The Greenbrier Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Cabin

…feeling great in GREENBRIER!

The Greenbrier section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be found six miles east of Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Highway 321. Also known as Big Greenbrier, this watershed is widely considered the finest example of a cove hardwood forest on planet Earth. The entrance to the cove is a narrow paved road which meanders alongside the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

 

A Driving Tour of Greenbrier

The first mile into Greenbrier has many riverside pull outs for fishing, paddling, and the occasional wedding ceremony. After passing the ranger station the road turns to gravel and narrows, so please be courteous and allow room for other vehicles to maneuver. Past the ranger station the next landmark will be a quiet picnic area on the left next to the river. The picnic grounds have several tables and composting toilets.

Traveling on you will soon find a pair of bridges on the left. The Grapeyard Ridge trail begins on the west side of the bridges. Grapeyard Ridge meanders 7.6 miles west ending at the Cherokee Orchard Motor Nature Trail.

The Old Settler’s trail begins on the east side of the bridges. Old Settlers trail stretches 15.9 miles east to its junction with Maddron Bald trail and Gabes Mountain trail.

Turn left onto the bridge and drive 1.5 miles to the Ramsay Cascade trailhead. Ramsay Cascades is a tough eight mile round trip hike to one of the tallest and most beautiful waterfalls found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The trail is renowned for its old growth forest and giant trees in addition to the awe inspiring waterfall.

Remaining straight at the bridge will bring you to the second picnic area found in Greenbrier. This spot has a covered pavilion, picnic tables, a pure, running spring and composting toilets.

A half mile after the picnic area the road dead ends at the Porters Creek trailhead. Porters Creek trail is 3.7 miles long and is a favorite among wildflower enthusiasts during the spring. Porters Creek trail also provides access to the historic Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin and the Brushy Mountain Trail. Brushy Mountain is 4.7 miles long to its junction with Trillium Gap trail and is considered one of the most challenging ways to access the summit of Mt. Leconte. Continue reading…

Smoky Mountain Saint Patrick’s Day Events

Smoky Mountain Saint Patrick's Day Events

Smoky Mountain Saint Patrick’s Day Events

Smoky Mountain Saint Patrick’s Day Events. You don’t need the luck of the Irish to find plenty of fun this Saint Patrick’s Day. These ancient mountains are steeped in Scotch-Irish history and tradition. Even the landscape brings to mind the emerald green hills of Ireland. Here are a few holiday hints that will point you toward your pot of gold on one of our favorite holidays.

The Fox and Parrot Tavern in Gatlinburg offers a variety of delicious holiday craft beers in a friendly atmosphere. This tavern has long been a favorite for locals and for good reason. Their bill of fare boasts such Irish staples as corned beef and cabbage along with other menu items that includes delicious steaks and chicken dishes. Discerning diners will find something to please their palate and can wash it all down with a cold, green beer.

The Facebook group Smoky Mountain Hikertrash is hosting a group hike to beautiful Ramsey Cascades. This amazing waterfall is found in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies and is one of the tallest waterfalls accessible by a maintained trail in the national park. The hike, an eight mile round trip, traverses some of the most beautiful old growth forest in the region. The hike is considered strenuous and participants should be prepared for any type weather. The hike, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 16, 2019, begins at the Ramsey Cascades trailhead and ends at approximately 4:30 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring lunch, snacks and water as well as basic hiking essentials.

Continue reading…

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushroom

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushroom. Photo credit – Jennifer M

Smoky Mountain Turkey Tail mushrooms are always in season! Trametes versicolor (common name Turkey Tail mushroom) is a decomposing polypore mushroom found on logs, stumps and dying trees all across North America. You can find them year-round in an array of beautiful colors, concentrically lining the fan shaped or circular caps (zonate) and growing in rosette patterns or overlapping clusters on dead or dying hardwoods and sometimes conifers. The underlying pore surface has 3-8 tiny pores per mm that starts out white but gradually ages to buff or darker, with a white spore print. This mushroom is thin and flexible when young turning more rigid as it weathers and ages. The cap has zones of velvety or finely hairy rings, again weathering off sometimes with age. Not only are Turkey Tail Mushrooms beautifully photogenic, they are also being investigated medicinally worldwide. With their high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides they are purported to help stabilize immunity levels and store energy to aid in the fight against colds, flu’s and the recovery process after cancer treatments. Turkey Tails simmered together with Chaga, cinnamon bark and pure maple syrup make a delicious tea. Make sure to check below the cap to correctly identify Trametes versicolor, for there are many Turkey Tail lookalikes with larger pore surfaces, toothed pores, even gills or just smooth.

Be advised: If you have never collected wild mushrooms always go with an expert who can identify them! We strongly recommend  basic mushroom identification skills acquired with picture taking, along with heavy research before attempting to ingest any wild mushroom. Although there are no known toxic polypores, there are still several highly toxic gilled mushrooms that can cause gastrointestinal disturbances or even death.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park prohibits the removal of mushrooms, plants, animals and historical artifacts. Please respect park regulations so the next visitor can enjoy the parks beauty too. Remember to leave only footsteps and take only photographs! The hardwood coves of Greenbrier, Cosby, Deep Creek, Cades Cove and Cataloochee are great places to view Turkey Tails so make sure and have plenty of memory available on your camera and enjoy.

HeySmokies mycology enthusiast loves Turkey Tail hunting!

HeySmokies mycology enthusiast, Jennifer M, loves wild mushroom hunting!

HeySmokies would like to welcome our new mycology enthusiast Jennifer M. Jennifer lives in Southwest Ohio and works as a conservation and parks technician for a large Southern Ohio park system. She has developed a keen interest in mycology that spans over thirty years that has grown to include fungi photography, cuisine and arts/crafts. Her favorite travel destination site is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area. “I’ve been visiting since I was a child and the excitement of exploring this beautiful environment and all it has to offer has never faded!”

Top and underside of Turkey Tail mushroom. Photo credit - Jennifer M

Top and underside of Turkey Tail mushroom. Photo credit – Jennifer M

5 Great Smoky Mountain Fathers Day Ideas!

Smoky Mountain Fathers Day!

There is no end to the fun on Fathers Day in the Smokies!

5 Great Smoky Mountain Fathers Day Ideas!  Fathers Day in The Great Smoky Mountains is right around the corner on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The Great Smoky Mountains offer so many ways to celebrate Dad’s special day. If your Dad prefers, hiking, biking, fishing, great food or a cold brewski, the forests, towns and valleys located around the park have you covered.

Mountain coasters are a great way to get his adrenaline flowing. The fun begins with a tow to the the top of a mountain and then the rest is up to you and gravity! You control the speed and intensity of your ride. There are multiple coasters in Sevier County for your dad to choose from. Goats On The Roof is easy to find on Wears Valley road in Pigeon Forge and so much fun. If the entire family is not feeling the need for speed they will find spending time with  friendly goats is not too “baaaaaaad!”

Does your dad have a hearty appetite? The Smokies are a great place to sit down for a delicious meal. One of the most sought after foods in the mountains is Rainbow Trout. The iconic Smoky Mountain Trout House has been serving up good eats for decades and is easy to find on the strip in Gatlinburg. Trout can be fried crispy, baked with lemon or anyway you can imagine it. The HeySmokies trout eating team loves the trout almandine with a couple of slices of lemon on the side. No matter what your taste buds have a hankerin’ for you won’t leave hungry!

Satisfy Dad’s sweet tooth in the Smokies. Sooner or later we all need a little sugar pick me up and the selection of sweet treats in the Smokies is sensational. Take a stroll down the strip in Gatlinburg to the Ole’ Smoky Candy Kitchen. The entire family will enjoy watching the vintage taffy stretching machine roll out sweet treats that have brought a smile to families faces for decades.

Saddle up for some Smoky Mountain trail riding! What better way to experience the Smokies than riding a trail with a personal guide. Jayell Ranch in Sevierville has miles of trails and the expert guides you need to have a safe and exciting equestrian experience. The view from the saddle is like no other in the mountains and those that give it a try, return to ride again and again.

Take a hike! When it is time to stretch your legs the possibilities are limitless in the Smokies. With over 900 miles of trails you can choose from a walk in a lush hardwood cove forest in Greenbrier or a high elevation hike on the the famous Appalachian Trail. Many say that hiking is the perfect way to celebrate with dad. You never know what you will find when you step into the wild lands of the Smokies. It is not unusual to see bear, turkeys or maybe even an elk or two. Remember to take only photographs and leave only footprints.

Bonus tip: After spending an awesome day in the Smokies, when the sun is setting low and you want to make sure your dad knows how important he is to you take a moment to give him a great big HeySmokies bear hug! They are free and possibly the best Fathers Day gift ever invented.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Great Smoky Mountain Fishing Spots

Smoky Mountain fishing is fun for the whole family.

Cast your line in the Smoky Mountains for the catch of a lifetime!

Five Great Smoky Mountain Fishing Spots. Smoky Mountain Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies have over two thousand miles of streams and rivers within the park boundary.  If you are ready for the challenge, fishing opportunities abound in the Smokies.

Anglers from around the globe visit the park to test their skills in our pristine waters. If you are a novice or a seasoned pro you will be hollerin’ “Fish On” before you know it.  Folks often ask HeySmokies, “What kind of fish do you have in the Smoky Mountains?” The five most common game fish in the Smokies are Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Rock Bass, and Smallmouth Bass. Each of these beauties are a thrill to catch. The HeySmokies fly rod squad agrees that the most beautiful fish we ever caught is the one on the end of our line right now!

The HeySmokies fly rod squad has trekked across the Smokies from end to end over the years and we know where the fish tend to be biting. For those who are unfamiliar with the park here are a few fishing destinations you will want to explore. If you are after Smallmouth bass and Rock bass a couple of good places to begin would be the Big Pigeon River on eastern edge of the park. The Pigeon is easily accessed in Hartford, TN via Interstate 40. The Waterville road I – 40 exit, five miles south of Hartford near Big Creek, is another spot with easy access. If you are after trout you can’t go wrong in Big Greenbrier five miles east of Gatlinburg. Porters Creek and the middle prong of the Little Pigeon river are popular spots in “Big G.” If you plan to visit the North Carolina side of Smokies make plans to cast a line in Cataloochee near Maggie Valley or Deep Creek near Bryson City. Both places offer solitude and a sense of immersion in the mountains.

Brook Trout is the only species of trout native to the Smoky Mountains. This fish is known as “spec” or “speckled trout” by Smoky Mountain natives and is one of the most elusive and difficult to catch. Many anglers are not aware that spec is not a true trout but a “char.” The historic range of char stretches from Canada to north Georgia. “Brookies” in the Smokies usually have a life span of less than three years and rarely grow larger than 8 – 9 inches.

Brown Trout are the largest game fish species in the national park. Primarily found in the

Trout fishing in the Smokies!

Deciding which stream to fish may be the most difficult thing about angling in the Smokies!

lower elevation streams, they thrive in slow moving water with good cover and lot’s of hiding spots. “Brownies” were brought to the the United States from Europe and compete with other species in the Smokies. They are long lived and it is not uncommon for them to survive up to twelve years. The majority caught in the Smokies are six to twelve inches in length and have been known to become thirty inches long weighing eleven pounds. Can you imagine the feeling of reeling in one of those bad boys?

Rainbow Trout are the most common game fish in the Smokies and are highly prized by anglers. Rainbows are found in almost every stream in the national park and are recognized by their familiar pink-toned stripe on their side. Like Brownies, Rainbows are not native to the Smokies, they were introduced from stock in the Northwestern United States. They were released into our mountain streams by logging companies in the early 1900’s. Most Rainbows reeled in by anglers are six to ten inches in length with an average age of three to five years. It is extremely rare to find rainbow trout over twelve inches in length.

Smallmouth bass and rock bass inhabit the lowest elevation streams and rivers in the Smokies on the borders of the park. They prefer cool deeper pools and shaded areas near the banks of the river. These species are native to the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi river. Smallmouth bass are the largest of the two and are usually six to fourteen inches in length. Their lifespan is five to seven years and a five pounder is considered a trophy fish. Rockbass are smaller in size ranging from four to eight inches in length but occasionally reach up to ten inches. Their typical life span is six to eight years.

Bonus angler tip: Did you know only one fishing license is required to fish Great Smoky Mountains National Park? With roughly half the park in North Carolina and the other in Tennessee a valid license from either state gives you total access to over 500,000 square miles of fishing heaven. As if you needed another reason to come fish with us!