Sunday, February 21, 2016

NORTH CAROLINA: Great Smoky Mountains National Park I

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located on the west side of North Carolina and crosses over onto the east side of Tennessee. This park is free to enter, and it can easily be driven through in about 45 minutes or so. It is also located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is regarded as one of the prettiest drives in North America. We did drive on it for a little while but we didn't have too much time to see all of its beauty. The ideal time for this location seems to be around fall, where the leaves turn and the scenery is incredibly colorful. We visited in late spring, which is somewhat off-season for the park - but it is honestly beautiful year round. HikingInTheSmokys was a great resource for us when it came to planning our hikes.

We opted to stay on the North Carolina side, finding a cozy, secluded cabin in Cherokee, NC. The cabin was a great retreat after a day full of hiking, and we even had some local wildlife visitors. If you prefer isolation, we would recommend Cherokee. However, if you would prefer to be closer to a city, Gatlinburg may be a better destination for your stay in the Smokys.

View from Andrew's Bald
Located near Clingman's Dome, Andrews Bald is a fairly short 3.5 mile round trip hike. This was our first adventure in the Great Smokys. It was a great warm up for the next few days in the area. The trail ends at "Andrews Bald", which is great panoramic view of the area.

Path along Forney Ridge Trail to Andrew's Bald
Clingman's Dome Observation

Clingman's Dome is probably the number one attraction in the park. It is basically an observation deck where you get a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. It is the highest point in the entire Smoky Mountains. The views were full of lush greenery and rolling mountains. Not quite as dramatic as the Cascade Mountain Range on the West Coast but still a very pretty view. The Observation is located directly on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.

View of the mountains from the Clingman's Dome Observation Trail

Indian Creek Falls
The Deep Creek is located on the East side, not far from Cherokee, NC.  The concentration of tourists seems to be around the Gatlinburg area, and so while hiking in this area, we rarely came across others. This area is full of waterfalls, and mild trails that can be walked by a family very easily. It was a nice change of pace from climbing the harder hikes in the area. We took a simple round trip, following the Deep Creek/Indian Falls Loop, which brought us to see Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. Finally, we made the additional small trek to see the Juney Whank Falls. The area was full of butterflies and wildflowers (we even came across a black water snake). It was a beautiful, peaceful, hike.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. You can read our entries about hiking in the park here.

You can read our other entries about North Carolina here.

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