Great Smoky Mountain and Pigeon Forge Area Info
Cades Cove is one of, if not the most, popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains. People often see deer, black bears, coyotes, ground hogs, turkey and more. It is, by far, one of the best places for travelers to see the National Park wildlife.
It normally takes 2 – 4 hours to travel the 11 mile loop at Cades Cove. It is a one way loop, but does have pull – offs for motorists to use when stopping to view wildlife, scenery etc. There is a lot of history surrounding the Cades Cove area. Cherokee Indians hunted the area before the first Europeans settled in between 1818 and 1821. In 1830, the population of the cove was 271.
Along the loop, you will find three churches, log houses, a working grist mill, barns and many other 18th and 19th century buildings. You can pick up an inexpensive guide at the entrance to Cades Cove. You will love learning the history that lurks around every bend and curve in the loop. There are many hiking trails that lead you to other structures and waterfalls. The most popular trail is Abrams Falls. It leads you to a large volume waterfall. The hike itself is 5 miles roundtrip.
If you love to bike, be sure to visit Cades Cove on a Saturday or Wednesday morning. The park keeps the loop closed to motorists until 10 A.M. from May to September. Also located in Cades Cove is a campground, horse camp, visitor center and gift shop.
Townsend, like many other area towns, used to be roamed by the Cherokee Indians before the first English settlers showed up in the 1700s. It is known today as the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”
Farming and The Little River Lumber Company was the way of life for those living in the area. The Little River Railroad was established for a way of transportation through the many hills. Townsend continued to grow and Elkmont, once a logging camp, became a tourist destination and from there, logging lessened.
If you are looking for a town with a slower pace and not as many activities to do like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you will love Townsend. It is also where you can visit the Little River Railroad Museum, Heritage Museum and Tuckaleechee Caverns.
Maggie Valley gets its name from Maggie Mae Setzer. Her father founded the area’s first post office. To this day, each summer, Setzer descendants come from all over the country for a family reunion in the valley.
Located 35 miles from Asheville, Maggie Valley is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you are looking for a low key, small town, you will love Maggie Valley! It is quaint, with ma and pa shops and small restaurants. You will also find Ghost Town theme park here as well.
Bryson City is a beautiful mountain town, with lovely architecture, that has the Great Smoky Mountains rising above it in a gorgeous backdrop. Fisherman love the area, as the Tuckasegee River is a popular location for anyone that enjoys fishing, especially fly fishing.
Most have heard of Bryson City, with much of that credit going to the historic railroad that lies at the center of town – The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The railroad travels through the scenic mountains and offers many different types of entertainment. Downtown Bryson City is also a great spot to do some shopping and dining.
Oh, the joys and wonders of Asheville. There is so much to do and see in the Asheville part of the mountains. Biltmore is, by far, the most popular destination. Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States at 178,926 square feet. George Vanderbilt had it built after falling in love with the area and to this day it is still owned by his descendents. The estate has been in many major movies like The Last of the Mohicans, Forrest Gump, Richie Rich, Patch Adams, Hannibal, The Swan and more.
Asheville is also known for its eclectic vibe. The Downtown Art District has many galleries, studios and museums. The music and art scene continues to grow, as does the shopping boutiques. If you pay attention to the events calendar, you will also find that Asheville is quite popular for different types of festivals.
Wears Valley is quite popular among the folks that venture towards the Great Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge area. This is the place to go if you are looking for local fare, love antiquing and are looking for some locally made items to take back home. It is also a beautiful drive. Some folks prefer to drive through Wears Valley and Townsend to get to Cades Cove.
This scenic mountain drive is an experience you will love and want to do again and again. There are four sections to the Parkway. Foothills Parkway West is a a 17 mile section that allows folks to see the beauty of the Smokies and also the Tennessee River Valley. There is hiking available to a lookout tower. The hike only takes about fifteen minutes. Foothills Parkway East is 5.5 mile section that takes you along Stone Mountain. Your views will include the Greenbrier Pinnacle, Mount Cammerer and Mount Guyot. The most popular section of the Foothills Parkway is the Spur. It is a 5 mile section that connects Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It travels along the Little Pigeon River. No matter which section you choose, you are bound to see breathtaking views!
Each summer, many people seek out Sliding Rock to get away from the summer heat and cool off! Located in the Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock is near Brevard and Asheville. Sliding Rock is a 60 foot, flat and sloping boulder. Riders slide down into an 8 foot deep pool that is full of chilly, mountain water! (Think 50 – 60 degrees chilly) So, as you can imagine, it feels delightful in the summer humidity.
This natural waterslide does get quite busy so expect to wait in line. You can slide anytime during the daylight hours. Lifeguards are on duty from late May through mid August. They do have changing rooms and restrooms open during that time too. Cost to enter is $2 per person when staff members are on duty. Children 6 and under are free.
Blue Ridge Parkway
This parkway runs from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee, North Carolina. The Parkways consists of short roads that connect to other highways (but no interestates) and makes it ideal for a viewing wildlife and scenery while traveling through the National Parks. You will pass through several major towns, including Asheville where it runs across the Biltmore Estate property. The most popular stops along the Parkway are Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Music Center and Mabry Mill.
Douglas Lake is located a few miles from the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area. You can rent a speed boat, pontoon, paddle boat or jet ski and enjoy a great day getting some sun!