see 3 different climate Zones on your way up and at the top you can spend the hight at a lodge
for about $70.
Between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is the National Forest. They have a museum and a little documentry on the area.
While in Gatlinburg, take the chance to walk down to the streams that flow alongside the parkway and enjoy the nature surrounding this place. Pictured here is my husband, Wayne enjoying the scenery.