On September 21, 2023
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park and a must-do activity on your visit to Pigeon Forge. The beauty of nature, the wildlife, and the sounds of water rushing over the rocky terrain all contribute to making this park a great place to visit. However, it is even more wonderful than it may seem. Here are just a few of the hidden gems you’ll find within the Great Smoky Mountains that are just waiting to be discovered.
To embark on a more scenic journey, consider exploring some of the lesser-traveled areas of the park, such as the enchanting 8-mile Rich Mountain Road, located in Cades Cove. This winding, one-way gravel route diverges from the bustling main Cades Cove Loop Road. Follow the path past the Methodist Church and Dry Valley, before ending up in the charming town of Townsend.
Venturing further, the Whiteoak Sinks area beckons, renowned for its captivating displays of wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and hidden caves. White Oak Sinks is accessed between Townsend and Cades Cove via the scenic Schoolhouse Gap Trail. This natural wonderland is occasionally closed, primarily during the bat population’s hibernation months, as it serves as a crucial refuge for them. However, when the gates are open, it unveils a mesmerizing spectacle. Tucked away within the Cades Cove area, Gourley’s Pond remains a hidden treasure, concealed from the roadside but easily reached by a short walk from the LeQuire cemetery.
Tremont, a former thriving logging community nestled near the Townsend area of the park, offers a rich tapestry of natural wonders and historical significance. When you venture to Tremont, you’ll encounter the Middle Prong Trail, which traces the path of an old logging railroad. This lush, green expanse is adorned with an abundance of waterfalls and cascades, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Among these natural wonders, don’t miss Spruce Flat Falls, one of the lesser-known waterfalls within the national park. Its secluded beauty is a captivating sight to behold.
For those eager to deepen their understanding of the environment, the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont awaits. This residential environmental learning facility provides an immersive, hands-on experience for all ages, making it an excellent opportunity to learn about and connect with nature on a more profound level.
For a memorable journey, consider entering the park through the Wears Cove entrance. Embark on a scenic drive along Wears Valley Road, departing from Pigeon Forge, a route highly recommended by locals. Along this picturesque route, you’ll encounter some must-see sites, including the historic Little Greenbrier School, one of only two remaining schools within the national park. Accessible from the picnic area at Metcalf Bottoms, your adventure continues with the Little Brier Gap Trail, leading to the Walker Sisters cabin.
To enhance your visit, delve into the fascinating history of these hard-working sisters and their enduring legacy in the area, adding an extra layer of significance to your exploration of this charming corner of the Great Smoky Mountains.
For those seeking more adventure, consider exploring the Cosby area of the park. Here, you can find campgrounds and picnic spots that are never too crowded. This area offers a range of options, from family-friendly hikes like Hen Wallow Falls and Sutton Ridge Overlook to more advanced trails like the challenging 10.6-mile hike to Cammerer Fire Tower, one of only three fire towers remaining in the national park. Though the ascent to the tower is steep, the breathtaking scenery that unfolds along the way makes it a rewarding journey.
The Greenbrier area, often underrated, blooms with beauty in the spring and is renowned for its spectacular wildflower displays. Here, you can embark on the scenic Porters Creek Trail, which provides glimpses of historic structures and leads to the towering Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains. If you enjoy fishing, try your hand at it in the streams, but be sure to obtain the necessary fishing license.
Elkmont, the final gem on our list, holds its own unique charm. Visit the Troll Bridge, a whimsical attraction that adds a touch of enchantment to your Smoky Mountains experience. Nearby, you’ll find the Elkmont Ghost Town, a former resort community that once thrived in the early 20th century. As you stroll through the remnants of this historic village, you’ll step back in time and gain profound insight into the park’s rich history. Abandoned cabins, some overtaken by nature, stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era when Elkmont was a bustling getaway for the well-to-do. Explore these echoes of the past, and you’ll find yourself transported to a different time, making your visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park even more captivating and thought-provoking.
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a more extended stay in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to include these “Hidden Gems in the Smokies” on your must-visit list!
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