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!

Little River Trail in Elkmont

DSCN3677Elkmont is now a campground in the park, but the area is also chock full of history. Elkmont was a very busy place during the logging of the area. In addition to the logging, families from Knoxville and the surrounding area would vacation here during the summers. Homes were built and fun was had in the cool mountain air. Some of these buildings still exist, but are condemned and you can only view them from the road.

Two of the buildings are available for day use; The Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin. See the Park website for more information and to make a reservation.

DSCN3737      Appalachian Clubhouse

When I hiked the Little River Trail in Elkmont. I found many wildflowers in bloom and enjoyed the relatively easy hike. The trail is an old gravel road so it is very wide and easy to walk. The Little River runs right next to the trail, and there is a creek on the other side for some of the trail. I think it is a very pretty trail. The trail combines the best of the park.I love that is has water for the entire distance, beautiful vegetation, historic buildings, large boulders, and is easy to hike.

Warning for the squeamish – there is a snake and spider in the pictures below.

Hiking Map 1941

When we bought Southern Serenity, our Gatlinburg Log Cabin, we wanted to do some redecorating to make the cabin our own.  It was evident a fresh coat of paint and some updated furniture and decorations were in order.

In the loft there was a pair of decorative snow shoes hanging on the wall, but since they were hung on either side of a picture they looked more like tennis rackets!  Here is what the loft looked like before we had our way with it.

Before

I really liked the theme of hiking and wanted to keep that going in the loft.  I had seen large maps of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park all around Gatlinburg that were really cool and interesting, the challenge would be to find a map that was suitable.

I found a map of the park that was very old looking and I loved it!  I bought it and we hung it on the freshly painted wall in the loft next to the snow shoes.  Here is a picture of the guys hanging the map and snow shoes (and being very patient!) on our freshly painted wall.

Almost After…

I often wondered where the original map was from.  It was obvious an old map was used to make this picture of a map.  I could tell it was probably an ‘official’ map as it had topographical markings, the mountain peaks are identified, and there are distances for driving and hiking.  The people in the pictures are dressed in styles from the mid-20th century I thought.  You could also see where the fold lines were in the original.

Then one day while I was trolling the internet I found it – our map!  In fact it is the same EXACT map we have on the wall in the loft at the log cabin!  How do I know this?  On closer examination it looks as though someone took a red marker to a location on the original, and that same red circle can be seen on our map.  This was probably the only copy the government had left to archive.

The first image below is the map I found while trolling the internet (you can also see it at this government website).  The second image is the map hanging in our cabin loft, you can see the red circle in the bottom right of both maps.

Map as found on Wikipedia.com

Our map as seen in the loft

The best part about the map is that we have it hanging in our cabin loft.  This means you can plan your hike in the park while playing pool or Wii and relaxing with adult beverages.  Don’t forget to use one of our hiking sticks for those steep climbs.  Happy hiking!

Hiking to LeConte Lodge

This post is provided by guest blogger Lauren Stauss who has made the trip by foot  to LeConte Lodge.  Lauren is the owner of and writer for Write On LLC, a freelance professional and technical writing company. She is a passionate writer, fearless editor, and dedicated document designer. When she puts down her pen she enjoys hiking with her dog (Helga), napping with her cat (Jack), and attending live music shows. Visit her company blog for writing tips and more scribbles from this scribe http://writeon.lstauss.com/blog.

If you’re looking for a truly unique experience in the Smoky Mountains, consider hiking to LeConte Lodge. Situated atop the stunningly beautiful Mount Le Conte at 6,593 feet of elevation, it boasts some of the only lodging available in this mountain range. Plan a day hike and enjoy lunch at the destination or if you’re looking for a quiet evening in the Smokys, book an overnight stay and hike to your accommodations (book your reservations early as this is a popular destination with limited availability).

No roads go to the LeConte Lodge (they hike their supplies up and down using llamas!) so you’ll need to pick a trail for your journey. Keep in mind that you’ll be hiking to a hefty elevation and trails may not be suited for novices. Most of the trails have clear paths but you’ll often steeply incline or walk on rock ledges. Some have hand ropes for treacherous stretches. Options include:

  • Alum Cave Trail (5.5 miles)
  • The Boulevard Trail (8 miles)
  • Bullhead Trail (7.2 miles)
  • Rainbow Falls Trail (6.5 miles)
  • Trillium gap Trail (6.5 miles)

If you can arrange a drop-off and pick-up I recommend exploring one trail up and a different down.

I hiked the Alum Cave trail in the Spring of 2011. Along the way we stopped to take in the Arch Rock and Alum Cave bluffs.

Trust me, the majesty of the trails are much too large to capture in any photo.  So grab your hiking shoes, protein bars, and water bottles (hydrate! hydrate! hydrate!), hit the trail and get ready for a truly awe-inspiring Mount Le Conte landscape.

Thanks Lauren!

Helpful Links:
Lodge website
http://www.leconte-lodge.com/
Llama train video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErfuBRs8vJE
Mount Le Conte
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Le_Conte_(Tennessee)
Alum Cave Trail
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alum_Cave_Trail#Trailhead_to_Arch_Rock

Not so common Things to Do in Gatlinburg

Are you the traveler that likes to go off the beaten path?  You’re always looking for things to do that aren’t mainstream, or can be a real challenge?  This is the post for you then.  Here are some things to do in or near the Smoky Mountain Park that are perhaps less popular, and therefore roads less traveled.

  1. Hike to Mt. LeConte  – Like to hike? Want to stay someplace you can only get to on foot?  Go to Mt. LeConte Lodge. If you only have a day you can just do lunch up there, but call ahead for a reservation to make sure they can feed you.
  2. Elk Viewing – See the Elk in Cataloochee Valley in the southeastern area of the park. Make a day of it and plan to travel slow. The only way into the valley is winding gravel roads.
  3. Backpacking – Hike deep into the park and camp. Make sure to get a permit and plan your trip well. Contact the park service before doing any extensive hikes.
  4. Cherokee, NC – When people think of Smoky Mountain National Park they think Gatlinburg, but the entrance at the south end of the park is through Cherokee, NC. A city with a history. Take a day trip to Cherokee and see what they have to offer.
  5. Hikes, Fishing, Scenic Drives – See the park service website for ‘Off the Beaten Path‘ suggestions.