When I visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, my camera is always at hand. I’m the girl with a point and shoot, DSLR and iPhone at the ready. Does this sounds like you? If so, read for tips on where to take the best pictures when you visit the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pictures

When you’re in a place as beautiful as the this, it’s hard to put your camera down. I mean, you never know what may be around the next bend or mountain range. There are so many beautiful views and scenic areas it’s hard to know which are the best spots for Great Smoky Mountains National Park pictures. Follow this guide to capture some of the finest scenery the Smokies have to offer.

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Cades Cove

1) Cades Cove

Visiting Cades Cove is like stepping back in time. Old homesteads, historic churches, rustic barns, a working grist mill and other 18th and 19th centuries have been restored, all of which you can view on an 11-mile loop. There are several places to stop and explore further, so you can score excellent photos. The mountains and valleys of Cades Cove are also picturesque, and the abundant wildlife such as deer and bear add to the possibilities. Arrive early for the best pictures, as it can get quite crowded throughout the day.

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Mount LeConte: Michael Wifall/Flickr

2) Mount LeConte

At 6,593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the national park and offers exceptional vista of the rolling mountains and valleys of the Smokies. There are five trails in which you can access the peak: Alum Cave Trail, The Boulevard Trail, Bullhead Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail and Trillium Gap Trail. The Alum Cave Trail is the most popular as although the ascent is strenuous, the descent is the easiest of the trails. At 11 miles roundtrip, it’s also the shortest trail but is still a healthy dose of activity. Be prepared with water and snacks. In addition, be sure to set out early for any of these hikes.

Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap

3) Newfound Gap

Break out the panoramic mode on your camera for this shot. The view is endless, and easy to get to, making it an ideal place for a quick photography grab. As you’re driving on US 441, pull over at the Newfound Gap parking area and take a few (or 50) snaps. At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was created as the main route used to travel through the Smoky Mountains. Some of the best sunrise and sunset photos you’ll see of the Smokies come from this location. As a result, it’s easily one of the spots for taking Great Smoky Mountains National Park pictures.

Clingmans Dome

Clingman’s Dome

4) Clingman’s Dome

You can easily combine the views at Newfound Gap with a visit to Clingman’s Dome as its just 7 miles away. Now, those 7 miles are quite curvy, but still—it’s easy enough. Plus, Clingmans’ Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6,643 feet. Which means it also has some of the most stunning views you’ll find—anywhere. The parking lot has some pretty great vantage points for photos; on clear days it honestly feels like you can see forever. But, I recommend making the trek to the observation tower for even more memory-card-filling pictures. The ½ mile trail is strenuous and steep as its straight up a mountain. The 54-foot-tall tower, as well as the elevation gains along the way, offer birds-eye-views screaming for lens to be on them. The only downside are the dead trees littering the area. Maneuver around, or angle them to frame your photo.

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Abrams Falls

5) Waterfalls

It seems many of the hikes I navigate towards have waterfalls. What can I say? The cascading falls are a nice reward and they generally have some nice views along the way. Luckily, there are plenty of amazing waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains. My favorite three, though, are Rainbow Falls, Abrams Falls and Laurel Falls. Rainbow Falls (5.5 miles roundtrip) has a height of 80-feet and a the route meanders along LeConte Creek; Abrams Falls (5 miles roundtrip) is only 20-feet high but is very wide; and Laurel Falls (2.5 miles roundtrip) has an upper and lower section. Each is unique in its own way, and ideal for outdoor Great Smoky Mountains National Park pictures.

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Chimney Tops: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia

Bonus: Chimney Tops Trail

This hike isn’t that long at 3.8 miles roundtrip, but it’s what I call a Billy goat trail: it’s steep, on a mountainside and makes you feels like a Billy goat as you cling to the mountainside with nothing but your feet. Chimney Tops is so steep in fact, many hikers don’t make it to the top as you climb almost a 1,000 feet in the last mile. There are snap-worthy views along the way, but the panoramic at the peak is what you’re really after. Push on, if you can, to take some iconic hiker-magazine worthy images.4

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pictures

These are some of the best spots for Great Smoky Mountains National Park pictures. Charge your camera gear, bring plenty of storage cards and get to snapping!


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

 

You haven’t had the true Smoky Mountain experience unless you get off the Pigeon Forge Parkway and into the woods.  There is so much splendor to see in the over 500,000 acres comprising The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  With so many areas waiting to be explored it’s hard to decide which sights to include on your trip.  However, these five Smoky Mountain sights that are truly exceptional highlights of the area.

Check out these five must-see Smoky Mountain sights.

Cades Cove - Smokies

1) Cades Cove

An-11 mile loop surrounds the meandering valleys and climbing mountains of Cades Cove.  Preserved as a reminder of the 19th century, there are historic barns, log cabins and churches in all their wild glory.  Wildlife is abundant in the area so keep an eye out for deer, turkeys, and even bears. 

On top of Clingmans Dome at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

2) Clingman’s Dome

At an elevation of 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Smokies.  It’s also the third highest east of the Mississippi River, earning it a place on our list.  A half-mile paved trail takes you to an observation tower, where on a clear day you can see over 100 miles in each direction.

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3) Roaring Fork

Options abound at the Roaring Fork nature area.  You can drive the 6-mile one-way loop and view the rushing mountain streams and cascades, glimpses of growth forests, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings.  Trailheads for Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls are found here, too.  Rainbow Falls is a top Smoky Mountain experience and one of the most rewarding hikes you can go on. 

Water Fall, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

4) Deep Creek

Hikers, mountain bikers and fisherman flock to Deep Creek.  An area known for its many waterfalls and streams, the setting creates a lush, green paradise just waiting to be discovered.  View beautiful Deep Creek Falls, and then head out on one of three hikes:  Whank Falls (0.6 mile), Three Waterfalls Loop (2.4 miles), and Deep Creek-Indian Creek Loop (4.4 miles).  Mountain bikers can take advantage of one of the few park trails where bicycles are permitted.  Anglers can cast their reel and see if they can catch a Smoky Mountain trout.

Dawn, from Newfound Gap, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, USA

5) Newfound Gap Road

The mountains of the Smokies created a landscape difficult to traverse.   At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The route was first created in 1932, but it’s a lot easier to trek today. Travel this road to sightsee and marvel at the many mountains, variety of forests, deep valleys and spectacular scenery only available in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Without a doubt, the Newfound Gap Road Overlook is one of the best Smoky Mountain sights–especially at dawn. 


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Every time I go on vacation, I bug my husband to go ziplining. There is something about zooming through the forest that heightens the senses and gets your adrenaline pumping — I love it. Out of all the places I’ve gone ziplining, the Smoky Mountain ziplines are my favorite.

The greater Smoky Mountain region is home to several ziplining options. From timid beginners to daredevils, there’s a zipline for everyone. Choose from these exciting Smoky Mountain ziplines for an adventurous vacation in Pigeon Forge.

Smoky Mountain Ziplines

Zipping in the Smokies

As the most affordable ziplining option, Zipping in the Smokies is available through Rafting in the Smokies. This 6 line zipline tour also features a 150′ swinging bridge that leads you to a 10-acre wooded island in the Big Pigeon River. Also, combine your ziplining experience with an exhilarating rafting trip down the river for the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Zipping in the Smokies is ideal for beginners looking for a quick zipline excursion in the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Mountain Ziplines

Adventureworks Climb, Zip, and Swing

Looking to go ziplining with the entire family? Out of all the Smoky Mountain ziplines available, I’d recommend that families visit Adventureworks Climb, Zip, and Swing. This course offers 55 different obstacles, including:

  • 7 ziplines
  • Swinging grape vines
  • Bridges
  • Hanging cargo nets
  • Differing heights of obstacles

 

If your family is the adventurous type, you need to experience the full course at Adventureworks. For families traveling to Pigeon Forge with smaller children, be sure to sign them up for the Little Zipper zipline course. This course is designed exclusively for small children and includes four little ziplines on the ground.

Smoky Mountain Ziplines

Adventure America Zipline Canopy Tours

Calling all adventurers, daredevils, and down right adrenaline junkies — these are the Smoky Mountain ziplines you’ve been searching for. At Adventure America Zipline Canopy Tours, you’ll zoom down 12 ziplines over the course of 3.5 hours. Plus, this is the only ziplining tour that actually crosses the Pigeon River.

Yes, you read that correctly. You’ll be flying at heart racing speeds over the rapid-filled Pigeon River. Sounds incredible, right? This tour is perfect for experienced zipliners or first-time zipliners with a wild side.

This ziplining tour does not allow children under the age of 10 to participate.

Smoky Mountain ziplines

Adventure Park Ziplines

Out of all the Smoky Mountain ziplines, Adventure Park Ziplines is the most conveniently located. Situated right off of the Parkway, across from the Five Oaks Tanger Outlet Mall, this zipline course features 7 ziplines with varying lengths and speeds. You’ll soar through the magnificent hills of Pigeon Forge as you complete this 1.5-mile zipline course.

Adventure Park Ziplines also offers horseback riding on-site. Visitors can purchase a ziplining and horseback riding combo ticket for the ultimate outdoor excursion in the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Mountain ziplines

Foxfire Mountain Adventures

For some, the speed of ziplining is what frightens them. For others, it’s the height from the ground. If you’re an adrenaline fan looking for the tallest Smoky Mountain ziplines around, you’ll find it at FoxFire Mountain Adventures.

No matter which zipline course you choose here, you’re in for quite the rush! From soaring down 15 different ziplines to conquering a 60-foot challenge wall, FoxFire Mountain Adventures is home to a wide variety of thrills.

Don’t forget to try the aerial adventure course while you’re here. This high ropes course is a challenge, but so much fun!

Smoky Mountain ziplines

Legacy Mountain Premier Ziplines

For the best views of the Smoky Mountains, visit Legacy Mountain Premier Ziplines. Out of all the Smoky Mountain ziplines, you can’t beat the views from this course which is 4.5 miles long and includes seven lengthy ziplines. Plus, did you know it’s the first eco-friendly zipline adventure course in the Smoky Mountains? In addition to the views and the ziplines, visitors scale rope bridges and other obstacles for a thrilling excursion in the Smokies.

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Know Before You Zip

If this is your first time ziplining, there are a few general guidelines you need to know. Follow this advice for a memorable ziplining experience in the Smokies:

Wear Closed-Toe Shoes
All Smoky Mountain ziplines will not allow guests to participate if they are not wearing shoes that completely cover the toes. This is for your safety and the safety of others. Don’t show up wearing flip-flops or you’ll be sorely disappointed. Sneakers are your best option.

Know What the Minimum Age Limit Is
Depending on the intensity of the course and terrain, certain Smoky Mountain ziplines have age limit restrictions. Do your research before purchasing tickets so that you don’t have a sad child during your Pigeon Forge vacation.

No Cell Service and No Cameras
Various ziplining courses have little to no cell service due to their location in the Smoky Mountains. Be prepared for this. Also, a few Smoky Mountain ziplines do not allow guests to bring cameras on the tours. Ask your guide before you try to put a camera or cell phone in your pocket.

Follow All Guide Instructions
Each ziplining course includes expert guides who will instruct you on how to properly use the ziplines. It is vital that you listen to their instructions at all time. Also, the rules and restrictions are in place for your safety and the safety of others in your group.

Get Ready to Experience the Smoky Mountain Ziplines

Have you decided which ziplining course is right for you? Purchase your tickets on Reserve Pigeon Forge and head on out to the mountains!

Step back in time, to a place where early settlers made their home and nature has been unaltered by modern day. This is Cades Cove Smoky Mountains. Showcasing scenery specific to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, the wild nature of the lands and history of the area calls to many. To discover all there is to see and do at this nature preserve, read my guide to touring Cades Cove Smoky Mountains.

Visiting Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

Primary access to Cades Cove is via an 11-mile, one-way loop. This route is the same general path used by the farming community of Cades Cove Smoky Mountains circa 1900. Note that bicyclists can also use this auto-tour path. Also, be sure use the roadside pullouts to take pictures and view wildlife. Generally, the traffic moves fairly swiftly so you can take in the scenic sights without needing to pull over every time.

Cades Cove Smoky Mountains Auto Tour

While auto-touring Cades Cove, you’re treated to the splendor of nature as well as untouched history. Before you go, be sure to pick up a Cades Cove tour pamphlet at the park entrance. It’s an in-depth look at the rich cultural offerings in the area, as well as details on each historic site. In all, there are over 80 historic buildings in the park, ranging from cabins to churches to barns and grist mills. To give you an idea of the offerings, here are a few highlights.

IMG_3611 Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

John Oliver Cabin: John Oliver arrive in Cades Cove Smoky Mountains in 1820 and bought the land his cabin sits on in 1826. His descendants lived in the cabin over the course of the next 100 years, until the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established.

IMG_3672 Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

Methodist Church: Can you believe this church was built in 115 days for $115? J.D. McCampbell completed the task in 1902, replacing a log building that had served as the church since the 1820s.

IMG_3748 Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

John P. Cable Grist Mill:  Built in the 1870s, the grist mill at Cades Cove still stands at its original site. Even more extaordinary—it is still operational.

Browse through the full slide show above to view even more of the incredible scenery found at Cades Cove.

Wildlife Viewing at Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: Cades Cove is known for its white-tailed deer, turkey and bear population. The open valleys of the cove make wildlife viewing easy. Just be sure to never get too close, especially with bears. This is not a zoo and these animals are, indeed, wild.

Recreation at Cades Cove Smoky Mountains

As previously mentioned, biking riding is available at Cades Cove. Rent a bike at the Cades Cove Campground Store (Adults: $7.50/hr, Children $4.50/hr.) The loop road is closed to motor vehicles until 10:00 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove. It’s the perfect time to see the rugged beauty of nature—all while getting a workout! Another recommended activity is hiking to Abrams Falls. The five-mile roundtrip hike meanders along a Creekside ridge before arriving at the picturesque falls. At a height of 20-feet, it might not sound impressive but the large volume of water more than makes up for it. It’s truly one of the best waterfall hikes in the Smokies.

Now that you’ve seen all that Cades Cove has to offer, I’m sure you’ve added it to your upcoming Pigeon Forge vacation. Once you visit, you’ll fall in love just as so many others before you.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Autumn in the Great Smoky Mountains is a beautiful time of year.  The mountains and valleys are painted with stunning colors that light up the Smokies.  Curious about when you should visit Pigeon Forge to see the magnificent Fall colors?  Use our Pigeon Forge Fall Foliage peak color guide for helpful tips on when to go and what to do. 

The color in the National Park is varied as there are over 100 varieties of native trees, creating a kaleidoscope of color. As early as mid-September, you’ll be able to see color changes in trees above 4,000 feet, with the peak colors present at middle and lower elevations between mid-October and early November.

Pigeon Forge Fall Foliage

September

Fall in the Smokies begins in September, with the emerging changes occurring above 4,000 feet. Red, orange and yellow colors can be seen on sourwood, dogwood, maple, sassafras and birch trees.  Drives recommended for September viewing are Parsons Branch Road, Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road.

Suggested hikes for seeing the Smoky Mountain foliage in September
Andrews Bald
Mt. LeConte
Albright Grove

Suggested auto tours for foliage in September
Parson Branch Road

Pigeon Forge Fall Foliage

October

Early October

Be the beginning of October the mountains of the Smokies are awash in brilliant color.  To see the bold yellows of the American beech and yellow birch to the rich reds on mountain ash, pin cherry and mountain maple trees, the viewing is best on roads including Newfound Gap Road, Heintooga Ridge Road, Foothills Parkway and Rich Mountain Road in Cades Cove.

Suggested hikes for seeing the Smoky Mountain foliage in early October
Sugarland Mountain Trail
Appalachian Trail
Clingmans Dome
Newfound Gap Trail

Suggested auto tours for foliage in early October
Newfound Gap Road
Heintooga Ridge Road
Foothills Parkway West and East
Rich Mountain Road

Mountain ridges glow with autumn color, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mid-October

In mid-October, the Great Smoky Mountains are about a week away from peak color of the lower elevations.  However, the valleys and higher elevations are at a peak.  They are painted with bold reds from black gum, dogwoods, sumac and sourwood trees and golds from the tulip tree, black walnut, birch, beech and hickories.   Recommended scenic drives include Cove Creek Road, Balsam Mountain Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Foothills Parkway and Newfound Gap Road.

Suggested hikes for seeing the Smoky Mountain foliage in mid-October
Lower Mount Cammerer
Baskins Creek Falls
Little River
Old Settlers
Porters Creeks Trails
Sugarland Mountain Trail
Low Gap Trail
Appalachian Trail
Mt. Sterling Trail
Goshen Prong Trail

Suggested auto tours for foliage in mid-October:
Newfound Gap Road
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Balsam Mountain Road
Cove Creek Road

Pigeon Forge Fall Foliage

Late October

The peak colors are very impressive in late October.   From low to high elevations, the marvelous colors of fall can be seen through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It is not unusual to see autumn color last through the mid-November.  Suggested drives are Blue Ridge Parkway, Foothills Parkway and Heintooga Ridge Road to Balsam Mountain. 

Suggested hikes for seeing the Smoky Mountain foliage in late October
Rainbow Falls Trail
Alum Cave Trail
Rich Mountain LoopChestnut Top Trail
Smokemont Loop
Kanati Fork
Sutton Ridge Overlook

Suggested auto tours for foliage in late October
Blue Ridge Parkway
Foothills Parkway
Balsam Mountain Road
Heintooga Ridge Road
Newfound Gap Road

Plan a Pigeon Forge Fall Foliage Vacation

Reserve a Smoky Mountain vacation today to experience the beauty of Pigeon Forge fall foliage. There are a wide range of Pigeon Forge vacation packages available or you can create your own package.  Either option allows you to see the splendor of the Smokies in all their beauty. 

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Autumn is one of the most scenic times of year to hike in the Smoky Mountains.  The bright colors of fall are painted across mountains and valleys, creating a setting that beckons one to explore.  With over 500,000 acres comprising the Great Smoky Mountains National Park choosing where to hike and sight see can be a bit overwhelming.  Use this helpful list of the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains to get a head start on your journey.

Fall hikes in the smoky mountains

Best Smoky Mountain Hikes to See Fall Foliage

Albright Grove Loop Trail
Trail Location – Cosby
Distance – 7 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Strenuous

An excellent example of a hardwood forest, Albright Grove is one of the most diverse forests in America. Hiking here during the fall offers a rich blend of different colors and foliage. Plus, come of the oldest and tallest trees in the Smokies are found along the way.

Alum Cave Flickr CC hikes in the smoky mountains

Alum Cave Trail: Flickr/Daveynin

Alum Cave Trail
Trail Location – Gatlinburg
Distance – 5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Moderately Strenuous

Hikes in the Smoky Mountains don’t get much better than Alum Cave Trail. With an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, Alum Cave Trail offers outstanding views of the Smoky Mountains. Sweeping views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge to the west and Myrtle Point to the Northeast give hikers quite the reward.

1280px-Leaf-Colors-at-Newfound-Gap-NPS1 RSZ hikes in the smoky mountains

View from the Appalchian Trail

Appalachian Trail
Trail Location – Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap Road
Distance – Varies
Difficulty – Moderate

I recommend hiking the 7.5 mile section of the Appalachian Trail located from Clingman’s Dome to Newfound Gap.  Canvassed with color, the peaks and valleys you pass through are a true highlight this time of year.

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Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a favorite route for fall color

Baskins Creek Falls
Trail Location – Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Distance – 3 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Easy

Hike to Baskins Creek Falls to enjoy a canopy of fall foliage complemented by a two-tiered, 40 foot waterfall.

639px-Littleriver Wiki hikes in the smoky mountains

The Little River Trail follows the river of the same name: By Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

Little River Trail
Trail location – Elkmont
Distance – 4.9 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Moderate

History and outdoor beauty combine at the Little River Trail. The entire length of the trail hugs a river of the same name, with a slow elevation gain making it an easy climb.

1024px-Sterling-from-cammerer-nc1 hikes in the smoky mountains

Mount Sterling, looking south from the Mount Cammerer lookout: By Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

Mt. Cammerer
Trail Location – Cosby
Distance – 12 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Strenuous

If you’re up for a challenge the 12 mile roundtrip hike to the summit of Mt. Cammerer is a fantastic fall hike. The summit offers exceptional views of peaks and valleys; Some say they’re the best in the National Park.

Mountain ridges glow with autumn color, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hikes in the smoky mountains

Mountain ridges glow with autumn color, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mt. LeConte
Trail Location – Newfound Gap Road
Distance – 11 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Strenuous

Mt. LeConte rises 6,593 feet, making it the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains. The reward at the top are endless views. In addition, the hike can be combined with Alum Cave so you get two experiences in one.

Fall 001 Pixabay RSZ

A walk through the woods doesn’t get prettier than this!

Old Settlers Trail
Trail Location – Greenbrier
Distance – 17 miles one way
Difficulty – Moderate

Old homesteads and a diverse collection of flora and fauna make the Old Settlers Trail a unique fall hike.

Porters Creek Trail Facebook hikes in the smoky mountains

An old homestead on Porters Creek Trail: Robyn Barbee Malone/Facebook

Porters Creek Trail
Trail Location – Greenbrier
Distance – 4 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Moderate

A variety of scenery, including historic sites, waterfalls and a meandering stream, create an easy yet rewarding Smoky Mountain hike.

Smokies

Even driving to the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains is beautiful

Sugarland Mountain Trail
Trail Location – Clingmans Dome Road
Distance – 7 miles roundtrip
Difficulty – Moderate

The Sugarland Mountain Trail follows the ridge between Clingmans Dome and Little River Road. Peaceful and pristine, the forest here features a wonderful walk through the bright leaves of fall.

Get outside this autumn and see the splendor of Mother Nature.  The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just minutes away from Pigeon Forge, so you can easily access the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

When you vacation in Pigeon Forge, taking a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an absolute must. On one of my recent visits I grabbed my camera and hiking boots and headed for Abrams Falls, a popular waterfall hike in Cades Cove, which is a 6,800-acre valley home to wildlife, 19th century historic buildings and an 11-mile scenic auto tour loop. Before you set out for the trailhead, I recommend you stop by the Cades Cove Visitor Center to pick up an auto tour map of the Cades Cove Loop. You’ll definitely want to explore all that Cades Cove has to offer before and after your hike.

Abrams Falls At Cades Cove In The Great Smoky Mountain National Park taken with a slow shutter speed to blur the water motion
Here’s what you need to know about the Abrams Falls hike:

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Abrams Creek

Trailhead: Located past stop #10 on Cades Cove Loop Road, you will need to drive 5 miles on the Cades Cove Loop to reach the trailhead. Once you’re past stop #10, turn right on the gravel road. Park at the back of the field, marked with trailhead signs. You will see a wooden bridge that marks the beginning of the trail.

Distance: 5 miles round trip

Waterfall: Located mid-point (2.5 miles in)

Trail Condition: Well maintained

Abrams Falls Trail_CC_1

Abrams Falls Trail: Flickr/Kid Cowboy

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Elevation Gain: You will climb to approximately 1,800 feet at one point, but when you arrive at the falls you are actually 300 feet lower than when you started.

Hike Time: 3.5 hours

Overview: After crossing the first wooden bridge over Abrams Creek, which follows along the trail for most of its distance, you begin your journey to Abrams Falls. The trail climbs over Arbutus Ridge, starting at .8 miles. From here, the trail follows a languid pace along the creek. However, more arduous strides required during the uphill ridge climbs. One of my favorite things about hiking Abrams Falls is the sound of the creek. No matter what part of the trail you‘re on, you’re never too far to hear it.

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Abrams Falls

Throughout the next 1.7 miles you’ll go up and down, back and forth along the ridges surrounding Cades Cove. Along the way you’re surrounded by a pine-oak laden forest, with hemlock and rhododendron forests closer to the creek. At 2.5 miles, you’ll cross another wooden bridge over a waterway – Wilson Creek – and one more foot bridge will be to your left. Then, you will have arrived at Abrams Falls.

You’ll hear the roar of the falls before you see it, but once you do, you’ll know the reward of the hike was worth it! The waterfall is only 20 feet high but the volume of water rushing over the falls makes up for its lack of height. Accordingly, this, along with its deep pool base, makes Abrams Falls very picturesque. Take time to enjoy yourself at the falls, but do not swim at its base. It can be very dangerous and is strictly prohibited.

Please Note: The trek back follows the same trail. It is mostly uphill for the first half and more strenuous than the hike in. Also, be sure to bring water and perhaps a light snack to eat at the falls.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Autumn is one of the best times to hike in the Smoky Mountains.  Laurel Falls, which is an easy 30 minute drive from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is a popular trail and attraction.  The distance of the hike is fairly short at 2.6 miles round trip, rated low on the degree of difficulty scale and can be completed in about 90 minutes.  Plus, during your hiking excursion you’ll see the 80-foot high Laurel Falls – magnificent sight to see, especially following a recent rain. 

Trailhead Access for Laurel Falls:  Head east into Gatlinburg towards the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  Turn right onto Little River Road and continue for 3.5 miles.  Parking for the trailhead is on the right. 

The Hike: Since Laurel Falls is one of the most frequented sights in the Smokies, the National Park Service has paved the trail.  As such, the path is frequented by families with small children and strollers.  If you arrive early you’ll miss the crowds but you can easily navigate the trail despite the stroller traffic.

Laurel Falls_185113678When you began the hike, the trail follows Little River Road.  Rising slowly until it begins to double back along the mountain ridge giving hikers impressive mountain views.  The final portion of the trail ascends to the falls and has some steep drop-offs.  If you do bring your kids, keep an eye on them and always follow safe hiking practices.  Throughout the hike, you’ll pass by pine oaks, maples, tulip trees and dogwoods, as well as the namesake of the waterfall – the mountain laurel bush.  Soon enough, though, Laurel Falls appears in all its glory.

Laurel Falls consists of an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway known as Laurel Branch which crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls.  After you soak up the views of the cascading 80-foot falls you can choose to continue on another 2.7 miles to the old fire tower atop Cove Mountain.  Plan on spending five hours hiking, total, if you add this extra loop to your adventure.

A few things to keep in mind during your Laurel Falls hike.  The parking area does fill up quickly, especially during summer, so arrive early to beat the crowds.  For photographs of the falls, avoid the lower portion of the trail on weekends.  Generally, this area is too crowded to get the shot you want.  Hike a bit above the falls for other photographing opportunities.  Plan your hike for early in the morning or late in the day, too, for the best photo-shooting conditions. The shade of the day will produce much better pictures than ones captured at high noon.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Attention all nature enthusiasts! Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is hosting Wilderness Wildlife Week May 18-22, 2016. This event features eight days of free activities designed to connect Pigeon Forge visitors with the great outdoors.

Guiding lightThroughout the week there are more than a dozen seminars, lectures and hands-on workshops. Visitors will be able to learn from more than 100 experts during these events. There are also more than 50 guided hikes and walks planned, designed for all levels of expertise and intensity.

Locations for guided hikes  and excursions include:

  • Abrams Falls
  • Andrews Bald
  • Albright Grove
  • Cades Cove
  • Charlies Bunion
  • Cosby
  • Elkmont
  • Grotto Falls
  • Mt. LeConte/Alum Cave

 

Laurel Falls_185113678You can check out the full hiking schedule by clicking here.

The photography contest continues in 2016 as well. Categories include:

  • Amateur
  • Professional
  • Wildlife
  • Landscapes/Seascapes
  • Youth & Young Adults (ages 17 and under)
  • Great Smoky Mountain Landmarks
  • Nature’s Wonders in Black & White

 

You can enter the photo contest here.

During the class and seminar portion of the event, you can learn about varied subjects such as bears in the Smokies, bird watching, the elk reintroduction project, the Smokies’ logging history, fire towers in the Smokies, close-up photography, trout fishing and birding by ear. Several programs are designed especially for children. The Kids Track is full of activity-based workshops, providing a fun-filled way to learn about nature. Review the Wilderness Wildlife schedule and plan your week now.

The headquarters for Wilderness Wildlife Week will be located at the LeConte Center. This event is the perfect way to explore the Smoky Mountain Wilderness as there is a full schedule of outdoor recreational activities planned that highlights the rustic beauty of the Smokies.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Visiting Biltmore Estate is a grand adventure any time of year but is especially beautiful during fall. The Blue Ridge Mountains are awash in autumnal color creating the perfect backdrop for this historical attraction. Even better, there are fun events to take part in as well as outdoor activities placing you in the midst of fall in Asheville, North Carolina. Explore these things to do at Biltmore Estate this fall.

Biltmore Fall

Photo Credit: Biltmore/Facebook

There are plenty of things to do at Biltmore Estate any time of year. Outdoor offering include:

  • Float Trips
  • Fly-Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Segway Tours

 

At Biltmore, it’s not only the foliage that gets the fall color treatment. Biltmore’s Fall Gardens are some of the most extensive displays in the Southeast. The landscaping teams nurture thousands of mums, which bloom in shades of purple and gold and line the estate’s Walled Gardens. At the Shrub Garden guests will find leaves colored with vibrant yellows and reds, while dogwoods and redwoods located throughout the estate are canvassed in shades of orange. Brilliant fall color can be seen September through November, although October seems to be prime time for best viewing.

Be sure to bring your camera to capture the color of Biltmore Estate during fall. Some of the best fall photo spots include:

  • The Rooftop of Biltmore House
  • Statue of Diana
  • The Loggia
  • Top of the Rampe Douce
  • South Terrace Tea House

 

Reserve any on these activities to make the most of your time at Biltmore during autumn. The Estate has more to explore, though. In addition to the elegant and architectural features of the home itself, guests will find gardens in bloom, gorgeous vistas and fine grounds awaiting their discovery. Make time for Antler Hill Village, too. Several savory restaurants, a winery and craft demonstrations.

When you’re in Pigeon Forge you can easily access Biltmore Estate as it’s only about 100 miles away. Make the trip and you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking attraction and a scenic mountain drive along the way.


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Pigeon Forge to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.