Tag: Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

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.


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.


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


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,


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:


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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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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Laurel Falls - Smoky Mountain National Park - Gatlinburg, TN

by JP on Feb.22, 2009, under Tennessee Hiking Trails

Laurel Falls, Smoky Mountains Trails

Distance: 1.3 Miles (one way) to falls

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

The Laurel Falls hiking trails is one of many beautiful waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains, and the area around it.

The hike to these falls follows along a paved trail, and provides for some beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, before reaching a 75 foot waterfall.

On really cold days during the winter, the falls can freeze for some very cool (no pun intended) views of a frozen waterfall.

On the last day I hiked this trail, it was 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The frozen falls was magnificent.

Begin this trail at a parking area along Old River Road. Across the street from this area are a series of other trails (the Sugarland Mountain Trails, containing Huskey Gap Trail, Rough Creek Trail, and a 12 mile approach to the Appalachian Trail).

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

From the parking area, a sign indicates the trailhead of the path, and provides a little information about the trail.

The sign indicates that trail’s length and lets hikers know he or she will be ascending around 300 feet in elevation, and that the average walking time is 40 minutes.

The sign also provides a nice picture of the falls prior to the addition of a footbridge crossing over Laurel Branch.

Laurel Falls

Initially, the trail’s ascent climbs slowly upwards while running parallel to Old River Road.

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

If hiking this trail in the winter, I have to recommend hiking it in the early morning. if there is any snow on the mountain, the dichotomy between the ridges that the sun has began to bathe versus those remaining in the shadows longer in the day is really interesting to see.

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Once the trail begins to gain elevation and turn back into the ridge, some beautiful, expansive views of the Smoky Mountains can be seen.

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

There are also some interesting boulders along the trail, the first of which is just after the above overlooks.

Laurel Falls

Continue deep into the mountain ridge along the paved trail, passing several rock boulders. The vast overlooks of the Smokies gets noticeably farther away, and in many ways more impressive.

Laurel Fall Laurel FallsLaurel Falls

On the trails final ascent, it opens back up to even wider, clearer views.

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

The trail then makes a quick descent down to the waterfall.

Laurel Falls

On the descent, one can see the first views of Laurel Branch.

Laurel Falls

Finally, the falls are reached…

IMG_2246 Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Laurel Falls Laurel Falls IMG_2258 Laurel Falls Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls

The trail may be continued for an additional 2. 9 miles on an trail that is no longer paved. This portion of the trail will intersect with Little Greenbrier Trail, and will be addressed in the future on that trail’s article. The trail was a little to icey to  be continued on this particular morning.

Laurel Falls

Nearby Trails:

Huskey Gap Trail - 3.1 miles

Rough Creek Trail - 7.2 miles

Little Greenbrier Trail - 3.1 miles

Cove Mountain Trail - 4.0 miles

Appalachian Trail - 2175 mile

Directions to Laurel Falls:

1. Follow 441 to the Sugarland Visitor Center just outside of Gatlinburg, TN.

2. Turn right at the Visitor Center and continue down Old River Road for 3.9 miles.

3. The parking area is on right.

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