Tennessee Pictures (5 pictures)
Abrams Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: In The Smokys, take the Laurel Creek Road to the Cades Cove Loop. Turn right at the sign post for Abrams Falls, just past stop #10 - the parking area is just ahead on the gravel road. [Note: do pick up the $1 guide for the Cades Cove area for information about the various buildings along the loop drive.] No facilities [flush toilets at the nearby Visitor Center]. Free. Trails: The wide, packed-dirt trail soon crosses a bridge and heads along the creek all the way to the falls - sometimes right next to the creek and sometimes on a small hill above the creek. There are 2 short climbs along the trail (the trail is fairly mild besides those 2 climbs). Right after the 2nd climb, the trail drops steeply down and the falls are to the left (the trail does a half-loop on the way down). The 20' foot falls feeds into a large pool before returning to creek form. If you have water shoes with you, you can wade across to the rocks on the other side and find a nice peaceful spot where you won't be bothered by all the people coming and going at this popular place. Trail Length: 2.5 miles one-way Area: Creek, small hills, small waterfall, woods Picture When I did the hike: Monday, September 17, 2007 Recommendation: Though pretty, the falls aren't that impressive. But it is a nice, mild hike in the woods along a creek.
Gregory Bald - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: In The Smokys, take the Laurel Creek Road to the Cades Cove Loop. Go all the way to the Visitors Center. At the junction next to the center, take a right onto Forge Creek Road (a gravel road (no high clearance needed)). Continue on the road about 5 miles to the unsigned turnoff on the left - Forge Creek Road is one-way past that turnoff. Take a left and park in the parking spots around the turnaround loop. No facilities. Free. Trails: The trail is wider to start and is mild for a while along a small creek. The packed-dirt trail soon narrows to one-person width and stays in the trees all the way to the bald. There are some small ups as the trail is sometimes above the creek instead of next to it. 2 miles in is the backcountry campground. The trail heads up from there (not a huff-and-puffer). The trail goes through a recent burn area (but still trees - a control burn) and the trail makes a sharp turn and you are on the ridge. But there is still lots more up to come as the trail continues heading up. It's a long ways to the trail junction - I started mis-guessing about 30 minutes before I reached it (you are getting close when the mountain slope is to your right). At the junction, take a right and it is .6 miles to the bald. After the junction, the trail heads a harder up to start, then is mild for a bit, and then another up before reaching the bald. The bald is a large open area along the mountain top covered with shrubs and long grass. If you continue through the bald, towards the other end are some large ground rocks and a clump of trees which is a nice resting spot - the geological marker (4949 feet) is in that area. You do get some distance views, but nothing stunning. It took me 3 hours to reach the bald. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.5 miles, 3000 feet one-way Area: Small mountain, woods, small creek, bald When I did the hike: Monday, September 17, 2007 Recommendation: Na. It's a long hike and the bald is nothing exciting nor are the views very good.
Clingmans Dome - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: In the Smokys, take Newfound Gap Road to the midway point and turn west on Clingmans Dome Road. Take that road to the parking area at the end. [Also a good spot to watch sunrises and sunsets.] Flush toilets. Free. Trails: It's a blah up (and it is an up) along a paved road to the view tower at the top of Clingmans Dome. And it's a looping cement ramp up to the tower. But you get 360 degree views of all the Smoky Mountains. Go in the morning (great sunrises) where you'll likely see the wisps of fog in the valleys, from which the Smokys gets their name. (You'll also see lots of dead trees as the Fraser firs have been devastated over the past 30 years by an imported insect.] Trail Length + Elevation: .5 miles, 330 feet one-way Area: Wooded mountains. Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Recommendation: One of the best places for distance views of the Smokys.
Alum Cave Bluff - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: In the Smokys, take Newfound Gap Road to pulloff parking area on the east side of the road for the Alum Cave Bluff trail. Note that the small parking area does fill. No facilities. Free. Trails: The wide (1.5 to 2 person width) dirt and rock trail is mild as it goes along the stream for 1.5 miles to Arch Rock. The area in front of Arch Rock is a pretty spot. There is a small bridge over the stream and the trail goes steeply up through the narrow arch on rock steps - there is a rope to help with balance. The arch is a natural arch [but looks like a collapsed rock against the wall instead of the sandstone arches of the Southwest]. After the arch, the trail goes along a narrow ledge. The trail crosses the creek again and heads a steeper up for a bit. At the rock slate area as the trail rounds a bend is a good resting spot and good distance views. The trail is milder for a short bit and then heads a harder up. You are almost at the bluff when you reach the wooden steps. It is not a true cave, but more of an overhang. There is a funny smell, though, as they used to mine for smelt in the area. The trail continues on (from the top of the bluff) for 3 more miles and 1500 feet up to the top of Mt. LeConte. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.3 miles, 2600 feet one-way Area: Mountains, woods, small creek, arch, overhang bluff When I did the hike: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Recommendation: Na, there are prettier hikes in the park and the "cave" isn't interesting.
Chimney Tops - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: In the Smokys, take Newfound Gap Road to pulloff parking area on the west side of the road for the Chimney Tops trail. No facilities. Free. Trails: After crossing the river over the wooden bridge, the trail heads up an old gravel road (Road Prong Trail) next to a creek. And make no mistake - it's up the whole way (except for two short milder spots). After .9 miles is a bridge crossing the creek - you can get creekside next to the bridge for a nice peaceful resting and feet soaking spot (good for on the way back). Just after crossing the bridge is the junction for the Chimney Tops - hook a right and start heading a huff-and-puff steep up for a ways. The trail is dirt and rock the rest of the way. After the trail turns left and then up and finishes a half-circle, the trail is mild for a short bit before heading up again (a milder up). After the bend, the trail actually dips down a little (just to annoy you) before the last climb to the Chimney Tops. Make your way over the rocks to the right as far as you are comfortable with (there is a metal post indicating don't go farther). There are nice distance views at the top, but there isn't much room at the top. [When I went, there were a number of older couples doing the hike. Two guys were heading up and one stopped to catch his breath. When his friend looked back at him, the guy said, 'I'm waiting for another old person to pass me to motivate me forward a few feet.'] Trail Length + Elevation: 2 miles, 1300 feet one-way Area: Mountains, woods, river, creek Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Recommendation: If you are up for a tail-kicker, the views at the top are pretty.
Rainbow Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: Heading south on the main road (Hwy 441) in Gatlinburg, take a left at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature Trail on to Cherokee Orchard Road. At the top of the road (after the loop branch back) as the road turns left, look for the signed Rainbow Falls parking area on the right. Note that the small parking lot fills, so go early or be patient waiting for a spot to open up. Port-a-potties at parking lot. Free. Trails: The wide, packed dirt and loose rocks trail heads up from the start along a creek in the woods. There is a bridge that crosses the creek later on and after more up another bridge crosses the creek again - but the falls are still about 15 minutes away (not just around the bend). The 40-foot falls were unimpressive when I was there as it was little more than a stream. I encountered a number of tourists on this hike who were not expecting it to be such a hard hike (some who didn't even have water with them) - no concept of actually how long 2.8 miles was and 1500 feet gained. The trail continues for 4 miles (up) to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.8 miles, 1500 feet one-way Area: Mountains, woods, small creek, thin waterfall When I did the hike: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 Recommendation: Na. A harder hike and the falls were only a trickle when I was there - only do if you have time to do Grotto Falls and Ramsey Cascades as well.
Grotto Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: Heading south on the main road (Hwy 441) in Gatlinburg, take a left at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature Trail on to Cherokee Orchard Road. Continue on the road as it heads east and turns into the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Right before the road turns north, look for the small parking lot on the right for Grotto Falls. Note that the small parking lot fills, so go early or be patient waiting for a spot to open up. No facilities. Free. Trails: The wide, packed dirt trail heads up to start. Note that there might be llama droppings along the trail as it is a multi-use trail. After the trail levels out, it is mild for a bit as you round the mountainside and then head a mild up for a short ways in the valley for the falls. When you hear the creek noise, you are almost there. The falls are only 25-feet tall, but there is a gap between the water coming down and the back wall and the trail goes behind the falls for a neat experience. There is a very small pool in front of the falls and lots of large rocks that you can sit on and rest for a while and enjoy the falls. Trail Length + Elevation: 1.2 miles one-way Area: Mountains, woods, creek, pretty waterfall Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 Recommendation: Absolutely. A beautiful place and not a hard hike. On of only two hikes (Ramsey Cascades) that I did that I felt were worthy of repeat visits.
Ramsey Cascades - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Directions: Head east from Gatlinburg on Hwy 321/Rt 73 for about 6 miles to the turnoff on the right for the Greenbrier area of the Smokys (not well marked, so keep an eye out for it) - the turnoff is right before the road goes over the bridge and the Rt 416 junction. Drive the Greenbrier road for about 4 miles (turns gravel 2 miles in) and turn left at the signed junction for Ramsey Cascades. The parking area is less than a mile ahead. No facilities (but chemical toilets at a picnic area on the drive in). Free. Trails: The first 1.5 miles is a blah walk along an old gravel road (with a bridge early on crossing the creek). It is not pure level as there are a couple of short ups and downs. The gravel road ends at a small loop (you can go either direction of the loop - the true trail starts at the top of the loop). The trail is packed dirt early, but gets rockier and rootier later. And the trail heads up (most of the elevation gained is after the road). Eventually the trail will cross the creek and then cross back over it and then head away from that creek. When the trail finally returns to the main creek area, the falls are not much further ahead. But it is a hard up the rest of the way including clammering over big rocks and some steep rock steps (a hiking stick is very helpful on this hike) - those rock steps will drain any energy you had left. Find a little bit more energy and make your way all the way up to the falls where you are on the rocks surrounding the small pool. The 100-foot falls are the tallest in the park. The water does not simply drop straight down, but cascades down over the rocks - very pretty. It took me a little over 2 hours to reach the falls. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles, 2000 feet one-way Area: Mountains, woods, creeks, pretty cascading waterfall Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 Recommendation: Absolutely beautiful. My favorite hike in the park.