Earlier this summer I took my first trip to the heart of Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains! Patrick and I decided to stay in another getaway house because we enjoyed our experience in the Ohio location so much. The tiny cabin was just as comfortable and welcoming and about a three hour drive from the smoky mountains. Maybe we were a little ambitious to stay in a cabin so far from our main destination but we wanted to take in as much of Tennessee as possible. Our trip consisted of taking a day trip to Nashville, spending time hiking in the smoky mountains and traveling home through Asheville, North Carolina. Out of all the places we visited, our day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains was hands down our favorite.
There is so much to see and do in the smoky mountains, I wish I would’ve had more time to explore and soak in the beauty of this national park. But, if you only have time for a day trip like us, there is a lot you can accomplish! We left early in the morning because we knew we wanted to tackle a lot with the time we had. We were determined to see Cades Cove and also experience a hike in the smokies.
Cades Cove Loop
One of my favorite spots to visit in the smoky mountains! We started our morning here and it was the most beautiful way to be introduced to the mountains. I would suggest arriving on the earlier side because it does get crowded. Cades Cove is an eleven mile loop that is full of incredible scenery. Along the way, you can pull off to the side with your car to stop and walk around, take pictures, and enjoy the breath taking views. *Cades Cove is open daily for cars but is reserved for pedestrians and bikers on Wednesdays until 10am *
We originally intended on hiking Abram Falls which is located off the Cades Cove loop, but it was closed due to trail construction. Be sure to check before making plans!
Rainbow Falls was our spontaneous back up hike plan when we realized we could not hike Abram Falls, and it was a stunning hike! Located near Gatlinburg, this hike exceed our expectations and provided us with a new experience of what it’s like to hike within the smoky mountains. It’s an ideal hike if you don’t have enough time for a longer hike and it has plenty of stunning outlooks and several waterfalls along the way. Rainbow Falls is described as strenuous, and a total of about 5 miles roundtrip. The hike definitely feels longer than 2.5 miles one way, and that could be because it’s mostly uphill and paved with uneven and rocky surfaces–something to be aware of! I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a stunning hike that will take a few hours.
We visited Clingman’s Dome on our way out of town a few days later than our day trip but if you’re staying in the smoky mountains, visiting Clingman’s Dome is a must see. Only a mile trail to the top of the dome provides you with the highest view point in the National Park. The drive to Clingman’s is equally as beautiful, and there are multiple stop points along the way to pull over and take some pictures.
- Have a map– there is little to zero cell service within the smoky mountains and a map is helpful to orient yourself especially if plans need to be readjusted.
- Look up trail updates-going off of the above tip, look up updates for trails you plan to hike ahead of time. I didn’t think to do this about Abram falls and we had to find a new trail to hike.
- Take advantage of visitor centers-this is where you’ll find some of the only locations with actual toilets that flush!
- Research– especially if your time is limited, make sure you are aware of the level of difficulties for hikes and what will work well in your time frame.