May 1, 2019

My Favorite Things!

There is so much to do and see in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Below is some information about Gatlinburg as well as some of our favorite things to do.

  • Gatlinburg's traffic lights on the parkway are numbered from 1 to 10. Traffic light #1 is the first traffic light in Gatlinburg on Hwy 441 (the Parkway) driving from Pigeon Forge. Traffic light #10 is the last light before entering the National Park. Traffic light #3 is where you turn left onto Highway 321. The cabin is about 3 miles from the parkway in Gatlinburg's Arts and Crafts Community.

  • If you want to go hiking or touring the National Park, I would definitely suggest visiting the Sugarlands Visitor Center. It is one mile past Traffic light #10 in the National Park. There is an nice hiking trail behind the visitor's center. In the visitor's center there is a gift shop, museum, and theater. You can also talk with the rangers about wildlife and the mountains.

  • At Traffic Light #8, you can enter the National Park on the Roaring Fork Historic Motor Nature Trail. There are primitive pioneer cabins that can be explored, several trails including Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls (moderate), and wildlife are most visible in late afternoon. The 5.5 mile one way road ends at Ely's Mill (my favorite) and back onto Highway 321. Turn right to go back to the cabin. (It isn't a loop back to the parkway.)

  • If the weather permits, one of our favorite activities was having a picnic in Greenbrier. Heading east on Highway 321, Hungry Bear BBQ is about 3 miles. We place an order to go (2 people can share the pork special dinner). Then we take our food across Highway 321 into the Greenbrier Entrance of the park. The pave road becomes a nice gravel road. About a mile into the park is a picnic area. You can picnic and play along the banks of the Middle Prong of the Pigeon River (designated the cleanest river in the US!)

  • When exiting Greenbrier, cross the Highway and stay on Hill Road. About a mile down is a beautiful covered bridge! Great photo op! Our daughters would buy tubes from Food City and park near the covered bridge. They would walk upstream about a mile towards Highway 321 and find a place to get in the river. They would then tube back to the covered bridge. For full clarification, my daughters were in their late teens/early 20s and both certified life guards. Make sure the river conditions are safe if you plan to tube it.

  • Other areas to explore include hiking to Laurel Falls (approx. 3 hours round trip) on the way to Cades Cove. Probably a good day's trip would be to visit the Sugarland's Visitor Center, Laurel Falls, and Cades Cove. Bring plenty of water, lunch, and snacks. There are bears that have learned how to break into vehicles. Store your food safely! Here is a link to the National Park Service site: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm.

  • The drive over the mountains to Cherokee is another day trip. We like to pack a lunch to eat at the Chimney's Picnic Area. Then travel south to Newfoundland Gap. Clingman's Dome is a moderate hike because of the altitude, but the path is paved and the views from the top are unsurpassed. On the Cherokee side of the mountains, stop by Mingus Mill to explore. Elk are often seen in the field at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee. Cherokee is the Indian Reservation and a very interesting place to shop and visit. You may also want to visit Harrah's Casino to try your luck!

  • In Gatlinburg, it's fun just to walk up and down the Parkway! Ripley's Aquarium of the Americas is the best in the nation. You can ride on the tram up to OberGatlinburg. For the Adrenalin Junkies, a new skybridge with a glass center was just constructed by the ski lift (you won't find me on it!) There are specialty shops to explore, moonshine and whiskey tasting, and many amusement venues. We've eaten at some of the many good restaurants on the Parkway. Best Italian, Crockett's for breakfast, Log Cabin Restaurant, and Smoky Mountain Brewery are some of my favorites!

I hope this information helps you plan your trip. Have a wonderful time!