Top 5 Tips for Hiking in the Smokies

Hiking in the Smokies

We have hundreds of attractions in East Tennessee – from Sevier County and Knox County to Cocke County and Blount County, it would take years to see all there is to see and do here – but for all the many awesome things we have to do, nothing in the Smoky Mountains are more exhilarating to experience than Hiking in the Smoky Mountains themselves. It’s not news that the National Park and its sprawling area is the major reason people, and probably you yourself, have come here for almost a full century of tourism, but it might be news to you that the Smoky Mountains are THE most visited national park in the country with millions that visit and revisit each year just to see the wonders our forests, ridges and glens at their most untouched; practically the same as they have looked and operated since way before our European ancestors came here to settle.

And what is the best way to experience the Smokies at their very finest? With the dozens of hiking trails we have, of course! There’s so many places to walk, climb and gaze out at from a very high point of the mountain that some former visitors actually move here JUST so they can get all the hiking they want out of it. To make Sevier County your permanent residence is the closest you can get to getting your fill of the National Park, the waterfalls, the wildlife and special events we have for it and we recommend everyone who visits our area take some time to experience it before leaving.

In this article, we’d like to list out our best tips for those interested in going to any of the hiking trails we have here. This information will be highly valuable and virtually required reading before starting any hiking venture in the Smokies. Let’s begin:

 

  1. Purchase a Hiking Guide

At several welcome centers, hiking stores and even gift shops in town are a plethora of hiking books that are easily available. These books come with necessary hard information about the trails – such as length, difficulty, and even warnings about certain areas inexperienced hikers will have trouble with – but also fun information on sights, landmarks and historical anecdotes. Many come with maps of and to trails and many other pictoral references so you can get a visual on what to expect. Very much recommended.

 

  1. Visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center

From the Spur in Gatlinburg (as going to Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge), you can turn onto Newfound Gap road and drive for a little while until you reach a large complex up in the mountains. This is the National Park Headquarters for the Tennessee Smokies and, next to it, is the Sugarlands Visitor Center where folks can learn all about the Smokies with onsite maps, information, museum exhibits, learning tools, video and a giant bookstore among other worthwhile items. The Visitor Center also has its own famous hiking trail and another nature walking trail right there, making Sugarlands anything from a hiking pitstop to a full day’s worth of nature fun in the mountains. See more on Sugarlands at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm

 

  1. For Simplicity, Stick to Highway 441

On the subject of Newfound Gap (which is also known as Highway 441), those of you who are looking to have a bunch of trail options available in the most efficient way possible should plan to stick to this one road as it contains quite a few awesome trails that don’t require complicated directions once you get on. From just one-hour’s drive on this highway, you can find:

 

* Sugarlands Visitor Center

* Mingus Mill

* Bradely Fork Trail

* Clingman’s Dome

* Newfound Gap

* Collins Creek

* Chimney Tops Trail

* Oconaluftee Visitor Center (Cherokee, North Carolina)

 

And more along the trails once you get there! If you prefer to keep the driving simple, 441 is about as efficient as you can get for a good section of hiking activities.

 

  1. Take The Right Precautions

As much fun as the Smokies are to hike, those who are not fully prepared for hiking in Appalachia may run risks that can easily be avoided. These risks go from inconvenience and lack of comfort to possible dangers with regards to staying hydrated, having the right footwear for climbing miles of mountain trails that are slick from the climate, having light sources as the trails are often covered and can get dark quickly, and finally a first aid kit for the low but still real chance injuries could be incurred while on the trail. Have hiking boots or very sturdy shoes on your feet that are slip resistant, pack a light jacket in case the weather turns or the temperature change becomes uncomfortable, keep your bag organized with first aid kits, water, snacks and a guide at least. KEEP HYDRATED! We can’t emphasize that enough.

 

  1. Take Pictures, Leave Footprints

The Smoky Mountains are a delicate ecosystem that exist as it does thanks to the concerned efforts of visitors and committees. As freely available as the National Park is made for all, you are not to take, mark or molest anything; not the wildlife, not the plants, not the tiny little ants. If you see a bear, do NOT approach it and DO NOT FEED IT. Same with the other animals. Use the bathroom at designated restrooms and do not litter the trails. Consideration on your part means another group will thoroughly enjoy their hike. That is the cycle of life in our parts and we mean to keep it that way!

 

Waterfall Hikes In the Smokies

Smoky Mountain Waterfalls

Spring keeps on getting better and better in the Smokies. More and more of the thoroughly abundant life and lush, thriving ecosystem comes alive with each passing hour – radiant emerald greens and soft, excruciately adorable pastel-colored plants reveal themselves to the world at large and our flashing cameras while the temperatures reach highly mobile and comfortable 70-80 weather days on most occasions.

What is the best thing to do in the Smokies when we reach the prime of the season between April and May? Why, the Smokies themselves, naturally. There are dozens of hiking trails in the Smokies and many aren’t sure what to start with or look for, but we recommend going to visit the trails with the famous Smoky Mountain waterfalls as part of their courses. The waterfalls are simultaneously some of the most plentiful, most powerful, most awe-inspiring and photogenic things you’ll find in the Smokies: to look at these gushing water spouts, to hear loud crashing waves that drown everything else out, to know that this has been here and moved googolplexes of water for aeons and aeons, just fills one with a sense of connection to the mountains that are difficult to describe, even if we assume that description would come from and go to someone who’s been to see them!

In this article, we’ll list off some hiking trails that have waterfalls on them as well as pertinent information on them from NPS.gov:

Abrams Falls

“Although Abrams Falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over falls more than makes up for its lack of height. The long, deep pool at its base is very picturesque. The waterfall and creek are named for a Cherokee chief whose village once stood several miles downstream. The trail to the falls traverses pine-oak forest on the ridges and hemlock and rhododendron forest along the creek. The hike is 5 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty.”

Full Information:  CLICK HERE


Grotto Falls

“Trillium Gap Trail meanders through an old-growth hemlock forest and actually runs behind the 25 foot high waterfall. The cool, moist environment near the falls is ideal for salamanders and summer hikers. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 miles and the hike is generally considered moderate in difficulty. It takes about 2-3 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE 


Hen Wallow Falls

The trip to Hen Wallow Falls is a pleasant walk through hemlock and rhododendron forest. A signed side trail leads to the base of the falls by way of steep switchbacks. Hen Wallow Creek, only two feet wide at the top of the falls, fans out to 20 feet at the base. The waterfall is 90 feet high. If you look carefully in the water at the base of the falls, you can often find salamanders. During very cold winter weather, the waterfall can freeze into a beautiful icy column. The hike to the falls is 4.4 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty. Hikers continuing on the Gabes Mountain Trail beyond the falls can enjoy an impressive old-growth forest.

Full Information: CLICK HERE 


Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls

“An easy 1.6 mile roundtrip hike will allow you to enjoy two beautiful waterfalls in the Deep Creek area. Walk Deep Creek Trail 0.7 mile to the junction with Indian Creek Trail. On your way you can view the elegant, 60′ high Tom Branch Falls located on the far side of Deep Creek. Turn right at the junction with Indian Creek Trail and proceed approximately 200′ to Indian Creek Falls. The falls are 25 feet in height. The roundtrip distance to the waterfalls is 1.6 miles and the hike is generally considered easy. It takes about 1-2 hours to hike to the waterfalls and back.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


Juney Whank Falls

“Juney Whank Falls is divided into an upper and lower section. Both can be viewed from the footbridge which crosses Juney Whank Branch at the falls. Together they drop 90 feet from top to bottom. The trail to the waterfall is 0.8 miles roundtrip and is considered moderate in difficulty. The stream and falls are said to be named after a Mr. Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who may be buried in the area.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


 Laurel Falls

“Laurel Branch and the 80-foot high Laurel Falls are named for mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub which blooms along the trail and near the falls in May. The waterfall consists of an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway which crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park and parking at the trailhead is limited. The area is especially busy on weekends year-round and on weekdays during summer. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 miles and the hike is considered moderate in difficulty. It takes about 2 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


Lynn Camp Prong Cascades

“Lynn Camp Prong rushes and tumbles over numerous cascades as it flows down the mountain beside the Middle Prong Trail. The trail follows the route of an old logging railroad, so it offers easy walking on a wide, relatively level path. Wildflowers bloom along the trail from spring through summer. The roundtrip distance to the cascades is 1.3 miles and the hike is generally considered to be easy in difficulty. It takes about an hour to hike to the waterfall and back at a leisurely pace.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


Mingo Falls

“Mingo Falls is on the Cherokee Indian Reservation (Qualla Boundary), just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No special permits are required for access to the reservation. At 120 feet tall, the waterfall is one of the tallest and most spectacular in the southern Appalachians. The hike to the waterfall is only 0.4 miles in length, but is considered moderate in difficulty.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


Mouse Creek Falls

“Big Creek Trail follows an old railroad grade used to haul lumber out of the mountains during the logging boom at the start of the 20th century. At 1.4 miles the trail passes Midnight Hole, a deep, picturesque pool below a 6′ falls. At 2.1 miles a short side trail on the left leads to a bench where hikers can rest and view Mouse Creek Falls which is on the far side of Big Creek. The falls are 45′ in height.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


Rainbow Falls

“A rainbow produced by mist from this 80-foot high waterfall is visible on sunny afternoons. During extended winter cold spells, an impressive ice formation builds around the falls. Between trailhead and falls, Rainbow Falls Trail gains about 1,500′ in elevation. The 5.4 mile roundtrip hike is considered moderate in difficulty. The Rainbow Falls Trail continues for approximately 4 miles beyond the falls to the summit of Mount Le Conte.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


Ramsey Cascades

“Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous well-camouflaged salamanders can be found. The trail to the waterfall gains over 2,000′ in elevation over its 4 mile course and the 8-mile roundtrip hike is considered strenuous in difficulty. It follows rushing rivers and streams for much of its length. The last 2 miles pass through old-growth cove hardwood forest with large tuliptrees, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches.”

Full Information: CLICK HERE


And, of course, you can find all the information you need on other avenues of the Smoky Mountain National Park  

 

Smoky Mountain Wine Weekend

Who Likes WINE?

9,000 years ago, some genius in the Middle East discovered that crushing fermented grapes into liquid could make one of the finest, most widely appreciated beverages on Earth. This information got to the Phoenicians and the Estruscans who thereby began building vineyards throughout the Mediterranean, setting the foundation for wine to exist in our world and become a fixture of many cultures up to today. Rome, Greece, France, Spain, Germany and so many points in history show wine to be so ubiquitous that we could legitimately wonder what history would be like if that genius hadn’t discovered it?

This question can be pondered later, for today we’d like you to concentrate your wine interests on the fact that the Smoky Mountain Wine Weekend is returning to Gatlinburg on April 13th and 14th!

The Smoky Mountain Wine Weekend is a dream come true for wine connoisseurs, fans, casuals and all those in-between. This event is a two-part wine extravaganza: a Gatlinburg Wine Tour that begins on April 13th and tours participants through the best in wine that our area has to offer. The second part is the event most are familiar with – the Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Wine Fest held at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts the following day on April 14th.

From the Gatlinburg.com website:

“Sanctioned by the Tennessee Farm Wine Growers Alliance, this popular wine festival will feature samplings from 16 wineries from across Tennessee, delicious food pairings from the best restaurants in the Smoky Mountains, and a souvenir wine glass for all those who purchase tickets.

Guests at Smoky Mountain Wine Fest will have the opportunity to sample wine from all over the state of Tennessee.

2018 vendors include:

  • Amber Falls Winery
  • Apple Barn Winery
  • Beans Creek Winery
  • Cades Cove Cellars
  • Goodwater Winery & Vineyards
  • Grinder’s Switch Winery
  • Hillside Winery
  • Keg Springs Winery
  • Mill Bridge Winery
  • Mountain Valley Winery
  • Natchez Hills Winery
  • Paris Winery
  • Sugarland Cellars
  • Sumner Crest Winery
  • Tennessee Homemade Wines
  • Wyile Cider”

 

Still want more from the local grapevines? Check out the Rocky Top Wine Trail where you can visit 5 local wineries, as well as the Doc Collier Moonshine distillery for more red and white goodness!

From the Rockytopwineries.com website:

“The Rocky Top Wine Trail offers over 70 unique wines to try, which makes it a great option for those looking to make a day (or two) of wine tasting!  The trail is 100% free to do. You simply start at any of the following wineries/distilleries where you can pick up a passport and then present your passport at each location to receive a stamp. Once you have visited three locations you will receive a free gift, and if you finish the trail and visit all six locations you will receive another free gift!

Free wine tastings are offered at every location and free tours of the wine cellars and tank rooms are given from 12-5pm at Mountain Valley Winery, Sugarland Cellars, and Hillside Winery.

Each separately owned winery has its own unique style and feel, but every one of them has friendly staff eager to help you explore the world of wine! All five wineries are open 7 days a week and are closed only on Christmas Day.”

See more on the Smoky Mountain Wine Weekend CLICK HER , and more on the Rocky Top Wine Trail CLICK HERE .

 

New Grand Marshal For Spring Parade

WOW – we didn’t see this coming and we’re not sure if anyone did, but this Spring there will be a brand new grand marshal for the annual May parade in Pigeon Forge as well as a new name for the event.

It will be called “Music in the Mountains Spring Parade” and the new grand marshal is… Mr. Cal Ripken Jr. himself!

A press release, as reported by knoxnews.com, has this to say:

“After 32 years, officials from the city of Pigeon Forge and Dollywood theme park announced that they want to provide an opportunity for a new grand marshal to preside over Pigeon Forge’s annual springtime parade, previously known as the Homecoming Parade.”

From Dolly Parton’s own release:

“For 32 years, it’s been my honor and privilege to serve as the grand marshal. In that time, Pigeon Forge has grown so much and so many new businesses and attractions have come to town, everyone agrees that this is the perfect time for me to step aside and share the spotlight with some other folks. Dollywood has hogged the spotlight long enough!”

Definitely a torch-passing moment if there ever was one for Pigeon Forge and Cal Ripken Jr. is definitely a surprising choice, but one that can easily be as interesting and as full of potential as much of the rest of the developments and changes coming to the Smokies. Cal Ripken Jr. became a famous baseball player for a very good reason – he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive baseball games played by over 20%. Lou Gehrig finished his career with 2,130 games and Ripken finished with 2,632 games spanning 16 years.

The new parade will be scheduled for May 4th, 2018 and begin at 6:00PM on the Pigeon Forge parkway. More news and surprises on that may be announced as time goes on.

 

Special Valentine Ideas in the Smokies

It’s practically common knowledge by now that the Smokies are an area more than fit for romance; as evidenced by the large wedding and hospitality industries we have here, and while the idea of our gorgeous mountain environments saturated with crisp, cool air and surrounded with white-tipped or fully snowed over ridges in the distance is enough to sell visitors on choosing our area for Valentine’s Day or the nearest adjacent weekend thereof, some might not be fully initiated for what the actual romantic opportunities might be.

In this article, we’ll give you some starting ideas to help you do just that! Let’s look:

 

  1. The Rocky Top Wine Trail

Can’t have romance anything without the wine, can you? The Rocky Top Wine Trail is a following for five wineries in the Great Smoky Mountains that are all located within 12 miles of each other: Mountain Valley Vineyards, Apple Barn Winery, Hillside Winery, Gatlinburg’s Sugarland Cellars Winery and The Mill Bridge Winery. Guys, if you haven’t figured out by now, gals tend to like wine, and this is a very classy type of activity for the both of you to share as a build up to dinner later.  CLICK HERE.

 

  1. The Arts and Crafts

Another Appalachian-tinged activity that is soaked with class and a certain regional “elegance” about it is to take a tour through and indulge in some of our arts and crafts communities and see the “soul” of the Smokies live on through them. This is the Arts and Crafts Community in Gatlinburg, the Old Mill area of Pigeon Forge, practically the entirety of Wears Valley, much of Cosby, TN, and other areas in between.  

 

  1. EL-E-VA-SHUN!

Another excellent idea for couples to do once they get to the Smokies is get high! Yes, I’m telling you to get high. You haven’t experienced the Smokies like getting high in the Smokies! Ok, ok, joke’s over, put the brownies away, I’m talking about getting elevated with our many attractions/rides that get you well above the terrestrial plane and let you see what the birds see when they fly overhead! We have a slew of items that allow you this immaculate privilege – Ober Gatlinburg and its tram system, Anakeesta Village and its tram system, the Space Needle and its 360 degrees of panorama excellence more than 400 feet above the city of Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge, some scenic helicopter rides or, if you’re really brave, try some of the ziplining opportunities we have throughout the area. There is just nothing more spiritual and, by extension, romantic than being able to gaze upon the snow-covered mountains at eye-level with the love of your life!  

  1. Romantic Dining

This isn’t quite the “well, duh” entry you might be expecting. While Sevier County has hundreds of awesome restaurants within a relatively short distance from one another, it can often be difficult to see which ones have a specific design for romance. Our recommendations for romantic restaurants in the cities include:

 

  • The Old Mill Restaurant (and its nearby cafe).
  • Holston’s in Sevierville.
  • The Greenbriar Restaurant in Gatlinburg.
  • JT Hannah’s in Pigeon Forge.
  • The Alamo Steakhouse in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
  • Johnny Carino’s in Pigeon Forge.
  • The Applewood Restaurant in Sevierville.
  • Chinatown Restaurant in Sevierville.
  • Bistro 109 in Sevierville.
  • The Gondolier in Sevierville.
  • The Peddler Steakhouse in Gatlinburg.

 

Additionally, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is also holding a special Valentine’s Dinner event for Saturday, February 10th. All we can say on that for now is that it takes place in a “secret” room and that reservations fill up quickly! Reserve that at CLICK HERE.

 

We hope this gives you some romantic ideas to ponder over as you consider the Smokies for your Valentine’s Day lovin’!

Pancake Houses in the Smoky Mountains

Breakfast is often the most skipped meal for people in the United States, and besides what that says about our nutritional health, it’s also rather sad in the philosophical sense as breakfast contains some of the best things mankind ever committed to cuisine. Thankfully, the chances to get reacquainted with breakfast are far better in one’s favor when on vacation and that’s just one of many reasons to visit the Smoky Mountains for your next family getaway.

As you might guess in a mountain region where Winter makes up more than a third of the year, our favorite type of breakfast are pancakes and everything that surrounds them – waffles, crepes, french toast, the works! We have many pancake houses in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Gatlinburg and the areas that surround them and pretty much every single one of them we can recommend you should make some plans to eat at during your stay.

 

Take a look:

 

Reagan’s House of Pancakes

2820 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 428-0652

VIEW MENU 


 

Red Rooster Pancake House

3215 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 428-3322


 

Smoky Mountain Pancake House

4050 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 453-6746


 

Reagan’s Broken egg Pancake House

3516 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 453-4600


 

Denny’s

  • 2480 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 – (865) 428-2411
  • 3716 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 – (865) 774-5047

 

Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin

  • 1016 Parkway, Sevierville, TN 37862 – (865) 774-5374
  • 2734 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 – (865) 908-6115
  • 478 E. Parkway, Hwy 321, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 – (865) 430-3966
  • 956 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 – (865) 436-2387

 

Frizzle Chicken Pancake House

2785 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 774-7707


 

Sawyer’s Farmhouse Breakfast

2831 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

(865) 366-1090


 

Ihop

  • 3636 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 – (865) 429-2335
  • 1802 Parkway, Sevierville, TN 37862 – (865) 429-3925

 


 

Atrium Pancakes

432 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

(865) 430-3684

 


 

The Pancake Pantry

628 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

(865) 436-4724

VIEW MENU  


 

Log Cabin Pancake House

327 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

(865) 436-7894

VIEW MENU


Crockett’s Breakfast Camp

1103 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

(865) 325-1403

VIEW MENU


 

Little House of Pancakes

807 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

(865) 436-8784

VIEW MENU  


 

Waffle House

3949 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 – (865) 286-9831

256 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, TN 37876 – (865) 428-2708

VIEW MENU

 

You’ll find all your favorites and dozens of different types of pancakes and topping/breakfast combinations than you even knew existed with these recommendations. Perfect for a cold early morning start before family fun action or one last burst of vacation before heading back home!

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