The Great Smoky Mountains
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The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the southern Appalachian Mountain range
and span the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Great Smoky Mountains
National park is the most visited National Park in the United States with around
9 million visitors per year. The 800 square mile park features over 800 miles of
maintained trails and over 700 miles of fishable mountain streams cascading over
countless waterfalls. Some waterfalls are over 100 feet high. The area is alive
with wildlife including deer, elk and black bears along with over 10,000 species
Highway 441 is the most popular route over the mountains. This incredibly
scenic drive covers 35 miles between Gatlinburg, TN to the north and Cherokee NC
to the south crossing some of the highest peaks in the mountains. A short side
route takes you to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Smoky Mountains at
6,643 feet and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi.
Gatlinburg, located in the foothills on the northern side of the mountains is
a favorite tourist destination. This fun little town is loaded with hotels,
shops, and restaurants. You will also find haunted houses, an aquarium, a
small convention center, chairlifts, and lots of other tourist attractions
including Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum which features a 10,518 pound
granite ball that floats on a 1/254 inch of water and can easily be spun
around by hand.
Cherokee NC is located on the southern side of the mountain on the Cherokee
Indian reservation and features lots of tourist attractions including a casino.
A few miles outside of Gatlinburg is Pigeon Forge, TN. Pigeon Forge is where
all of the really touristy stuff is, Dollywood and hundreds of the typical
tourist attractions such as miniature golf, go cart tracks, little "museums" and
tons of shopping.
Knifeworks, the worlds largest knife store.
Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the main highways and tourist areas can get
very crowded during peak vacation times and especially during the fall colors.
The good news is that even during the busiest times you can find lots of less
crowded and even uncrowded areas around the Smoky Mountains that offer
incredible scenery. Take a trip over the Foothills Parkway or the beautiful
Cherohala Skyway for incredible scenic vistas off the beaten path. Highway 129
running between TN and NC includes a portion known as the Tail of the Dragon and
is a favorite trip for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who love the 318
turns in 11 miles of mountain road.
A great getaway is to rent one of the hundreds of cabins available on the
hillsides and in the valleys. Cabins range from cozy one-bedroom units to huge
4-6 bedroom multi-story units suitable for family gatherings. Many cabins are
new and well equipped with decks, fire places, hot tubs, and even game rooms.
Some offer incredible mountain views from private decks where you can sit in a
rocking chair and watch the sunset over the mountains. Prices are comparable to
renting hotel rooms especially if you go with friends or family and split the
cost. Beware that access to some of mountain cabins may cover some of the
steepest roads you have ever seen.
Below are several of my favorite pictures from my frequent trips to the Smoky