Snowed In? Snow Day!

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Here in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, we experience our fair share of snow days. While getting out of school or work is exciting, spending the day inside can be a bore. We’ve come up with some activities that are perfect for a good snowy day.

Make Snow Cream!

Snow Cream is a delicious treat that you can’t get all year long. Kids 10890636_1572602209620477_2098604635_nlove getting involved in the kitchen -especially if they get to bring snow in the house! All you need is milk, vanilla extract, and some clean, fresh snow. We recommend setting a big bowl out once the snow starts falling. Once you mix everything together add in any toppings you would like. Sprinkles, chocolate chips, coconut, and honey are some favorites.

Do Yoga!

Yoga is a great way to warm up on a snow day. Practicing yoga has many benefits. These include increased blood flow, boost in immune system, boosts metabolism, and much more. Loosen up after walking around with all those layers from playing in the snow. Try out some basic poses like the Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, and Downward Facing Dog.

Make it a Spa Day!

There’s nothing more relaxing than a day at the spa, but no one wants to trek out into the snow to do so! Grab some ingredients from your pantry and put together some DIY spa treatments. Combine coconut oil, honey, and lemon juice for a fantastic face mask. For a hair mask use 1/2 a ripe avocado and mix it with coconut oil and vitamin E oil. After throwing snowballs all day, your hands will want some love too. Mix coarse sugar with lemon juice and coconut oil for a silky hand scrub.

Set up a Photoshoot!

10525552_347616358767131_1087180128_nGrab any type of camera and head for the pretty white blanket that has covered your yard. Snow makes for such a fun backdrop to candid
photos. Have someone snap several pics of you tossing up the snow,
trudging through it, shaking a tree to cover yourself, the possibilities are endless! The lighting on snow days is perfect for pictures so even if you’re just using your phone, there’s bound to be a good one!

Build a Fort!

Tap into your inner child and break out the extra pillows and sheets for nostalgic purposes. Everyone loved building forts as kids and now that we understand construction a little better it’s a great time to get your creative juices flowing. You can get really creative with all of those left over boxes from Christmas and put together a cardboard fort. Just attach some tape to secure them together. Mr. McGroovy’s sells boxes of rivets to help bring your creation to life. They also have tons of downloadable plans if you’re not up for designing your own.

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Play Outside!

Of course playing in the snow is the best part about snow days! Step your snowball game up by using a ball press. You can also get a snowball launcher to have even more fun! Build a snowman, snow bear, or any other snow creature that may be native to your area. Grab a sled or a tube and find the nearest hill to spend hours entertained or even just plop down and make a snow angel.

 

Now that you have a day full of activities planned, go ahead and get started! Enjoy your day full of snow!

 

 

LOGO with text This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 865-430-3366. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

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Oh Those Bears!

Oh Those Bears!

Oh Those Bears!Seeing a bear is definitely a thrill! Not so much the, “Aww, what a cute fuzzy animal!” thrill. More the strange, awe-inspiring combination of, “What a beautiful, majestic animal!” and “Wow! I could’ve been killed!” If that’s the kind of thrill you’re looking for, search no further than the Great Smoky Mountains! They’ve been known to even come down into town and visit the candy shop, make house calls (or cabin calls), or pass by the cabin rental office (yes, ERA In The Smokies, the one that sponsors this blog), but to have the best chance of glimpsing one, visit their natural habitat: The Great Smoky Mountains National Forrest!This bear crossed the road in front of our office, as you can see!

Bears on the Abrams Falls TrailThe bears are, in fact, so active right now, that certain areas of the park have been shut down to cut down risk of attack. No attacks have yet been reported this year, but there was a man who reported that a bear followed him for quite a while as he rode his bike, even though the man was trying to move away. This is most unusual behavior for bears, as they are usually afraid of humans, and prefer to avoid us. A couple of years ago, when I was naive and reckless, I went hiking by myself on the Abrams Falls Trail in Cades Cove fairly early in the morning, about 8am. The trail was nearly deserted, and as I hiked along in solitude, I looked up and saw a mama bear and her cubs up the hill a bit. Even as my heart jumped into overdrive, I calmly continued my walk down the trail. Thankfully I was already headed in the opposite direction as the bears, but if I had been going the same direction, I would have turned around, even if it meant cutting my hike short. That mama bear behaved as a normal bear, and gave no sign that she even noticed my presence, but continued on her way.

What should you do if you encounter a bear? Well, we know you want to take a picture, but please consider your safety and the bear’s needs first. The National Park has the following recommendations: “If you see a bear remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.)-you’re too close. Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don’t run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind“If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting, change your direction. If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground. If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it. Act aggressively to intimidate the bear. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. Don’t run and don’t turn away from the bear. Don’t leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.”

2010 Bear Photo Contest Winners!The following areas are currently closed due to aggressive bear activity: Spence Field Shelter, Backcountry Campsites 13,18, 21, 113, and Bull Head Trail. Areas with merely a warning include: Appalachian Trail for Shuckstack to Doe Knob, Curry Mountain Trail, Gregory Bald Trail, Laurel Falls Trail, Icewater Spring Shelter, and Backcountry Campsite 24. Cades Cove is also known for being the site of tons of bear sitings. We’ve even seen pictures that people were able to take from their cars, sometimes of a bear crossing the road just in front of or behind them.

These bears were caught in the hot tub of our cabin Chipmunk Haven!Another way to see a bear is to rent a cabin. ERA in the Smokies usually receives several reports each year from guests and staff alike that bears have been viewed at the cabins. Sometimes only their handiwork is encountered, however! They do like to try to dig in the trash!

ERA In The SmokiesThis blog is sponsored in part by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN. For more information 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.

Top Ten Ways to Celebrate July 4th in the Smokies in 2014

Stay in a Smoky Mountain Cabin During July 4th Holiday!The 4th of July is a prime week to come to the Smokies! With so much to do and that great summer weather, who wouldn’t want to join us?! Four different options for fireworks, a variety of music, good food, summer sales, roller coasters, and more! There’s so much to do, you can’t possibly do it all in one day. Why not come for a week?!

Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade1. First Independence Day Parade in the Nation

“The first Independence Day Parade in the Nation marks its 39th year by honoring Military Veterans and other U.S. Military Heroes.  The annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Midnight Parade leads off at 12:00AM (midnight) on Friday, July 4, 2014 to the cheers of close to 100,000 spectators lining the streets of the City for this award winning parade.” Get there early in the day with your lawn chairs to claim a good spot! Traffic will be tight, so it may be a good idea to find a parking spot early on July 3, or park at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center at Wiley Oakley Rd just before you come into town, and ride the trolley (free during the summer!) into town.

River Raft Regatta2. Gatlinburg River Raft Regatta

“This year’s fun-filled Fourth of July celebration in Gatlinburg will feature the always-competitive River Raft Regatta, the unmanned kind. Anything floatable can be entered starting at 10 a.m. at the Christ in the Smokies bridge on River Road and will end at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. There are two categories: Trash (not hand-made) and Treasure (hand-made) – awards will go to the top 3 in each category. Additionally, the “Judges Choice” award will go to the most creative “raft.”  Awards will be given to the oldest and the youngest participant. Registration begins at 10 am and the race will start at 12:00 pm.  Trophies will be supplied by the Gatlinburg Recreation Department.”

Gatlinburg Fireworks Finale3. Gatlinburg Fireworks Finale

“Join the celebration in downtown Gatlinburg to mark our nation’s “Independence Day” with a magnificent fireworks show. The City of Gatlinburg lights up the mountain skyline downtown centered on the area of traffic light #3 at 10 p.m. with this grand display. Designated a Top 20 event by Southeast Tourism Society. ”

View of the Fireworks from Eagles Nest4. Stay in a Cabin

The best way to enjoy all Gatlinburg has to offer during 4th of July week is to stay in a Gatlinburg Cabin! ERA In The Smokies offers a variety of cabins to suit all your vacation needs! Want to be secluded and private? Stay in Chipmunk Haven! There’s a little bit of a view as well, rare in private cabins! Want a spectacular mountain view? Stay in Sky Highway! You can even enjoy that view from a relaxing hot tub! Want a pool table and other fun games? Stay in Black Bear Holler! Want to bring your pet along for the adventure? Stay in On the Rocks! But for the 4th of July, there are probably a ton of you who just wish there was some way to enjoy the fireworks without having to leave the comfort of your cabin! You are in luck! We have 6 cabins from which you can do just that! Above the Rest, At the Top, Eagle’s Nest, Great Escape, Sunset Ridge, and Southern Comfort sit up on a small hill overlooking the town of Gatlinburg. From these cabins, you have a gorgeous mountain view, as well as a view of the city lights at night, and of course- the fireworks! They also boast pool tables, hot tubs, and gas fireplaces, as well as close proximity to town. You can drive less than half a mile down the hill, park for free on River Rd (if you get there early enough in the day) and walk a block over to the main Parkway in Gatlinburg! Have fun!

Smoky Mtn Tunes and Tales5. Smoky Mtn Tunes & Tales

Tunes & Tales is a summer-long street performance event throughout downtown Gatlinburg featuring musical performers, cloggers, storytellers and artisans giving you a taste of Appalachian culture. This popular event truly highlights one of Gatlinburg’s greatest assets – the walkability of the community – and provides guests with an interactive, educational and entertaining experience the whole family can enjoy.”

Lonestar will play at the Patriot Festival6. 24th Annual Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival

July 4- “Thousands gather at Patriot Park each year for this free event. The fun typically starts around noon with games and activities for kids. There’s also live musical entertainment, which starts early in the afternoon and lasts until 9:30 or 10 at night. This years lineup features the Pigeon Forge Community Chorus, the Tim Kellar Band, bluegrass group Adkins & Loudermilk, the Jimmy Buffet tribute band Sons of Sailors and the event headliners Lonestar! After the music it’s time for the evening’s finale – an extravagant fireworks display!”

July 4th Sale at Tanger Outlets7. 4th of July Weekend Sale at Tanger Five Oaks

July 3-6 Tanger Outlet Mall at Five Oaks in Sevierville will be having their July 4th Sale! And we thought those outlet deals couldn’t get any better! With over 100 stories and eateries, Tanger is a complete day experience of its own! View their current coupons and sales! For those in your family who don’t wish to shop til they drop, Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini Golf is just a short walk through the parking lot, and the NASCAR Speedpark is next door.

Smokies Baseball8. Tennessee Smokies Baseball

July 3- Start off your celebrations early with a classic American baseball game at Smokies Stadium at exit 407 on I-40. The Smokies face off against the Montgomery Biscuits. At the end of the game, enjoy a beautiful fireworks display!

The Art of the Picnic9. Pack a Picnic

Whether you want to stake a claim for a parade view, or set up to see some fireworks, whether you’re going to spend all day shopping or seek some peace and quiet at one of our area’s many parks and picnic areas, you’re going to need lunch (and/or dinner)! So pack a picnic! If you want to make it super easy, you can always get take out from your favorite restaurant, and whisk it away to your desired location to enjoy! If you want to go more traditional, and perhaps save a little money, you can visit our local grocery store, Food City, and pick up those sandwiches, pickles, and chips (or your own favorite picnic foods). You can also pick up disposable plates, forks, napkins, and even a disposable tablecloth! If you want to be even more thrifty, you can check out the prices for those items at the Family Dollar store just up the hill from Food City.

Great American Summer10. Great American Summer at Dollywood

Dollywood makes every day this summer feel like July 4th with their Great American Summer Celebration! The park stays open longer- 10am to 10pm- to allow you to enjoy all the park has to offer for just a little bit longer, including a nightly fireworks display! “Synchronized to music, each evening features Paint Your Dreams across the Sky, an inspiring musical crescendo written specifically for the occasion by Dolly, along with other songs that underscore this colorful summertime celebration!”

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!

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.