Are you looking for an affordable way to fill the days of your Smoky Mountain Vacation? Day trips are a great solution. For the price of gas, a lot of destinations offer a full day of fun for little to no extra cash.
Our Great Gatlinburg Day Trips series has been very popular. The first Day Trips post included great trips like Oak Ridge and the Bristol Motor Speedway. Our second Day Trips post included a trip by both train and river boat. Our third installment covers favorite destinations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
1. Cades Cove. Any coverage of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is incomplete without mention of Cades Cove. Because winter is the off-season in the Smokies, it is a great time to visit Cades Cove, a destination that is frequently crowded in summer and fall. Deer are often sighted in the fields, and observations of other wildlife, including bear, wild turkey and coyote are possible. Please use pullouts when viewing wildlife. Never approach or feed animals. A wide array of historic buildings, some dating back to the mid-19th century, are scattered throughout the cove. These include a grist mill, a variety of barns, three churches, and a marvelous collection of log homes and outbuildings. An 11-mile one-way loop road takes you around the cove. A visitor center (open daily), restrooms, and Cable Mill historical area are located halfway around. Numerous trails start in the cove, including the 5-mile round trip trail to Abrams Falls and the short Cades Cove Nature Trail. Cades cove is located approximately 27 miles from Gatlinburg.
2. Big Creek. Until the damage caused by the rock slide on Interstate 40 is repaired sometime later in 2010, the Big Creek area is still very easily accessible from Tennessee, but not so easily accessible from most of North Carolina. However, since this will be a day trip for Gatlinburg for you, Big Creek still qualifies as a great destination from Gatlinburg especially if you love to hike. The area offers a variety of beautiful hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, Big Creek, Chestnut Branch and Baxter Creek. By driving an additional seven miles on Old NC 284, you can also reach the Mt. Sterling Ridge Trail to Mt. Sterling fire tower and the Long Bunk Trail. Click here for more information on these less frequented trails. The stream-side Big Creek Picnic Area is open year-round. To get there from Gatlinburg, take I-40 to Exit 451 near the North Carolina border. Turn left after crossing the Pigeon River and continue 2.3 miles to the park entrance. Click on the map to the right to go to a large printable map. The Big Creek area is located approximately 37 miles from Gatlinburg.
3. Deep Creek. This area is an off-the-beaten-path destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, celebrated for its rushing streams and waterfalls. Hikers enjoy the area because of the waterfalls and because there are several loop hikes to choose from. Mountain bikers can take advantage of one of the few park trails where bicycles are permitted. Click here for additional information about bicycling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Deep Creek area loop hikes include Juney Whank Falls (0.6 mile), Three Waterfalls Loop (2.4 miles), and Deep Creek-Indian Creek Loop (4.4 miles). Longer loop hikes are also possible. Bicycles are allowed on Deep Creek and Indian Creek trails to the points where the old roadbeds end and the trail treads begin. Deep Creek Picnic Area is open year-round. The Deep Creek Area is located approximately 48 miles from Gatlinburg.
4. Mountain Farm Museum. The Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum contains an impressive collection of original log buildings, including the Davis house, a large barn, spring house, smokehouse, corn crib, apple house, and more. Most of the historic structures were moved to the open-air museum from locations throughout the Smokies. The site also demonstrates historic gardening and agricultural practices, including fruit orchards. An inexpensive, self-guiding tour booklet is available. Two interesting walking trails start in the vicinity as well. The Oconaluftee River Trail is 1.5 miles long and features exhibits on Cherokee culture. Mingus Creek Trail starts near Mingus Mill (see picture above courtesy of http://avagabonde.blogspot.com). The Mountain Farm Museum is located approximately 32 miles from Gatlinburg.
5. Newfound Gap. In southern Appalachian vernacular, a gap is a low point in a mountain ridge. new Englanders call such places “notches” while westerners refer to them as mountain “passes.” At nearly a mile high (5,043 ft.), Newfound Gap is much cooler than the surrounding lowlands and receives more snow. on average, 69 inches of snow falls at the gap each year. When there is snow on the ground, and the Newfound Gap Road has not been closed because of it, opportunities do exist for snow sports in the area. Snowshoeing on the Appalachian Trail is one possibility. From the gap, one can proceed either north or south on the Appalachian Trail. A trip to Newfound Gap is a trip to the Canadian zone spruce-fir forest. This fragrant evergreen woodland is similar to the boreal forests of New England and eastern Canada. Newfound Gap is located approximately 16 miles from Gatlinburg.
This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.