Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Roaring Fork Motor Trail & Grotto Falls

DSC05531

Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

DSC05523

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a few scenic drives from which you can explore the park. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is  approximately 6 miles of narrow, winding road. It is one-way, just outside Gatlinburg.

DSC05498

The trail-head for the popular Rainbow Falls hike is at the beginning of this road. We stopped there, but saw that the hike was over five miles. It was a hot, humid afternoon and we weren’t really up to that challenge.

DSC05530

A little further along the loop, we parked at the Trillium Gap trail-head to take the shorter hike to Grotto Falls. It is 1.5 miles from the trail-head to the falls. It is steep and rocky in places.

DSC05513

At the top of the Grotto Falls hike, the falls cascade over a rock shelf.  This creates a ledge behind the waterfall. We walked behind the falls and cooled off in the spray.

To see my other Great Smoky Mountain National Posts, click the following links:

Location: Gatlinburg, TN

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 9/02/1940

Date of my visit: August 2013

DSC05511

 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Cades Cove

DSC05585

Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

DSC05547

Cades Cove is a valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The valley was home to numerous settlers and many historic buildings, dating back to the 1800s,  are open to visitors along the 11-mile, one-way park loop road.

DSC05577

This section was the farthest section of the park from our Gatlinburg hotel, so we set off early in the morning, planning to spend the day there.

DSC05551

Our first stop was to Cades Coves stables, an official park concessioner that runs hay rides on the loop road. We were hoping to take one of those rides, but the timing just didn’t work out. Instead, we opted to take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  For about 45 minutes, our driver wound through the wooded park trails, entertaining us with the history of Cades Cove. We saw several deer.

DSC05571

Back at the corral, he pointed put some of the horses roaming free in the fields. One was blind and always ran with the same horse so he’d know where he was going. It was touching to see how the two looked out for eachother.

DSC05581

Next we explored the loop road. Though only 11 miles long, this requires several hours.

DSC05648

There are a lot of other motorists on this road who don’t seem to know they should pull over when they see something they want to take a picture of.

DSC05599

We’d picked up the self-guided tour booklet at the entrance and stopped in a few places to go inside log cabins, old churches and walk a short trail or two.

DSC05643

The last stop on the return side of the loop is the visitors center with a few old buildings to explore and a working grist mill. You can buy the corn meal they produce at the store.

DSC05649

You can see my other posts for Great Smoky Mountain NP by clicking on these links:

Clingman’s Dome

Location: Cades Cove, TN

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 9/02/1940

Date of my visit: August 2013

DSC05659

DSC05676

DSC05591

DSC05662

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingman’s Dome

DSC05704

Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Clingman’s Dome is the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at just over 6600 feet. Visitors can take the 7-mile road to the Clingman’s Dome lot, walk an extremely steep, albeit paved, half-mile path to a 54 foot observation tower. Although the GPS address is in North Carolina, Clingman’s Dome actually straddles the state line ridge so that it is both in NC and Tennessee.

DSC05697Because of the elevation, the weather here is very unpredictable. On our first day in the park, we started out visiting some of the lower elevation areas of the park and it was a nice sunny day. By the time we reached the lot for Clingman’s Dome, it was pouring rain to the point where we could hardly see the road. We carefully turned around and went back to Gatlinburg (where it was only drizzling) and did some sightseeing in town. On our last day in the park, we attempted again to visit Clingman’s Dome. While it wasn’t raining, it was completely fogged in. We did the hike to the tower anyway because we weren’t going to have another chance.

While we weren’t able to enjoy the 360 degree views from the tower (which we hear isn’t as spectacular as it can be due to pollution) we did get some pretty cool shots of the fog rolling down the mountains.

Location: Clingmans Dome, Forneys Creek, NC 28713

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 9/02/1940

Date of my visit: August 2013

DSC05739

DSC05713
We saw these guys making a nature film as we were walking back down from the tower. Not sure what they were filming…bees?
DSC05719
Lots of dead trees up on this mountain..they are Fraser Firs which are being attacked by a European insect against which they have no defense
DSC05728
And of course the sun started to come out as soon as we were back down at the parking lot, climbing rocks.