Sitting just outside my back door are the majestic peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains. Although the close proximity of nature’s grandeur affords me the opportunity to explore mountain adventures any time, the Smoky Mountains are one of my favorite travel destinations.
Whether a day trip, romantic getaway or family vacation, the mountains of East Tennessee offer unlimited adventures for all ages. A visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/grsm) is an ideal way to experience the tranquility and beauty of nature. With many designated trails to explore, the park is a hiker’s paradise. A casual hike through the forest or a strenuous jaunt over the mountainous terrain, these trails of various lengths and difficulty attract experienced and inexperienced hikers.
The trail at Laurel Falls is absolutely a must for everyone. This 1.3-mile trail winds up the side of the mountain until hikers reach the end that opens up to a cascading waterfall. Although the trail is modernized by a paved path, visitors shouldn’t forget the dangers of the wilderness. A hike up Laurel Falls offers visitors close encounters with black bears, wild turkeys, deer and other wildlife.
In another part of the National Park is an area known as Cades Cove. This open land can be seen by driving, walking, horseback riding or cycling an 11-mile loop road that winds around the perimeter of the land. Along the loop, visitors can stop, view and photograph wildlife, mountainscapes and log homes, barns and churches that remain untouched since the days of yesteryear.
After a day spent with nature, the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the mountain foothills provide various activities and accommodations for the whole family. One vacation must see is Ripley’s Aquarium at the Smokies. Located in downtown Gatlinburg, the aquarium is a wonderful way to experience the ocean while in the mountains. Visitors can experience ocean life residing at Ripley’s by riding the motorized walkway through the aquarium’s glass tunnel while many types of sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles swim above.
Gatlinburg (www.gatlibinburg.com) and surrounding towns provide unique accommodations in luxurious cabins, elaborate hotels and numerous other vacation rentals. To get the most from a mountain getaway, staying in a rustic mountain cabin is romantic, fun and relaxing. Surrounded by the panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains, these luxurious cabins feature every comfort of home plus many privileges some never obtain. There’s nothing better to start the day than enjoying morning coffee on a cabin deck nestled amongst the magnificent green foliage and breathtaking scenery of the Smoky Mountains.
If you get your fill of nature, the parkway in Pigeon Forge (mypigeonforge.com) provides many amusements and shows to enjoy. Mini golf, go-karting, bungee jumping, zip lining and horseback riding are just a few activities Pigeon Forge offers. Spending the day at Dollywood Amusement Park or Dollywood Splash Country is another great source of entertainment. Visitors can ride the rollercoasters, ride the waves, see the shows or view the natural habitat of the bald eagle exhibit.
At the end of every day, a wide array of amazing restaurants awaits to tempt everyone’s palate. One of the local favorites is Calhoun’s which features melt-in-your-mouth ribs. Dixie Stampede serves a delicious four course meal as diners are enthralled by the thrilling horse and music show performed in the arena below. Whatever your taste, the delicious cuisine found in the Great Smoky Mountains will satisfy any craving.
Come join us for a day, spend the week or stay forever. There’s no place like the Great Smoky Mountains where the locals are waiting to welcome you home.
Jeremy Haze is a world traveler, adventure seeker, and blogger. His position as a marketing consultant for CruiseAbout from Australia gives him the opportunity to work and travel at the same time – visit CruiseAbout here.