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!

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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.

Sugarland Cellars Winery

I was going to post about Sugarland Cellars Winery in downtown Gatlinburg anyway, but now I have a more compelling reason, they have a Living Social deal available for purchase!  If you are interested it costs $25 and is available for purchase this weekend only and must be used by October 2012.  (Disclaimer: if I get 3 purchases from this link I get my deal free!) 

The hubby and I first went to Sugarland Cellars in January, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The rustic ambience of the wood and brick décor works very well.  When we went back for a vacation in March with 3 other couples we took them for the tour, and a good time was had by all!  The wine is fermented right there in the building, so the tour is right there as well.  It takes about 20 minutes and at the end there is a wine tasting.  There is no charge for the tour.

They have about a dozen types of wine, all with names inspired by the area like Elkmont, Wiley Oakley, and Baskins Creek.  The wines range from dry to very sweet and cost $12-$20 a bottle.  Of course they have multi-pack deals for those of us who like to buy wine in bulk 😉

They are in a brand new building in downtown Gatlinburg just north of stoplight #10, which translates into just north of the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park.  There is plenty of parking and lots of goodies in the gift shop.

With the Living Social deal you get the tour, cheese with your wine tasting, two Riedel crystal glasses (yes they are real crystal glasses), and $20 toward your wine purchase.  We thought it was a great deal in January and now that we’ve been there are happy to take part in this deal yet again!  We won’t be taking a tour since three times in 5 months is just not necessary, but we’ll surely be doing the wine tasting, nibbling of cheese, and purchasing of wine.

 

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop – Not in New York

Apparently every year for the last 23 there has been a New Year’s Eve party in downtown Gatlinburg.  How did I not know this!?!

The festivities start early in the evening with music playing at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.  Crowds gather at the base of the 342 foot Space Needle in downtown Gatlinburg and a music stage is setup to entertain young and old.  At the stroke of midnight the ball drops and fireworks commence. Sounds fun, and something I have to add to my bucket list.

Here is a video of the New Year’s Eve celebration:

Where will you be this New Year’s Eve?

To ATV or not To ATV? – that is the question

There are opportunities in the Smoky Mountain area to rent an ATV and have a mountain adventure on said vehicle.  I’m going to Southern Serenity this fall and an ATV ride sounds very appealing.  Adventure, challenging, fun, outdoors, beautiful, scenic, are all words that come to mind.  I’m vacationing with girlfriends and almost every one of them wants to do this – but we’re not getting any younger.  So the other words that come to mind are old, stiff, creaky, dangerous, rough, and accident.  YIKES!

So now I’m torn, to ATV or not To ATV? – that is the question.  I  think we’ll probably do this, and have loads of fun.  And why not, I mean why shouldn’t we take the risk and go all in on an ATV adventure on the side of a mountain?  After all – we’re not getting any younger!