Easy Hikes and Quiet Walkways

There are over 700 miles of hiking trails in the half-million acres comprising The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With that amount of hiking trails you will be able to find a trail to satisfy anyone, from expert hiker to just getting started, and the littlest members of the family.

2012-01-08_PavedTrail

River view from the trail.

Accessible Trails – There is one, just south of Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail is paved and relatively flat. It is a giant circle similar to a running track, and about 1/4 mile long. The river runs next to the trail and there are remnants of buildings from years past. There are plenty of benches along the way to offer respite and the opportunity to sit and reflect.

If you are hiking with others and want a workout simply walk fast around and around the trail. I think it is one of the prettier trails in the park since it has a mix of trees, water, wildlife and history.

I was pleasantly surprised to find bear tracks in the concrete as well. See if you can find them on your hike!

Bear track - up close and personal!

Bear track – up close and personal!

You can see where the bear crossed the concrete. Too fun!

You can see where the bear crossed the concrete. Too fun!

Quiet walkways – These designated trails are just that. There aren’t many people on them and they can be just a few hundred yards or longer. I’ve been on a few and they can be steep. All of them are not easily accessible. But if you are looking for an easy hike a Quiet walkway is a good place to try. They also offer learning opportunities. See this information made available for the third grade classroom.

You’ll see the signs for Quiet walkways along the road closer to the entrances and lower elevations. I’m sure this is because it is flat enough to provide an easy, quiet walk. Pull over and take a break, go for an easy, quiet walk.

Other Easy Hikes – If you are looking for more easy hikes, but that are a bit more challenging, you will find them in the park. There are plenty of miles of hiking trails to suit all abilities. My suggestion is to stop at a park Visitor Center and ask one of the Park Rangers. They will be able to help assess the level of difficulty you are looking for and where to do your hiking for the day.

Be careful and have fun!

Bears in the Park

American Black Bear

American Black Bear (Photo credit: siwild)

Many people talk about the bears they see in and around Smoky Mountain National Park.  Apparently black bears are plentiful in the mountains, but I’ve yet to see one.  We had a bear sighting last summer from people staying in our cabin, Southern Serenity.  But we’ve never seen one there.

If you ask folks in the area where to see bear they’ll tell you Cades Cove is your best bet.  We’ve been there a number of times; early, mid, and late in the day, no bear.  I’ve gone hiking in the park at the crack of dawn hoping to see bear, no such luck.

I’m starting to think it’s one of those things where we are just not seeing them, even though they are there.  Perhaps once we see one we’ll know how to spot them.  There is an organization in the area that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases bears back into the wild.  Appalachian Bear Rescue does good work and helps to educate the public about these fabulous creatures.

The author of this article from USA Today reports seeing bear on his first trip to the park, as well as talking to lots of people who’ve seen lots of bear.  Good for them.  Maybe someday we’ll get lucky and see a bear.  Have you seen a black bear in The Great Smoky Mountains?  Any tips on where or how to spot them?

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Black Bears

Southern Serenity is located in a neighborhood called Black Bear Falls.  Apparently a bear has been sighted recently in the neighborhood, which means the area is living up to the name!  Because of this a bear trap has been located in the higher elevations of the neighborhood.

It seems this will have a positive outcome.  It is sad that the bear habitat is disturbed by people, but I’m glad the bear will be relocated so it doesn’t get hurt, or get too used to humans, which can lead to other problems.

I’m not sure what agency is working on this, but I do know there is a bear rescue in Townsend, http://www.appalachianbearrescue.org/index.htm.  I’m so glad they can help the bears.