Blogs from Great Smoky Mountains Parkway, Tennessee, United States, North America


Today, I dragged the family to Cade’s Cove which is an area in the park that used to be a town. It is a 11-mile one-way loop with several historic homes, churches, etc.. It wasn’t that great and I'm sorry we went. It was crowded and required stopping and walking to many of the locations. We stopped at Cable Mill Historic Area and got some souvenirs and saw some historic buildings that had been moved to the site (two barns, a home and a mill). Drove out of Cade's Cove on Rich Mountain Road (dirt) and around back to Elkmont. This took way longer than expected. Then we picked up the trailer and left via Pigeon Forge which was Gatlinburg on steroids and the location of Dollywood and headed toward Shenandoah a day ahead of schedule. ... read more

We drove around historic Elkmont which is where we camped. When the park was established there were already people living there, so the land had to be purchased and the people had to move. The Cherokee Indians were forcibly moved (Trail of Tears). Historic Elkmont was unremarkable. We got lost on our way to rafting. They told us to use their printed directions, but in our wisdom we decided to use GPS until it differed from the printed directions. GPS told us to turn right on Rt. 32 and the printed directions told us to turn left and I didn't notice the difference, so we turned right. Rt. 32 wove up and down a mountain for miles then turned into gravel. I called the raft company and they said to turn around and I finally figured ... read more

Entered GSM, parked camper and went to have lunch by the river Metcalf Bottoms. A man asked if we had salt. I said yes and he offered to pay me for it. I said "just use it and return it when you are done." When we were ready to leave about a half an hour later he still hadn’t returned it! I was confused about why they needed the salt for so long, and walked over to them and asked for the salt back! Turns out they salt the rims of their Coronas, so they weren't done with it! They decided to shake some out on a plate. Anyone else ever try salt on their Coronas? I have to try it! After lunch we set up our campsite (Elkmont). There were some men jamming at the ... read more

LeConte Lodge sits atop Mount LeConte. The only way in and out is by using the trails. To get supplies to the lodge, and to get trash out of the lodge, they used to use horses. Eventually, they switched to llamas. Three times a week, a llama train makes its way up Trillium Gap Trail in the morning to LeConte Lodge. After eating lunch, the llama train is led back down the same trail. The Trillium Gap Trail is a popular one for hikers staying at the lodge. It's longer than the Alum Cave Trail, but it's not as steep. The trail has needed updating, so the National Park Service announced that they would be doing repairs on the trails for two years: 2019 and 2020. From mid-May through mid-November, this trail would be closed Mondays, ... read more
LeConte Llamas
Llamas on the Trail!
Bye, Llamas!

We spent the morning relaxing at the campground. Andrew and I cooked up a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, and we discussed our plans for the day. I thought it might be nice to have a picnic lunch up at Chimneys Picnic Area. After lunch, anyone who felt up for it could do the nature loop from there, which is supposed to be 1.1 miles. We thought this might be a good plan because it would be inclusive to everyone in the group, even if they didn't feel up for a hike. The kids and Andrew took it easy playing some video games that don't require internet (the kids brought the Switch along for the road trip). I drove down to the E and F loop and hung out with Colleen, Gene, and Carol ... read more
Rainy Afternoon in the Great Smoky Mountains
Setting Out on Cove Mountain Trail
Cataract Falls

Andrew’s aunt and uncle are arriving later today. Paul drove their Tesla to Knoxville to power up at a super charger station there. Colleen opted to stay at the campsite to help set up for Gene and Carol’s arrival. So, it was just Andrew, the kids, and me. There was one tough trail I wanted to hike: Alum Cave Trail. I didn’t think Paul would be up for such a strenuous hike, so it seemed like the perfect morning for us to hike it. We filled our Cambelbaks and set out for the trailhead. We stopped at Sugarland Visitor’s Center along the way (which is super crowded, by the way! It’s difficult to get a parking spot). The Great Smoky Mountains is unique compared to other national parks that we’ve been to in that it’s free ... read more
Starting Our Trek to Alum Caves
Snake at Great Smoky Mountains
Hiking Alum Cave Trail

Tubing is an adventure! This is something I’d heard about from my mother-in-law, who is a Texan. I think it’s common to go tubing in rivers where she’s from. Me, I’d never heard of such a thing before I’d met Andrew. When I read up on Elkmont Campground at the Great Smoky Mountains, I read something about how people tube down the Little River there. There are videos on YouTube, and it looks to be a lot of fun. Our campsite is right on the Little River, so I was excited to try it! You need to bring your own tubes for tubing. For Christmas, I got river tubes for my mother-in-law and the kids. I also got the kids some life vests. So, we were prepared! Or so we thought. As it turns out, there ... read more
Trying to Tube by the E loop at Elkmont Campground
Tubing the Little River
Andrew and Jo, Tubing the Little River at Elkmont

The most common way to see the fireflies at Elkmont is to enter the lottery. Because the natural phenomenon is so incredibly popular, the National Parks Service has started limiting the number of people into the area each year. They block off the entrance to Elkmont campground, and the only way to get in is to win the lottery. If you win, you get to park at the Sugarland Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains, and they will shuttle you into Elkmont. If you don't win, you can still hike around other areas of the park and see some fireflies. They probably won't be the synchronous kind. Even if they are, they won't be as plentiful as they are at Elkmont. Elkmont seems to have the perfect viewing conditions, and it's the ideal place to ... read more

Our campsite at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains is absolutely stunning. It sits right on Little River. We strung a hammock on the trees overlooking the river and have been enjoying relaxing to the sound of the little rapids below. The campsites don’t have electricity or running water, although there are bathrooms in each numbered loop that have running, potable water. We take a short hike there to fill up our water bottles and jugs, and it’s nice to be able to use real restrooms instead of an outhouse. Unfortunately, there are no heated showers. For Christmas, my siblings got me a solar shower I’d asked for. It seems to work well. There’s not a lot of direct sun at our campsite (something I’m grateful for), but our solar shower still reached 92 degrees after ... read more
The Little River from our Campsite
Our Camping Hammock Overlooks Little River
Ready to View the Synchronous Fireflies

October 2, 2014 (Thursday) (Double click on a picture to enlarge it) Today I just drove enjoying the views. I went from the north entrance of the park to the south entrance then along the Blue Ridge Parkway down to 19 then over to Cherokee and back to Gatlinburg. When I arrived in Cherokee I was sad I had to turn heading to Gatlinburg because I knew that was the turning point for starting to head home. I will leave Gatlinburg tomorrow and start heading back toward Dallas. I think I’m going to go home thru Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. I have never been in Alabama or Mississippi. Cherokee has a lot of bear status all over town painted up with Indian scenes. They are pretty. I also saw several Cherokee Indian dressed up in full ... read more
Smoky Mountain National Park
Smoky Mountain National Park
Smoky Mountain National Park

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