Sunday, October 29, 2017

Two-Day Smoky Mountains Itinerary

Smokey Mountains National Park

Although the Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers just under 300 sq. mi. and spans across two states, if you map out your must sees, it's possible to hit your highlights in two days. There are so many things to experience, and I wish I was able to cover more ground, but I am really happy with the two days I spent in the Smokies and Gatlinburg. If I had more time, I would have ventured into North Carolina, but otherwise, our trip was perfect!

We had a bit less time because we flew in and out of Nashville, then made the 3.5-hour drive to and from the National Park. Coming from Los Angeles, we were looking for the best flight options and that ended up being Nashville. If it works for you, Knoxville is the closest airport. Despite the long drive, it wasn't bad because we had lots of pretty fall leaves to look at along the way.

Here is how we mapped out our trip:


Cades Cove
This is a MUST when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains! Motorists hop on a one-way, 11-mile paved loop that wanders through the wilderness. We visited on a Tuesday and the drive took three plus hours, so expect heavy traffic. Throughout the drive there are areas to stop and see homesteads dating back to the 1800s as well as spot wildlife. We saw a bear and her cub, wild turkey, and a deer! We were worried we'd encounter windy, unpaved roads with high drops off but Cades Cove is a very mellow drive.

Cades Cove in the Smokey Mountains
Cades Cove bears
The Great Smokey Mountains

Old Creek Lodge
From Cades Cove we drove 27 miles to Gatlinburg and checked into Old Creek Lodge for two nights. We stayed in a comfy Two Queen Stream Room with a cozy fireplace that we used constantly. The hotel is located in the perfect location right across the street from Ober and close to restaurants and shops, but far enough away from the touristy center of town. The rustic theme and smaller size of the hotel added to the charm, and the running stream that provided a soothing sound each night elevated the ambiance. Friendly staff, free breakfast, convenient parking - I could go on and on. From outside appearances alone it is among the nicest hotels in Gatlinburg and if I return, I will definitely stay here again.

Old Creek Lodge
Old Creek Lodge rooms with fireplaces
Cozy Old Creek Lodge rooms
Cozy Old Creek Lodge stream view rooms

Ghost and Haunt Tours of Gatlinburg
None of my vacations are complete without a ghost tour! After doing some research I came across Ghost and Haunt Tours of Gatlinburg and knew this would be the perfect addition to our trip. I have a full recap coming up, but I'll give a teaser: we used a spirit box and it seemed to be talking to me!

 Ghost and Haunt Tours of Gatlinburg


Ober Gatlinburg
The main attraction in Gatlinburg is Ober, boasting an areal tram that travels 2.1 miles providing sweeping Smoky views. After our ride up the mountain, we visited the wildlife encounter where several rescued animals are housed. I'm not a fan of animals in captivity and wish they had a bit more room but they were saved from really bad situations. We talked to a man who cares for the animals and it's evident he really loves his job so that made me feel better. Next, we took a fifteen-minute chair lift even higher up the mountain. I'm severely afraid of heights so it was a disaster! I literally cried and had a tiny panic attack. At the overlook, the views are beautiful and every hour a band comprised of cute old men plays so if you're not afraid of heights it's a great experience. I, however, needed a beer after my breakdown so we checked out the seasonal OktOBERfest where traditional Bavarian food and beers are served while a band performs. It was a cool experience and perfect way to end the visit.

Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg Wildlife Encounter
Ober Gatlinburg Wildlife Encounter
Ober Gatlinburg live entertainment
Ober Gatlinburg areal tram

Ole Smoky Distillery
From Ober we walked about five minutes to Ole Smoky Distillery where we met with a company representative who gave us a behind-the-scenes tour, told us the history of their federally licensed moonshine - first in East Tennessee, and graciously let us sample 13 of their moonshine varieties. I'll have a dedicated post coming soon.

Ole Smokey Distillery in Gatlinburg


Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail
Before heading back to Nashville, we drove through Roaring Fork early in the morning. Another one-way paved loop through the Great Smoky Mountains, this 5.5-mile drive is right outside of Gatlinburg and less crowded than Cades Cove. It is much windier and feels higher in elevation though, but still not too steep. The big difference between this trail and Cades Cove is this trail doesn't have open spaces and is densely populated with trees. The leisurely drive took about an hour and gave us one last chance to enjoy the breathtaking national park.

Roaring Fork in the Smokey Mountains
Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail

The Great Smoky Mountains are so incredibly beautiful! I knew I was in for pretty landscapes, but the trees and changing colors were stunning. I had hoped we'd see wild animals, and when we did it was that much more magical. Such a memorable trip.

In 2016, 11.3 million people visited the Smokies making it the most popular National Park in the United States. Are you among the tens of millions who have visited?


Marie said...

How fun!!! When are we taking a trip together??? You know Jenn and I miss our triplet!!

Beautifully Candid said...

This looks like such a great place to visit! I love the pictures you got of the bears! Sierra ~ Beautifully Candid