Let the Festivals of Winter Begin!

DSC 3907_adjCome watch as the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville illuminate the area for the upcoming holiday season. One can surely get into the spirit once they see these LED lights light up the streets. The Sevierville Winterfest Kick Off Music, Lights & Magic will start things off on Tuesday, November 12th with local entertainment and games for the children. The evening will continue with fireworks and the “flipping of the switch” on the area’s first Winterfest lights. This years Winterfest can be viewed in a whole new light with 3D glasses that can be purchased for a $1.00 (while supplies last) at the Sevierville Visitor  on Hwy 66. These spectacles will allow every light to shift into a snowflake!

Pigeon Forge will commence their Winterfest after the completion of the Veteran’s Day Parade on Tuesday, November 12th. The city’s festivities will start at 5:00 PM and include a children’s play area and pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. There will be musical entertainment and the lighting of more than five million lights on the Winterfest displays, they will top the evening off with fireworks.

On Wednesday, November 13th the city of Gatlinburg will join in with the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Kickoff and the Winter Magic Down_townTrolley Ride of Lights. Visitors can taken in the Gatlinburg Winter Magic season from the comfort of a Gatlinburg Trolley by taking the relaxing Trolley Ride of Lights. These designated trolleys take guests on a memorable journey through downtown Parkway, River Road, and the triangle juncture of the two, allowing everyone to experience the magical wonder of Gatlinburg Winter Magic. These specially designed LED light displays form animals indigenous to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park including deer, foxes, squirrels and rabbits. Trolley times are set for 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 PM.

How About Chili to Take Away the Chill!Chilli-Cook-Off

On Wednesday November 13th stroll down parkway and take away the chill at the Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff. will take place on the will take place from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM and tickets can be purchased online for $10. Guests will be able to sample chili prepared by more than twenty chefs from local restaurants and businesses. The Chili Cookoff will also feature a chili-eating contest. Guests who take part in this yearly competition will eat chili that gets progressively hotter with each round. Those attending are encouraged to vote for their favorite chili. These votes will be tallied to award the coveted People’s Choice Award to the most popular chili. A panel of judges will cast their votes for other awards, including: Best Presentation, Best Chili Apron, and Best Chili.

Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees

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Stroll through the intricately decorated Christmas trees at the Gatliburg Convention Center from Tuesday, November 26th thru Saturday, November 3oth. Experience the ambiance of a Christmas in the Smokies. While there you  can enter a Gingerbread House Contest. They will be taking donations for admission to the event. You can also take this opportunity to shop for unique handcrafted gifts made by members of  the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Their annual Thanksgiving show will also being taking place at the Gatlinburg Convention Center from November 26th – December 1st.

NutcrackerTake in a performance of the Nutcracker “Sweet” from Friday, November 29th and Saturday, November 30th. Presented by the Great Smoky Mountain Dance Theater, enjoy this holiday classic presented in Gatlinburg, with performances at 7:00 PM in the  W.L. Mills Auditorium. (GSE) Call (865) 680-7369 for information and reservations.

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Motorcycle Trails!

 

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Gatlinburg, TN has attracted many visitors traveling by motorcycle over the years. With it’s winding roads and gorgeous mountain views, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful place to have fun riding motorcycles and take in the beauty of the mountains. Throughout the many different motorcycles trails there are quaint mountain tours offering culture and history to visitors. Stop in each town and have a meal and discover what the natives have to offer. The trails range from moderate in difficulty to strenuous in difficulty for all levels of experienced drivers. Have fun and remember to always put safety first when riding!

Here is a complied list of great motorcycle trail in the Smokies:

  1. Gatlinburg, TN tour NC, TN- Approximately 225 miles round trip. Travel along the Blue Ridge Parkway heading West and onto Gatlinburg, TN. Abrp terrific road with abundant scenery. Time permitting, drive onto Pigeon Forge, TN and then return home after lunch.
  2. Cherohala Skyway tour NC, TN- Approximately 320 miles round trip. Truly a road in the sky! Typically less traffic than the Blue Ridge Parkway and much more isolated. Arrive in Tellico Plains, TN and have lunch along the river. Return home on the same road with a totally different view of the scenery.
  3. Cherokee/Casino tour NC- Approximately 180 miles round trip. Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway over to Cherokee and learn about the Indian heritage in the area. If you are a gambler, Harrah’s Casino offers an abundance of gambling diversions to take your money.
  4. biltmorefront3Biltmore Estate tour NC- Approximately 65 miles round trip. Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway into Asheville and then to the Biltmore Estate, “America’s Castle”. Spend as much time as you like exploring the Estate and Gardens and have lunch while you are there.
  5. Oconee Forest/ Highlands tour NC, SC and GA- Approximately 150 miles round trip. Travel through a canopied forest and up a back road to highlandsHighlands. This is one of the more spectacular curvy mountain roads around. Have lunch in the quaint mountain village of Highlands and experience some great shopping afterwards and then head home.
  6. Deals Gap tour NC, TN- Approximately 200 miles round trip. Travel to Bryson City and beyond to Deals Gap and the “Tail of the Dragon”, 318 turns in 11 miles. This is the longest trail in the Smokies, but possibly the most rewarding.tail of the dragon
  7. Hot Springs tour NC- Approximately 160 miles round trip. Travel scenic mountain roads to North Carolina’s only natural hot water springs/baths. Be careful, the springs really relax you.
  8. The Newport Trail tour TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, rivers, mountain coves and valleys, town of Newport, TN and the river gorge.
  9. The Dandridge/ Douglas Lake Trail tour TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, river gorge, mountain coves, mountain lake, historic town of Dandridge, TN, Douglas dam and bypass around Pigeon Forge, TN.
  10. The Waynesville/ Cherokee Trail tour NC, TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, river-cut canyon through the Great Smoky Mountains, quaint mountain resort towns and the Cherokee Indian National Reservation. A final ride over the high range of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a grand finale for this scenic and entertaining trail.
  11. The Maggie Valley/ Blue Ridge Parkway Trail tour NC, TN- Enjoy scenery of mountain streams, river-cut canyon through the Great Smoky Mountains, a quaint mountain resort town with regional amusement park combined with spectacular views at roadside overlooks, picnic areas and quiet trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway for one of the most popular motorcycle trails for locals and visitors alike.

Stay at an authentic mountain cabin with ERA In The Smokies and travel to all of the fun motorcycle trails!

Things to do in Gatlinburg- For Kids!

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When vacationing in Gatlinburg, many visitors look for something fun to do with their kids. There are a range of activities to participate in from hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to riding bumper cars in downtown Gatlinburg. There are many cheap or free things to do in Gatlinburg also if you are on a budget. At the Nantahala Outdoor Center right before the National Park in downtown Gatlinburg, kids can climb the rock wall while you shop for new camping gear.Climbing_with_NOC_(001) The NOC is a great place for the whole family. There are several Ripley’s attractions throughout downtown Gatlinburg  including Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies with an interactive kids area, live mermaid diving shows and a specially designed kid friendly penguin exhibit, Davy penguinsCrockett mini golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy store, Ripley’s Moving Theater, Ripley’s Fun Zone, and the famous Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Ober Gatlinburg also has a lot to offer not only in the winter months, but in the summer months as well. Ride the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg up to Ober Gatlinburg and enjoy the best views of the Great Smoky Mountains. After you get to the top, visit the Wildlife Encounter where you can see Bears. While on your visit to Ober Gatlinburg spend a few hours Ice Skating, ride the Alpine Slide, the Scenic Chairlift, the Blue Cyclone Rapids water slide and Ober’s Lightin’ Raft Ride and alpine slideShoot-the-Chute. There is also a fun-filled Amaze’n Maze and a Kiddie Land and Rides for children.

Gatlinburg also offers Zip-lining, Whitewater Rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding and fishing noc raftingspots. You may book zip-lining and white water rafting trips through the NOC in downtown Gatlinburg as well as rent bicycles for the day and get information about where to go fishing. The Sugarlands Visitors Center is also a great place to take your children for free where the whole family can learn about the history of the park and go through the wildlife museum inside the Visitors Center. Get information about the Junior Ranger program and the activities that your children may participate in for free. Cades Cove is also an excellent place to take your family in the park. Take a ranger led hayride through Cades Cove for $14.00 per person.

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Mynatt Park, one of Gatlinburg’s City parks, is near downtown Gatlinburg. Take the family to the park for a picnic lunch, to play in the river, play on the jungle gym, or even play a fun game of tennis or basketball. All kids live candy, so while downtown visit any of the local Candy stores where the candy is made on site. Watch Saltwater Taffy being made at Ole Smoky’s Candy Kitchen.

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Stay with ERA In The Smokies and easily access all that Gatlinburg has to offer for the entire family!

Day Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Click here for Easy Summer Hikes!

There are many different trails to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ranging from easy to moderate to strenuous. Whether you’re looking for a quiet forest walk and wildflowers or a hike by the river to an amazing waterfall, there is a hike for everyone! Here are a list of the hikes you can complete in a day.

  1. Alum Cave- Features views and interesting geological features. 4.4 miles roundtrip and moderate in difficulty
  2. Charlie’s Bunion- 8.0 miles roundtrip
  3. Spruce-Fir Trail- Located in Newfound Gap/ Clingmans Dome, 0.4 miles roundtrip
  4. Laurel Falls- Located in Elkmont, 2.3 miles roundtrip and features a historical waterfall and stream
  5. Little Brier Gap- Located in Elkmont, features the Walker Sisters Place and is 2.3 miles roundtrip
  6. Grotto Falls- Located in Gatlinburg/ Mt. Leconte, features waterfalls and is 2.6 miles roundtrip
  7. Schoolhouse Gap- Located in Cades Cove/ Townsend, features a quiet forest hike and wildflowers and is 3.8 miles roundtrip
  8. Baskins Creek Falls- Located in Gatlinburg, features waterfalls and is 3.0 miles roundtrip
  9. Andrews Bald- Located in Newfound Gap/ Clingmans Dome, features panoramic views and is 3.5 miles roundtrip
  10. Porter’s Creek Trail- Located in the Greenbrier area, features waterfalls, streams, flowers and an old growth forest, 4.0 miles roundtrip
  11. Abrams Falls- Located in the Cades Cove area, features waterfalls and is 5.0 miles roundtrip
  12. Little River Trail- Located in the Elkmont area, features streams and seasonal wildflowers, 4.9 miles roundtrip
  13. Meigs Mountain Trail- Located in the Elkmont area, quiet forest hike, 4.6 miles roundtrip
  14. Hen Wallow Falls- Located in the Greenbrier area, features waterfalls, 4.4 miles roundtrip
  15. Huskey Gap (Newfound Gap Rd)- Located in Gatlinburg, features a quiet forest walk and is 4.2 miles roundtrip
  16. Chimney Tops- Located in Gatlinburg, features panoramic mountain views and is 4.0 miles roundtrip
  17. Cucumber Gap Loop- Located in Elkmont, features streams and seasonal wildflowers. 5.6 miles roundtrip
  18. Grapeyard Ridge Trail- Located in Greenbrier, features a historical Injun Creek steam engine wreck and is 5.8 miles roundtrip
  19. Deep Creek Headwaters- Located in Newfound Gap, features a stream and is 5.8 miles roundtrip
  20. West Prong Trail- Located in the Cades Cove area, features a stream and quiet forest walk, 5.4 miles roundtrip
  21. Curry Mountain Trail- Located in the Elkmont area, features a quiet forest hike and is 6.4 miles roundtrip
  22. Sugarland Mountain Trail (lower)- Located in the Elkmont area, features a quiet forest hike and is 6.0 miles roundtrip
  23. The Jump Off- Located in Newfound Gap, features panoramic mountain view and is 6.5 miles roundtrip
  24. Bullhead Trail- Located in Gatlinburg, features views and interesting geological features, 5.9 miles roundtrip
  25. Sugarland Mountain Trail (upper)- Located in Newfound Gap, features views and solitude, 7.0 miles roundtrip

It is important to always hike prepared. Here is a complied list of things to bring with you on each day hike in the Smokies during the Summer months.

  • Backpack, daypack or fanny packhike gear
  • Rain/Wind shield
  • Supportive Footwear
  • Extra socks
  • Extra clothing
  • Gloves
  • Water: full canteens, water bottles or hydration pack
  • Extra food: high energy snacks
  • Map and/or guidebook
  • Compass
  • Pocket knife
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Watch
  • First Aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun protection
  • Toilet paper (in a plastic bag)
  • Money/ ID

Suggested/ Optional Gear:

  • Hiking Pole
  • Bandana
  • Notebook with pencil
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Cell phone
  • Napkins
  • Zip seal plastic bagsAbrams Falls Trail

Include in basic first-aid kit:

  • Roll bandages
  • Triangular bandages
  • Ace bandages
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Sterile compresses
  • Adhesive tape
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Miscellaneous band aids
  • Twine
  • Tweezers
  • Safety Pins
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Latex gloves
  • Tissues
  • Plastic bags
  • Small mirror
  • Antibacterial soap/wipes
  • Eye drops
  • Burn Ointment
  • Sunburn lotion
  • Disinfectant cream
  • Decongestant and Antihistamine tabletshiking-first-aid-kit
  • Anti-acids
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Aspirin/ Ibuprofen
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Diarrhea medication
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Poison ivy cream/ cleansers
  • Bee sting kit
  • Snake bite kit
  • Heat/cold packs
  • Personal information/ contact person
  • First-aid manual

Safety tips:

Never hike alone, give a family member or friend your hiking itinerary and estimated time of return, always stay on the designated trail, don’t hike too quickly pace yourself, start early, check the weather forecast before heading out, know where to get emergency medical care, watch for signs of heat exhaustion, don’t pack too heavily, never approach wild animals, and remember to always have fun!!

Ten Cheap or FREE things to do in Gatlinburg-2013

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1. Driving Trails- Enjoy nature and view wildlife on these driving trails: Trail of the Dragon, Balsam Mountain Road, Cades Cove Loop Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Upper Tremont Road, Newfound Gap Road and the Cataloochee Valley.

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2. 8 mile driving loop around the Arts and Crafts Community- With more than 120 working artisans this loop is the nations largest organization of independent artisans.

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3. Historic Structures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park– There are over 90 structures preserved or rehabilitated in the park. You can see them in Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Oconaluftee and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

4. Free Wine Tasting- Try locally made wines at these wineries: Smoky Mountain Winery, Sugar-lands Cellars, Ole Smoky Winery and Moonshine Distillery

5. Sugar-lands Visitor Center- Pick up maps and see exhibits of Mountain life and culture as well as all of the different species of animals that can be found here in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

6. Outdoor Activities- Bicycling, Camping, Fishing, Hiking and Picnicking. There are many places in the park to enjoy multiple activities such as the Chimmeys Picnic area, the Greenbrier Picnic area, the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area and Cades Cove.biking

Seasonal Events:

7. Winterfest– This event brings the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, share ideas and compete against other posts and crews and have fun.

8.Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival– Beginning in September, the people of Gatlinburg celebrate the Autumn colors by decorating and entertaining guests and start out with the Fall Craftsman’s Fair.

9. New Year’s Eve Ball Drop– Celebrate the New Year at Gatlinburg’s 26th annual Ball Drop and Fireworks Show around the intersection of the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg and the Historic Nature Trail at the Base of the Space Needle late Tuesday night, December 31, 2013.

10. Gatlinburg Festival of Lights Christmas Parade- Celebrate the Christmas season at Gatlinburg’s 38th annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade at 7:30 p.m. on Friday December 7, 2013. There will be over 100 parade entries, helium balloons and marching bands from Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. gatlinburgchristmasparade

WILDlife!

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vital sanctuary for a wide variety of animals. Around 65 species of mammals, over 200 species of birds, 50 native fish species and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians can be found in the park. Some of the most commonly seen animals include the white-tailed deer, groundhog, chipmunk, black bear and some other squirrel and bat species. Of the 200 species of birds, 85 of those species migrate from the neotropics. Over 700 miles of streams, creeks and rivers support the fish populate here in the Smokies and the park has been able to reintroduce some of the native species that has been eliminated in past years. Climatic and geographic factors make a perfect combination for the variety of 30 salamander species found in the park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most diverse places in the world for salamanders, so you are lucky to see one!Pileated WoodpeckerPolliwogs, Eggs & Singing Frogs

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Unfortunately, many species have become threatened and endangered such as:

  • Indiana Bat
  • Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel
  • Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  • Spot-fin Chub
  • Duskytail Darter
  • Smoky MadamThere are approximately 2 bears per square mile in the National Park!
  • Yellowfin Madtom
  • Spruce-fir moss Spider
  • Eastern Small-footed Bat
  • Watershrew
  • Appalachian Cottontail
  • Henslow’s Sparrow
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Red Crossbill
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Eastern Hellbender
  • Seepage Salamander
  • Junalusica Salamander
  • Olive-darter
  • Tennessee Dace

The park staff is continually working on making sure the environment for these particular species is accommodating to their individual needs, however, visitors to the park must be aware of these endangerments and be respectful of the native species surrounding them.

Viewing wildlife in the Smokies can be a challenge as most of the park consists of dense forest. Wildlife is often seen in the Cataloochee and Cades Cove areas. Animals can be seen while taking hikes in the park as well. Many animals are most active at night and morning, so these are the best times to catch a glimpse of the wonderful wildlife in the Smokies. It’s also a good idea to bring binoculars and scan the trees for wildlife as well.

Waterfalls in the Smokies

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Few experiences in nature are more rewarding than taking a beautiful hike knowing there is a majestic waterfall waiting for you at the end. Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young at the time when the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock erosion happens slowly while upstream erosion occurs more quickly. As the water increases its velocity at the edge of the waterfall, it picks up material from the riverbed. The erosion capacity is increased when whirlpools created in the turbulence as well as sand and stones carried by the water stream. These whirlpools cause the waterfall the carve deeper into the into the bed and to recede upstream. Many times over a period of time, the waterfall will recede back to form a canyon or gorge downstream as it recedes upstream and will carve deeper into the ridge above it. The rate of retreat for a waterfall can be as high as one and a half meters per year.

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Waterfalls normally form in a rocky area due to erosion. There is usually a deep area just below waterfalls because of the kinetic energy hitting the bottom. Often, the rock stratum just below the more resistant shelf will be of a softer type, meaning that undercutting due to splashback will occur here to form a shallow cave-like formation known as a rock shelter under and behind the waterfall. Eventually, the outcropping, more resistant cap rock will collapse under pressure to add blocks of rock to the base of the waterfall. These blocks of rock are then broken down into smaller boulders by attrition as they collide with each other, and they also erode the base of the waterfall by abrasion, creating a deep plunge pool or gorge.

There are many waterfalls that are just a short hike away here in the Smokies, these include:

  • Laurel Falls- This 80 foot high waterfall is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the smokies. Located just a few minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, this trail is paved making it stroller, wheelchair and walker accessible.
  • Grotto Falls- Easily walk behind this 25 foot high waterfall just minutes from Gatlinburg off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This trail is 3 miles round trip and should take around 2-3 hours to complete.

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    Grotto Falls

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Laurel Falls

  • Abrams Falls- This 5 mile roundtrip hike along Abrams Creek is moderate, but worth it. The large amount of water creates a very deep pool, but swimming is not allowed because of the dangerous currents. This hike is in Cades Cove.

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    Abrams Falls

Ramsey Cascades- At 100 feet, this is the highest waterfall in the park. The water collects in a small pool where salamanders can be found. This is a strenuous 8 mile trip  will take 5 to 7 hours to complete, but the reward at the end is worth it. To get there drive 5.9 miles from Gatlinburg on 321, then turn right at Greenbrier, at mile 3.2 turn left at the sign for Ramsey Cascades onto the bridge that crosses the Middle Prong and drive 1.5 miles to the parking area.

  • Hen Wallow Falls- At the bottom of the 90 foot high waterfalls you can often find salamanders. During a very cold winter, the falls often freeze to form a beautiful ice formation. At 4.4 miles roundtrip, this hike is moderate in difficulty. Access this hike at the Gabes Mountain Trailhead at the Cosby Picnic area.

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    Hen-Wallow Falls

  • Mingo Falls- Just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can hike this moderate set of wooden stairs .4 of a mile to this waterfall. The access trail is at the Pigeon Creek Trailhead. From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, drive south toward  Cherokee on US 441 and take the second bridge to the left and drive 4.5 miles to Mingo Falls Campground where the trail begins.

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    Mingo Falls

  • Rainbow Falls- A rainbow is visible on a sunny day when the mist creates a canvas. This 80 foot high waterfalls creates an impressive ice formation in the winter .This hike is 5.4 miles roundtrip and moderate in difficulty. The access trail is at the Rainbow Falls trailhead in the Roaring Fork area. From the Gatlinburg parkway, turn at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature Trail into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue past Noah “Bud” Ogle cabin to the Rainbow Falls parking area.

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    Rainbow Falls

Waterfalls in the Smokies you can drive to:

  • Meigs Falls- The pull off for this waterfall is along Little River Road 13 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. This waterfall can be easily missed while driving so be sure to watch carefully for it!
  • Place of 1,000 drips- From the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature trail in the park. Take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail and continue to stop #15 at the falls.

These waterfalls are breathtaking, but make sure to hike prepared with plenty of water, snacks and hiking essentials in case of emergencies.