Smoky Mountains National Park
There is not a single good time to go to the Smoky Mountains – fall brings a deluge of color in the slopes, winter shows the snow-capped mountain tops and spring ushers the full bloom of flowers after the snow melts. Located along the Tennessee and North Carolina border, The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountains that stretch the entire length of the east coast of USA.
The park gets its name from the ‘smoke’ that appears in the early morning and gets lighter as the day progresses, but keeping a sheet of smoky fog throughout the year on the mountain slopes. The misty and chilly climate of the area paves ground for the flora and fauna in the area.
Thousands of travelers seeking adventure, hiking, and romance flocks to this picturesque mountain ranges every year, around the year. Here are a few highlights of things to do –
- Gaitlinburg – At the bottom of the slope before entering the park is this quaint little town of Gaitlinburg. Some visitors choose to stay here for its proximity to the park and the charm of this town. Strolls around the town during day or night is relaxing and delightful. In the afternoon, enjoy a hot chocolate or cappuccino sitting in a little cafe while you indulge in deep conversations with your travel buddies or just do people-watching, whatever your game. Come night time, especially during holidays, the city structures and sidewalks lit up in bright light fixtures. You can also choose to hit the slopes by going up in the gondola to witness the beauty of the mountains from a nice vantage point.
- Smoky Mountains National Park – There are a number of trails and hiking paths to amazing waterfalls through wildflower fields, forests and little streams no one knows leads where. The road leading to the park entrance (US-441) from Gaitlinburg crosses the park and there are clearly marked signs for sights and trails through the road to Cherokee. Some of our favorite POIs on this road are –
- Big Witch Gap Overlook – for stunning vistas of the valley
- Cades Cove – historic buildings in the valley surrounded by tall mountains
- Cataloochee Overlook – was the home of the Cataloochee tribe and is now one of the eeriest sites in the park
- Clingmans Dome – At 6600′ height, this is one of the highest peaks of the Appalachian range. The vista especially in the spring and winter is spectacular with the ice-capped peak and the colorful foliage in the slope.
- Elkmont Historic District – is one of the oldest areas in the park which used to be summer time retreat area for the wealthy families in the south.
- Gregory Bald – is a scenic point from where you will see the Cades Cove and the mountain to the north.
- Heintooga Overlook – is a great spot for sunset. If you have a tripod and a camera with auto shutter capability, set a timer for taking pictures in a 2 minute interval from 15 minutes before and after sunset. The changing colors of the sky and the foliage in the foreground will make for scintillating snaps.
Other than visiting the visitor center, take a detour to drive on the famous Blue Ridge Parkway going towards Ashville. On the way there are a few spectacular waterfalls (Skinny dip falls, looking glass falls, etc.). In the winter, the drive is adventurous and panoramic.