Cades Cove is a "must-see" when you are in the Smokies. It is a one-way loop that takes you by primitive cabins, streams, plenty of trails and wildlife. We have seen 100's of deer through here, a racoon and a baby bear. I don't think I have ever been through when we didn't see at least 5 deer.
This has got to be the easiest access Falls you will find in the Smokies. (At least on the Gatlinburg side). No matter what time of year I have been up, this falls has always been beautiful.
The wonderful thing about Meigs is that you never have to leave your car, if you're in a hurry.
There are lots of miniature golf places in the Gatlinburg area but this one seemed to a little more unique.
It is located up the side of a steep hill and you have to take a funicular railway up to the top and then play the course all the way down.
The course is pretty much average but the fact that you are so high up makes it interesting.
The funicular ride makes it fun also.
There are two coures to play.
Costs are $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for children.
The chair lift is a Gatlinburg favorite. If you go there you have to at least do it once. It goes to the top of the mountain where you can get off have snacks, shop a bit, and admire the city. Give it a try its a relatively inexpensive ride. Once you slowly reach the top "smile"!! They snap a picture of you, which you can purchase in the little shop. You can go back down whenever your ready. Have fun!!
The Baskins Creek Trail is one of those secrets many park lovers keep to themselves. It's in an area where some trails are choked by tourists. However, even during busy times this trail is seldom crowded, probably because its name doesn't advertise the splendid views or the magnificent waterfall at the hike's end.
As you begin, you will climb gently upward through a forest of maple, oak and blackgum trees.
Along the trail, you'll see some objects that look like crumpled white paper. As you get closer you'll discover these are actually outcroppings of white vein quartz, forced to the surface when the Appalachian Mountains were formed, according to the ''Hiking Trails of the Smokies.''
As the trail begins to descend, you'll notice that the hardwoods give way to pine, rhododendron and mountain laurel.
Just when you think this rather steep downhill section of trail will never end, it evens out. At about 1.2 miles there is a sign marking the path to a cemetery established by the settlers who once lived here. It's worth exploring. When you get back to the main trail, turn left and continue on about another quarter mile.
When you spot a sign marking the distances back to Trillium Gap and forward to Roaring Fork, you have reached the side trail that leads to the falls. Because this is an unmaintained trail, it is not on official park-service maps. Nor is it officially noted on the sign, although some hiker used a stone or key to scratch ''FALLS'' on one corner.
The trail meanders along beside gurgling, splashing Falls Branch. When you reach a slight rise in the trail, just before it begins to descend sharply, you will be standing almost atop the falls. You can hear them roaring quite clearly.
If you're so inclined, step down into the rhododendron thicket and carefully work your way over toward the stream, using the mature tree trunks as handholds. There are several huge rocks to sit on around the point where the falls splash over the cliff.
While on vacation in Gatlinburg this July , we grew so tired of all the gaudy overpriced trash that was vended in every shop on mainstreet.I decided that I wasnt going to spend another cent on this junk. After asking around ,we found a delightful area called the "Arts and Crafts Community" just minutes from downtown. There in the "glades" I found REAL Smoky Mountain treasures like handmade chenille rugs at APPLE ANNIES for only $10!!! Its worth every minute just looking at all the beautiful things each shop in the 8 mile loop has to offer,and dont be surprised if you get an interesting conversation and a real smile from these craftsmen and artists.
This is a good place for an adventure that lasts about two hours. There is not a lot of parking in the parking lot at the entrance to the falls but cars were parked up and down on the side of the road. The dirt trail is a little ardous, but not steep. There are rocks and roots to walk over and on a busy day other hikers.
Along the way are several lovely waterfalls, and the sound of falling water is pleasant. It's nice to be in a place where it's so quiet you can hear the birds. Ferns cover much of the area and there are lots of big trees that form a cool canopy when hiking.
There are several trails to choose from when you get to the base of the hiking area.
If you only have time for a short trip to the mountains, be sure to drive up Airport Road and do the Motor Nature Trail. It is about a 10 mile loop that gives you an excellent view of streams and overlooks without actually driving up into the mountains. It is a one-way loop so you're committed once you start. Definately worth the time. The place of a Thousand Drips is at the end of the Motor Nature Trail
If you are walking through Gatlinburg, near the National Park, you will notice the Tram going up over the hills into the distance. This is the Ober Gatlinburg Tram. It carries you a mile or so up to Ober Gatlinburg.
At Ober Gatlinburg there is an indoor skating rink, shops, go-carts, ski lifts, ski runs and in the warmer months a bear habitat.
Even if you're not into the above mentioned activities (my mom wasn't), the ride itself is one that you should not miss. As
As you glide across the hills around Gatlinburg, you have a birds-eye view of some unusual cabins as well as an outstanding view of Gatlinburg.
The Ogle Family was among the very first to settle in this area. Many of the settlers were Revolutionary War Veterans that had received their 50 acre tract for Patriotic Service during the American Revolution.
Definately take the drive to Clingmans Dome.
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest point in the Appalachian Mountain range. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647) in Mt. Mitchell State Park rise higher.
Clingmans Dome is a popular park destination. Spectacular vistas await those willing to climb a 30-minute steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top. On clear, pollution-free days, views expand over a 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution often limits viewing distances to under 20 miles.
Clouds, precipitation, and cold temperatures reveal the hostile environment atop Clingmans Dome. Proper preparation is essential for a good visit. Although Clingmans Dome is open year-round, the road leading to it is closed from December 1 through March 31, and whenever weather conditions require.
I also recomend trying the by-pass trail to Clingmans Dome.
I was living in Gatlinburg when I first heard that plans were underway to build an Aquarium here and I thought it was a poor idea. After all, this was the mountains, not the beach. That reasoning shows how little I know. In it's first few years of operation Aquarium of the Smokies has become the most visited aquarium in the United States.
When Karen and I recently took the tour it was easy to see why this one is so popular. The place is fabulous. We've been to several great aquariums throughout the country, but have never enjoyed one more than here.
This is a state-of-the-art, 125,000 square foot, 1.4 million gallon facility which features eleven-foot sharks and 8,000 other exotic sea creatures from around the world. An innovation that we especially liked was the 345-foot glide path that carries you through the world's longest underwater aquarium tunnel. In fact, we walked back and stepped back onto the moving path more than once to experience it again. This feature allows everyone an opportunity to have an unobstructed front row view.
The aquarium is open 365 days a year. Click the web link below for current ticket prices and hours of operation.
Some of the best views to be had of Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains are from the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. You board the lift at the downtown station on the main street of town and it swoops you out and over the Little Pigeon River before turning upward and carrying you to the top of a ridge high above Gatlinburg. Just before you get off at the top your picture will be snapped so be sure to smile. We kissed for the picture.
At the top you will have unlimited time to take in the view, utilize the picnic area, or grab a bite at the snack shop. In the 4,000 square-foot gift shop you will have the opportunity to purchase the photo that was taken of you on the lift if you wish. Of course, you will want to bring your own camera or camcorder to to record the fabulous views. Whenever you are ready you may board the skylift for the return trip. In June the Mountain Laurel in the cleared area beneath the lift offers a wonderful display of pink and white blossoms.
The Gatlinburg Sky lift operates daily April - October. If the weather is good it also runs in March and November.
If you stand on the open observation deck of this 342-foot tower right after a thunderstorm, as I have done, then you will know how the Great Smoky Mountains got their name. It is not for the haze that hangs too heavy in the air much of the time. But just after a summer rain, and sometimes as the fog lifts on a cool morning, wisps of smoke-like clouds rise from every hollow and along every ridge. The view is unforgettable.
This tower, which was built by the father of one of my old girlfriends, rises above "Rebel Corner" in the heart of Gatlinburg. Below it are arcades, bumper cars, trinket shops, ice cream and candy shops, and a zillion other touristy things. At the Space Needle, for a small fee, one can rise above it all for an awesome view of what drew all the crowds here in the first place.
For those seeking a quite picnic spot or a no cost recreation area in Gatlinburg, Mynatt Park is just just waiting for you . It is on the northern edge of the town. The expansive city park offers:
Outdoor Basketball Court
Picnic Tables and Grills
Children's Trout Stream
Two Playground Areas
Covered Pavilion (by reservation)
I have picniced at Mynatt Park on several occasions under the large old shade trees beside a clear bubbling trout stream. This particular stream, flowing directly out of the Great Smoky Mountains, is stocked regularly and has been designated for children 12 and under only. The last time I was there several children were actually sitting/wading/splashing in the stream and having a grand time. On one occasion I was there a black bear came out of the mountains and ambled through the picnic area. Everyone ran for their cars, but the bear seemed to pay us no mind. After sniffing around for a couple of minutes it turned and followed the stream back into the fastness of the Great Smoky Mountains.