Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Newfound Gap & Clingman’s Dome Road

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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.

Another way to tour Great Smoky Mountains National Park by car is via the Clingman’s Dome Road. The first time we drove to Clingman’s Dome, we weren’t able to get out of the car at the Dome lot because a storm had descended on us. But on the drive up, we were able to stop at several pull-outs for breathtaking views.

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We began at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. We perused the exhibits, watched a short film and got our bearings for the drive into the mountains.

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From the visitor center, it was about 13 miles to Newfound Gap. We pulled over at some scenic vistas. There were dark storm clouds in the distance.

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At 5000 feet elevation, Newfound Gap  is the lowest pass through the Smoky Mountains. It was discovered in 1872. Prior to that, the lowest pass was thought to be Indian Gap, two miles to the west.

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At Newfound Gap, you can straddle the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. The Appalachian Trail is also accessible here.

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The Clingman’s Dome Road begins at Newfound Gap. It is seven miles from here to the parking lot for the Dome, with more pull-outs along the way to enjoy the scenery. If you’re lucky, you’ll climb to the Dome at the end of the drive.

But on this day, we had to be content with the journey and save the destination for a sunny day.

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

Location: Gatlinburg, TN

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 9/02/1940

Date of my visit: August 2013

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Top 10 Posts of 2018

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! As 2018 draws to a close, I’d like to do a year-in-review post. It’s been a great inaugural year here on the blog, with 113 posts, over 5000 visitors and over 600 people following along on the journey. I am grateful for and humbled by your support.

Here are the top ten most popular posts from 2018 (you can click on each title to go to the original post):

10: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Clingman’s Dome (Tennessee/North Carolina)DSC05739

9: Montezuma Castle National Monument (Arizona)IMG_5657

8: Muir Woods National Monument (California)F-_2012_2012-08-11-San-Francisco_DSC02511

7: Crater Lake National Park – Garfield Peak (Oregon)Day7-IMG_6122

6: Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)DSCN0953

5: Flathead National Forest – Whitefish Mountain (Montana)IMG_1677

4: Acadia National Park – Loop Road Highlights (Maine)IMG_1355

3: Acadia National Park – Jordan Pond and the Bubbles (Maine)2007_0527(009)

2: Glacier National Park – Running Eagle Falls (Montana)IMG_1792

And the most popular post of 2018….Capitol Reef National Park – Cathedral Valley (Utah)IMG_8712

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to happy exploring ahead for 2019!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Cades Cove

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingman’s Dome

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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

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We saw these guys making a nature film as we were walking back down from the tower. Not sure what they were filming…bees?
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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
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And of course the sun started to come out as soon as we were back down at the parking lot, climbing rocks.