I'm headed into Tennessee (coming from Oklahoma) in the new few weeks. I'm very excited about seeing the Smokies/Appalachians. Any tips on where is the best point to enter the park, don't-miss sites, where to stay cheaply, best photo ops, etc?
Any info, advice or tips are greatly appreciated!
Never been myself, but if you haven't already I'd suggest you pick up Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. It's all about his trek across the Appalacian trail and the bizarre things he comes across. He's a hoot to read, too.
Thanks I've read a couple of his books, but didn't realize he had one about the Appalachians.
Your best bet is to check these online:
Gatlinberg, TN - small tourist town just outside park entrance with
LOTS of motels, restaurants, tourist sites, etc. A fun place to walk
around at night.
See: Clingman's Dome - highest point, very scenic drive;
Cades Cove, Townsend, TN (just a few miles from Gatlinberg) -
a true Appalachian area-- has original cabins, barns, churches,
school, water wheel, etc. Also, campground, horseback riding, hiking,
etc. This is a lovely park with beautiful views-good wildlife site for
black bears, deer, wild turkeys, etc. Has a loop road and also hiking
Pigeon Forge, TN (home of Dollywood!) ~ just a few miles from
Gatlinberg-- this is a large tourist area with lots and lots of hotels,
restaurants, shopping, things to do--not really a scenic area, just
where people go to have fun.
To see the Smokys, you have to enter the park--drive & hike.
Visit the Park Visitors Center-see the film, get a map, talk to the
rangers about what your interests are.
It's an absolutely beautiful area! (Be sure and take a light jacket
and sweatshirt for the mountains if you go in summer).
I'd recommend doing the Chimney Tops Trail if you have some time to do some hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is off of the main park road just south of Gatlinburg. It is a fantastic trail with a nice payoff, scenic rock outcrops on top of a mountain. The trail stops at the lower end of the outcrop, and if you are a little more adventureous you can go around the site of the top outcropping and climb up to the very top. Takes some scrambling to do it but it is worth it.
You can also enter the park from the south end at the town of Cherokee, which is where the Cherokee Indian Reservation is.
I would also recommend checking out the Nantahala River Gorge. It's a beautiful area and there are plenty of whitewater rafting companies to take you out for some fun in the rapids. I would recommend Nantahala Outdoor Center at noc.com as they are the resident experts.
It's a beautiful area.
Thanks, that helps.
I'm really interested on what is the best place to enter the park. I'd be happy to pass the "touristy" entrances and go for something more scenic.
I feel your best entry is the Gatlinberg, TN entrance. You go to
the end of the main street and there you enter the national park.
You will go just a couple of miles and there is the park visitor center.
They can give you maps and answer all hiking and sight seeing
questions. Are you camping or staying in a hotel?
There are some nice campgrounds in the park. I'm not sure if they
take reservations but they do fill up quickly in the summer and weekends. For a hotel/motel - check online at www.hotwire.com,
.expedia.com, hotels.com, etc. Also, check both Gatlinberg and
Pigeon Forge --they are close together.
If you would like a very small place with just a few hotels, restaurants,
and shops, look at Townsend, TN. This is a pretty place that is
near Cades Cove (the place I previously told you about). There is
camping here, also.
I suggest you get some picnic supplies and visit Cades Cove and
also Clingman's Dome (both drives are very scenic). There are
trailheads all along the parkway and a beautiful mountain river. You
are going to love it! I have been a visitory for over 50 years and
never, ever get tired of going. Please email me if you have
other questions, I'll be glad to try and help.
I forgot! If time permits, the parkway goes over the mountain to
Cherokee, NC (look at a good map). This is the Cherokee Indian
Reservation. There is a good museum and also a place where you can
go and see the Cherokees making canoes, weaving, basketry, etc.
Also, at night in the summer, they have an excellent outdoor drama,
Unto These Hills. It is fabulous! I am pretty sure you will need to
order tickets ahead. Look online for Cherokee and you will find a listing
of things to do. If this would interest you, it would be worth your
while to spend a night here. The drive over from Gatlinberg is
Unto These Hills as previously stated is a must see, its remarkable. The Dixie Stampede is very nice and worth every dime.