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Cades Cove

by JP on Mar.16, 2009, under Tennessee Hiking Trails

Smoky Mountain National Park

Cades Cove Panoramic

Cades Cove is a beautiful park in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Central to the park is an 11 mile one-way motor vehicle loop that encircles the valley.

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This loop brings visitors around the Cades Cove Valley. The drive contains a number of pull offs to view the wildlife, the history and the scenery.

Also in the area around Cades Cove is over 50 miles of hiking trails. Selecting can be difficult. I will be blogging about a number of these in the upcoming weeks and months. One of my most recent hikes I did in the cove was Abrams Falls.


Wildlife:

In the Cades Cove Valley, visitors are almost guaranteed to see white-tailed deer running throughout the area. I have never been to the park (probably 40 or more visits in my lifetime) without seeing a number of these very large, graceful creatures. In fact on my last trip to Abrams Falls, I almost got a little too close, and not intentionally. I always encourage visitors to keep their distance from wild animals no matter how sweet they look, unfortunately, I did not see this buck grazing in the woods 4 feet from me. No attacks, but it gave us both a startle.

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In addition to deer, I have frequently seen wild turkeys in the fields and parking areas near the

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While not wild animals, the horses at Cades Coves are also a sight to see.

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I have seen black bear in Cades Cove, but unfortunately do not have a current picture. There are tons of other animals to see in Cades Cove. Including fox, coyotes,

History

Cades Cove also offers a wonderful insight into the history of young America, developing in a time when pioneers were settling and yet conflicting with Native Americans in the area. A time that both exudes the American frontier spirit, and yet simultaneously represents a time of unfortunate forced migration of the Native Americans.

It is widely believed that Cades Cove is named after the wife of a Cherokee Indian Chief.

Cades Cove contains several historic buildings from the late 19th century and early 20th century. Included in these buildings are a few of the following buildings:

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IMG_2402 John Oliver Cabin

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The Primitive Baptist church established in 1827.

IMG_2449 The First Methodist Church

Also included in this trail is a large historic center that can be toured, including a sorghum mill, cable mill, and visitors center.

IMG_2659 Cantilever Barn

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Scenery

The scenery in Cades Cove is beautiful and diverse, keep an eye on the ever changing mountains, valleys, and creeks in area, as the driving loop winds ins and out of dense forests, and open fields.

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Directions from Gatlinburg:

1. Take 441 towards Sugarland Visitors Center

2. Turn Right at Visitor’s Center on Little River Road.

3. Follow Little River Road onto Laurel Road, and the entrance to Cades Cove.

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Abrams Falls

by JP on Mar.15, 2009, under Tennessee Hiking Trails

Hiking Trail in Cades Cove

Abrams Fall

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Length : 2.5 miles (one way)

Abrams Falls is a hiking trail in the midst of Cades Cove. This trail is what I would called a “long” 5 mile hike round trip. I say this because, as I think some hikers could probably recognize (and this is admittedly very subjective), some trails just seem to keep going on and on. Also, the trail makes several climbs up, down, and then back up the ridge that approaches the falls. Despite this fact, or perhaps because of it, this is a trail that must be hiked in Cades Cove. The trail has beautiful views of Abrams Creek, views from the top of the Arbutus ridge, and then finally, the hiker is rewarded with Abrams Falls and the surrounding valley. I struggle to think of a hike that offers as much in the Cades Cove area, and that says a lot considering the number of great hikes in and around Cades Cove.

The trail itself begins just past a gravel parking area, and is continued by crossing a bridge over Abrams Creek.


Abrams Falls (7)

Abrams Falls (5)

Abrams Falls (8) Abrams Falls (9)

Take a left past the bridge, and the trail then begins running parallel to the Creek, and climbing Arbutus ridge on a slow gradual ascent.

This climb is very interesting, there are numerous opportunities to see white tail deer. In fact, just as I came across the bridge, I unintentionally spooked a very large buck that I was only about 4 feet from. It gave us both quite a scare. As I looked more carefully, there was another large buck only 10 feet from him, and several doe on the ridge surrounding the trail.

Abrams Falls (12)

The hiking stick propped on the tree is what I was reaching for when I accidentally startled this buck. He looked none to pleased to have a stranger that close, and I backed away quickly.

Abrams Falls (22) Abrams Falls (24)

Abrams Falls (27) Abrams Falls (28)

Continue up and down the ridge, and be careful on  rocky portions of the trail as the elevation begins to climb pretty rapidly as you near the top of Arbutus.

Abrams Falls (33)

As the trail continues, it will again begin to descend again, and eventually cross a small side creek that runs off of Abrams Creek.

This is the first of a number of small log bridges that will be crossed on this trail.

Abrams Falls (45) Abrams Falls (52) Abrams Falls (56)

The elevation on Abrams trail becomes steeper shortly after this bridge, and will eventually reach the top of a steep narrow ridge. To each side of the ridge, one can see the winding Creek below. Congratulations you’ve now hiked a little over 1 mile on this trail (I told you this seems like a long trail).

Abrams Falls (64) Abrams Falls (68) Abrams Falls (73)

Abrams Falls (75)

The trail then switches back down the ridge on the other side.

Abrams Falls (80) Abrams Falls (88)

At the bottom of this descent the trail winds around a small, but very green mountain runoff, before beginning to ascend back up the ridge again.

Abrams Falls (99) Abrams Falls (101) Abrams Falls (109)

At the base of this descent, another small creek crossing over a split log bridge is made.

Abrams Falls (114)

The trail ascends on final, long hill, before dropping back down to creek level and approach the falls. The final approach crosses a much wider creek. Careful after this crossing, in the winter, the rocks on the other side get really icey, and I saw one hiker slide right off into the creek.

Abrams Falls (146)

And finally…..ABRAMS FALLS

Abrams Falls (162)

Abrams Falls (167)

Abrams Falls (174)

Abrams Falls (178)

The trail follows the same path on its return.

Abrams Falls (4)

Nearby Trails:

Hannah Mountain Trail - 5.1 miles

Elijah Oliver Place Trail - 0.5 miles

Directions from Gatlinburg:

1. Take 441 towards Sugarland Visitors Center

2. Turn Right at Visitor’s Center on Little River Road.

3. Follow Little River Road onto Laurel Road, and the entrance to Cades Cove.

4. At entrance, Go 5 miles on Cades Cove Loop Road

5. Turn Right on gravel road between a large grassy field.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

by JP on Mar.01, 2009, under Camping, Cycling Trails, Hiking Trails, Tennessee Hiking Trails

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The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the second largest National Park in the southeast (second only to the Everglades). The park itself makes up 814 square miles sitting along the Tennessee and North Carolina border.

Contained in the park, there are over 800 miles of hiking trails (including the Appalachian trail), along with numerous fishing, camping, backpacking, and bicycling opportunities .

The “Smokies” are generally considered part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, are the most visited National Park.

This park is a must see for any that live around the Southeast (and, frankly, for those anywhere).

The views of the mountains alone are worth the drive, and most visitors opt to stay in one of the two major tourist towns that are surrounded by the park.

Where to Stay

Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN are easily the two dominate locations in the park to find a hotel. There are other areas, of course, and these are relatively easy to find.

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In the less dense, Pigeon Forge, you are likely to find more family oriented activities, like amusement parks and miniature golf.  There are also several outlet malls.

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Gatlinburg, on the other hand, feels much closer to nature. While it has its share of miniature golf locations and laser tags, it mostly consists of a downtown shopping area, filled with all of the typical mountain-town souvenirs any person could want.

For me, if I were choosing between these two towns, I would have to recommend Gatlinburg. The downtown is much smaller, and the proximity to many of the better nature drives and hikes seems much closer.  You can easily walk the entire downtown of Gatlinburg, where as you will most likely need your car to go from place to place in Pigeon Forge.

However, there is another option than a hotel, and often a cheaper option if traveling with a group or family (assuming you don’t want to camp).

Before traveling to the Smoky Mountain National Park, check out the options on Cabin rentals in the mountains surrounding Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

I have taken this route many times, when I opted not to camp. Cabins put you in the mountains that you are there to see, in addition to providing additional privacy and comfort.

Often, you will have the opportunity to see more wildlife staying in a cabin, and, depending upon the cabin location, one may be even closer to the nature trails.

Camping in the Smoky Mountains


The final option, is of course, to camp. Camping in the National Park is wonderful. You will be a little farther from the touristy areas, but much closer to the beauty of the park.  I recommend checking out Cades Cove for a great location to camp (I will write more about this area in an upcoming article) that is close to a number of trails inside Cades Cove, as well as fairly close to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

A number of other front country, more developed camping areas fall within the park.

For more information on these check out: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/frontcountry-camping.htm

I will write more about some of these sites as I have the opportunity to camp at them.

Additionally, the park is full of backcountry, primitive camping opportunities as well, and can be found here.

http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm

Hiking in the Smokies

I have been hiking in the Smoky Mountains my entire life, at least one to two times a year, and I can confidently say that I have not scratched the surface of all of the trails in the area.

Of the one’s I have recently hiked, the day hikes I have particularly enjoyed are:

Abrams Falls Trail (to be posted in the upcoming week) - 5 miles (roundtrip)

Laurel Falls Trail-1.3 Miles

Alum Cave Bluff (to be posted future)-  2.6 miles one way

Clingman’s Dome Trail - 0.5 mile one way

There are numerous other trails that I will be writing about in the future as I spend a lot of time hiking in this area, and I look forward to hearing from you about some of your favorites. For any suggestions on trails you enjoy in the area, or you would like to see more about, leave a comment below.

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Nature Drives

While it will be somewhat unusual for me to recommend a nature drive, as opposed to a nature hike, there are some great nature areas that can be seen in the Smoky Mountains just by driving.

My two favorite are the Cades Cove and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

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These two drives provide excellent views of the Smoky Mountains, its history, and the wildlife contained in  them. I have spotted black bears and large white tailed deer on both of these drives.

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Each drive, also contains several opportunities to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and take a hike as well.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the best places for all things related to Southern Outdoor Adventures. From amateur outdoor enthusiast to the most seasoned A.T. thru-hiker, there is something in this National Park for everyone. I believe that if one vacations here for a weekend, they will be hooked into returning often for one more outdoor adventure year after year.

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