Great Smoky Mountains

MR BEEBS

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HORT… Going to take a trip to GSM National park. We have a vrbo just outside Sevierville. Any recommendations for hiking or dining? We are on zero schedule and hoping to get the full experience.
 

billanole

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Mar 5, 2005
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For a walk with Eastern giants, venture into Albright Grove. Easy walking up thru a pretty typical stand of mostly Yellow Poplar that was likely farmland until the Park was formed and then went back to woods.
When you get up to the big trees, the whole scene softens and “feels” different. Lots of mosses and ferns, wetter, and some big diameter Yellow Polars (lireodendron tulipfera) that were never logged.
The trailhead is along Hwy. 321, which you may have driven going into Pigeon Forge from the 40.



If you are driving rather than flying, a fun stop for gear is at a monster sized knife shop. Smoky Mtn. Knife Works has it…

This little Meadowlark is my daily carry. https://www.smkw.com/spyderco-byrd-meadowlark-2-stainless-ps

If you drive in from the West and wanna eat before Sevierville, a pretty solid local chain has a location at Strawberry Plains. The Grilled Tuna sandwich is consistently good. Match it up with their thick cut chips w/ buttermilk garlic dip. Coma inducing…. https://aubreysrestaurants.com/strawberryplains/food/#specialties
 
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billanole

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Mar 5, 2005
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Good classic Smokies hike here. Did it years back. Recommended. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/tennessee/alum-cave-trail-to-mount-leconte
That is a great one, but this may be one of the busiest weekends of the summer up there. The popular walks will be very crowded and trailhead parking will be tough unless you get out at the ace crack of dawn.

As an aside, we haven’t been up Alum Cave in recent years, but plan to this fall. One of our daughter’s best buddies headed up a crew that rehabbed that trail several years ago. He now has a successful masonry business and I wanna check out the work they did.
Trail maintenance funds are chronically inadequate and the stress on most trails has been multiplied starting with covid getting people out into the woods in big numbers.
 
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win1forthe

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Mar 12, 2004
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Second Clingman’s Dome. We just google best trails and did two of them and the reviews/write-ups were spot on. Not a hike or meal, but the train ride out of Bryson City might be something to consider.
 
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MepoDawg#

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Just got back to Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge. PF is crazy busy, Gatlinburg not as much. We’re here for Kohl’s Kicking National Camp, 900+ kids and families just for that plus a dance competition in town.
 
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MR BEEBS

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Thanks for the input, everyone. Just downloaded the AllTrails and National Parks apps. Looking forward to a relatively low stress getaway without obligations for timing. Guessing we will generally do trails in the mornings and some touristy stuff in the afternoons. Going to Disney/Universal last month was great, but I generally prefer nature. Hoping the weather is decent and my kids don’t kill each other.
 

The Tradition

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Apr 23, 2002
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Thanks for the input, everyone. Just downloaded the AllTrails and National Parks apps. Looking forward to a relatively low stress getaway without obligations for timing. Guessing we will generally do trails in the mornings and some touristy stuff in the afternoons. Going to Disney/Universal last month was great, but I generally prefer nature. Hoping the weather is decent and my kids don’t kill each other.

Prepare for crowds.

Just sayin'....
 

MepoDawg#

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We did the Clingmans Dome hike last year. It was cool, foggy morning in late July. It’s not that long of a hike but definitely a workout. We had another family with is who has a daughter who runs cross country. She actually ran the whole path. We did several other smaller hikes two years ago. All trials are busy.

In Gatlinburg I recommend the Ole Smokey Distillery taste test for moonshine and whisky. The aquarium isn’t too bad, but crowded.
 

MR BEEBS

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Just got home from the 14 hour trek back to central Iowa from our cabin just outside Pigeon Forge. Pretty good trip overall! We got into the park on three mornings to do our hiking. We got to our trails by 7AM, which was perfect to beat the crowds. Done by early afternoon and time to recover before hitting the tourist traps. My kids enjoy nature experiences, but would much prefer roller coasters, zip lines, mini golf, go-karts, and bumper boats. Wishing we could have done Clingman’s Dome, but couldn’t fit it in.

Highlights:
Rainbow Falls Trail
Laurel Falls Trail
Cades Cove
Tuckaleechee Caverns (very cool)
Ripley Aquarium (also very cool)
Seeing a mama bear with two cubs, and one of the cubs struggling up a tree.

Observations:

Gatlinburg is very similar to Estes Park, but more chain establishments. Some nice local shops. Very busy, but parking in the ramp wasn’t bad.

Pigeon Forge is Branson on steroids. Absolutely awful tourist trap. (The kids loved it)

The trails were in pretty good shape, and crowds weren’t terrible (on the way up). I was disappointed with the amount of litter. More on one trail than our entire trip to RMNP last year. I guess no admission fee brings in more undesirables.

The amount of people asking, “How much further?” on our way back down trails was hilarious. They were all less than a mile in. Couple dudes in loafers and a few women in flip flops. Plenty of folks not in very good shape as well.

The amount of people smoking cigarettes (both in town and in the park) was much more than I am used to seeing. Not sure if a regional or cultural habit, but something all of us noticed.

I really enjoyed the “active driving” part of the trip. Tight turns up and down the mountains kept it interesting. I wish I could do it in a Miata instead of a Chrysler Town and Country.

The views from some of the trails were absolutely stunning. It was always easy to tell why they are the “Smoky” Mountains.

I would recommend staying in a VRBO or Airbnb cabin that is remote. Really enjoyed the peaceful nature with enough amenities to not be “roughing it”. Totally worth having a 15 minute drive into tourist hell or 40 minute drive into the park.

Despite the predominant outward God/guns/Trump that was plastered on vehicles, shirts and storefronts, the southern hospitality did not disappoint. Was referred to as “sweetie” or “hun” by every woman I talked to. Everyone was polite, helpful and super friendly. Took me a day to get used to the dialect.

Entire cost of gas, food, lodging, and entertainment was a shade under 3 grand. We could have gone cheaper and definitely could have doubled (or tripled) the cost of the trip. Not bad for a full week of memories made and life experience.
 

billanole

HR Legend
Mar 5, 2005
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Just got home from the 14 hour trek back to central Iowa from our cabin just outside Pigeon Forge. Pretty good trip overall! We got into the park on three mornings to do our hiking. We got to our trails by 7AM, which was perfect to beat the crowds. Done by early afternoon and time to recover before hitting the tourist traps. My kids enjoy nature experiences, but would much prefer roller coasters, zip lines, mini golf, go-karts, and bumper boats. Wishing we could have done Clingman’s Dome, but couldn’t fit it in.

Highlights:
Rainbow Falls Trail
Laurel Falls Trail
Cades Cove
Tuckaleechee Caverns (very cool)
Ripley Aquarium (also very cool)
Seeing a mama bear with two cubs, and one of the cubs struggling up a tree.

Observations:

Gatlinburg is very similar to Estes Park, but more chain establishments. Some nice local shops. Very busy, but parking in the ramp wasn’t bad.

Pigeon Forge is Branson on steroids. Absolutely awful tourist trap. (The kids loved it)

The trails were in pretty good shape, and crowds weren’t terrible (on the way up). I was disappointed with the amount of litter. More on one trail than our entire trip to RMNP last year. I guess no admission fee brings in more undesirables.

The amount of people asking, “How much further?” on our way back down trails was hilarious. They were all less than a mile in. Couple dudes in loafers and a few women in flip flops. Plenty of folks not in very good shape as well.

The amount of people smoking cigarettes (both in town and in the park) was much more than I am used to seeing. Not sure if a regional or cultural habit, but something all of us noticed.

I really enjoyed the “active driving” part of the trip. Tight turns up and down the mountains kept it interesting. I wish I could do it in a Miata instead of a Chrysler Town and Country.

The views from some of the trails were absolutely stunning. It was always easy to tell why they are the “Smoky” Mountains.

I would recommend staying in a VRBO or Airbnb cabin that is remote. Really enjoyed the peaceful nature with enough amenities to not be “roughing it”. Totally worth having a 15 minute drive into tourist hell or 40 minute drive into the park.

Despite the predominant outward God/guns/Trump that was plastered on vehicles, shirts and storefronts, the southern hospitality did not disappoint. Was referred to as “sweetie” or “hun” by every woman I talked to. Everyone was polite, helpful and super friendly. Took me a day to get used to the dialect.

Entire cost of gas, food, lodging, and entertainment was a shade under 3 grand. We could have gone cheaper and definitely could have doubled (or tripled) the cost of the trip. Not bad for a full week of memories made and life experience.
Glad you enjoyed the trip, “Hun”.
Ditto on the litter. It has increased a lot since the ‘Rona filled the woods with newbies.
We have been a bit dry on the Eastern side of the park. Were the waterfalls roaring?
 

MR BEEBS

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Glad you enjoyed the trip, “Hun”.
Ditto on the litter. It has increased a lot since the ‘Rona filled the woods with newbies.
We have been a bit dry on the Eastern side of the park. Were the waterfalls roaring?
Falls we’re going great. Not sure if roaring, but definitely more than a trickle.
 
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