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18 January 2012

Southeast US: Day 2, Great Smoky Mountains

 Remember you have the whole itinerary here.

Here is a small map with our main point today, basically we want to get from Charlotte to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, see some things and finally stay in Gatlinburg.

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Point B is the Entrance to the park from Cherokee, from Charlotte there are about 284 km. This can a good first stop as you can go the Oconaluftee Visitors Center and get some maps and updates on weather, closed trails, etc.

Point C is Gatlinburg where you can stay for the night. Take into account that the road crossing the park north-south, the 441, is a two-way road and if you are there for the fall, which is the best time of the year to visit, you will meet with thousands doing the exact same thing. The best thing to do is to avoid weekends and get up early. This won’t be a huge problem since it is also night time quite early and after that there is nothing else to see.

By the way, between B and C you will cross from North Carolina to Tennessee.
This day you would have a total of 339 km not counting with the diversions to see things. Taking that into account and the fact that you will be tired from the day before’s flight I advise you to do something that is not very tiring.

For instance you could take the road that leads you to Cades Cove  and do the 11 Km loop on your car. It takes some time since the point is to enjoy the landscape, spot deers, etc. The park guides recommend 2 to 3 hours. You can really make it in less time but anyway it will take you a while just to get to the beginning of the loop since, as I said, logically there are just a few two-way roads and there might be some traffic. Cades Cove  is a valley in the middle of the mountains and has some historical buildings –mainly churches and cabins- and it is likely that you will be able to see some deers. Another entirely different matter is to be able to take pictures of them :)

Cades Cove

If you feel like hiking you can take the Laurel Falls trail. It begins on the road to Cades Cove, on the right, but don’t’ worry about that because the signalling is quite good. It is 2.6 roundtrip and it is considered moderate in difficulty. Bu the classification of the difficulty of the trails would be enough for another post… To me, is was not very difficult in this case and I am not trained in hiking. The only difficult part was the Flood that suddenly fell over us and my believe every two or three meters that I was spotting bears –all of them were actually logs. Amazing, I did not see them well apart from the roads and then the next day I find them just next to one…  Back to the difficulty, I also hiked one in the Blue Ridge Parkway, about which I will be blogging soon, that was considered easy in a guide book and I almost could not get back. By the way it is not the Laurel Falls are spectacular but the trail and the landscape are great.

On our way to Laurel Falls, before the Flood

Laurel Falls details, not much larger than this I must say

To stay for the night, as I said, the nearest is Gatlinburg. It is interesting mainly because it has so many hotels that it won’t be difficult to find a reasonably priced room, at least if you make a reservation before. It is also the best place to dince since n the park there sis almost nothing. The town itself has little to see. But if you love meat, this is the place to have some ribs..

Here I leave some useful links to plan your trip:

Things you can do

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