Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopens Popular Trails

Chimney Tops in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When you hike Sugarland Mountain you will be looking down on the iconic Chimneys of the Smokies!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopens Popular Trails! Bullhead Trail and Sugarland Mountain Trail are set to reopen after extensive fire damage in 2016. The trails will reopen Friday October 26, 2018. These are two of our favorite trails at HeySmokies.com. They offer amazing high altitude vistas with the Smokies hallmark forest diversity. Both trails are fantastic walks for viewing fall color.

These trails have been closed since November 2016 due to damage resulting from the wind event and fire damage associated with the Chimney Tops 2 Fire. Park trail crews spent several weeks this year repairing over 500 feet of trail tread, cutting 758 downed trees, removing over 20 large rootballs and boulders, and repairing and replacing 53 trail drainage structures.

The trail crews accomplished an amazing amount of work to safely repair and reopen these trails under very challenging conditions,” said
Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are excited to offer this opportunity to hikers, but also want to remind them to stay alert for trail hazards as they pass through the burned areas.”
Great Smoky Mountain Superintendent, Cassius Cash, is always happy to meet park visitors.

Great Smoky Mountain Superintendent, Cassius Cash, is always happy to meet park visitors.

Bullhead Trail begins on the Cherokee Motor Nature Trail near Gatlinburg at the intersection with Rainbow Falls Trail. The trail climbs 3,500′ steadily for 5.9 miles towards the historic LeConte Lodge on the summit of Mt. LeConte. Spring wildflowers are prolific on this hike as well as fantastic winter views. If you have never visited Mount LeConte we urge you to add it to your bucket list.

Sugarland Mountain Trail begins on the Appalachian Trail near the road to the Clingmans Dome  and ends in the Laurel Falls parking lot on Little River road west of Sugarlands Visitor Center. This 11.9 mile hike has many ups and downs and generally drops close to 4,000′ so plan on doing some climbing even if you hike high to low. The fall color and winter views are two great reasons to put this hike on your list but remember it is a great walk any time of year!

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Great Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway Opens

Great Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway

Great Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway.

Great Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway Opens. Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announce the long-awaited section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley, TN will finally open Saturday, November 10, 2018. The 16-mile roadway will be drivable for the first time since construction began in 1966. The route will include the 1.65-mile section known as the ‘Missing Link’ which is now connected by a series of nine bridges.

We are grateful to the visionaries in the 1930s who conceived the idea of a parkway and to the countless people who have tirelessly worked since then to complete this spectacular section,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We can’t wait for people to experience the unparalleled views offered along this new Smokies destination.”

The completion of the roadway was made possible thanks to a decades-long partnership among the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (EFLHD) of the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Park Service (NPS) at a total cost of $178 million. Funding for the final paving was provided through a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) VIII grant secured by the Tennessee Department of Transportation along with $15 million from the State of Tennessee and $7 million through the NPS Federal Lands Transportation Program.

The Foothills Parkway now consists of two finished sections at either end of the 72-mile corridor. The western section now extends 33 continuous miles from Chilhowee to Wears Valley, offering a new recreational experience for motorists and cyclists. The eastern section, completed in 1968, extends 6 miles from Cosby to Interstate 40 presenting breathtaking views of Mt. Cammerer.

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Abrams Falls Trail

Abrams Falls is a fantastic hike! photo credit - gsmnp

Abrams Falls is a fantastic hike! Photo credit – gsmnp

Abrams Falls Trail has it all! The 20-foot Abrams Falls is an amazing natural wonder and a rewarding rewarding hike! The five-mile round-trip Abrams Fall Trail, located in Cades Cove, is classified as a moderate to difficult trek due to several ascending and descending ridges along the way. Those accustomed to a bit more challenging hikes will be rewarded when they reach the imposing 20-foot waterfall.

The trailhead is accessed at the back of a grassy field about half way around the Cades Cove Loop road and begins at a wooden bridge. Bear right after the bridge to visit the historic Elijah Oliver Place. Like other cabins in the cove, the Oliver place is a perfectly preserved homestead, offering a glimpse of life for early cove settlers.

Back to the main trail, turn left and follow the well-marked path that runs parallel to beautiful Abrams Creek, and leads through a variety of natural growth that includes hemlocks, a pine-oak forest and massive growths of rhododendron (referred to as a “hell” of rhododendron by anyone who has ever hiked through them.)

The trail, which marks an elevation gain of 340 feet and is home to numerous scenic overlooks, has a total elevation change of about 1,800 feet with the combined ascents and descents. It also crosses three narrow log bridges. Pets and bicycles are prohibited on the trail.

Proper hiking gear is a must for any hike. Check out our great blog on “Hiking Essentials” to make sure you and your family are prepared for this hike or any other Smoky Mountain adventure.

Many visitors are tempted to swim in the enticing pool located at the base of the falls. Be Warned; the volume of water thundering over the cliffs of Abrams Falls creates dangerous undertows and strong currents. Climbing on or near the falls is also not a good idea. Rocks surrounding both the falls and the pool below are coated in mist and algae and are extremely slippery and sometimes unstable. Over the years, several people have fallen to their deaths, and many other suffered serious injuries from climbing on rocks near waterfalls. Backpacker Magazine has listed Abrams Falls Trail as one of the ten most dangerous hikes in America, citing numerous deaths that include drownings (a fatality occurred in 2006 when a “strong” swimmer disappeared near the base of the falls. He was pulled under and his body never resurfaced.) The article noted that a total of 29 water-related deaths have occurred on this trail since 1971.  According to a park spokesperson, Abrams Falls is an attractive destination that is easily reached by a 2.5-mile hike, but has strong currents and hidden hazards beneath the water that can trap unsuspecting swimmers. Lightning strikes and extreme weather changes have also proved deadly. When spending any time in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, caution is your friend. Check weather forecasts before heading out; stay on the trail; when encountering wildlife, keep a respectable distance; and never cross streams above waterfalls (people have been swept over the falls after losing their footing in little more than ankle-deep water). You should wear sturdy footwear, be prepared for sudden inclement weather and take drinking water and snacks. Keep a close watch on your children.  It takes about 3-4 hours for most people who hike this trail so if you begin in late afternoon, you could end up hiking back in the dark.

Directions: Enter the one-way Cades Cove loop and travel about five miles. Just beyond the Abrams Creek Crossing and stop #10, turn right onto a grave road that crosses between grassy fields. The Abrams Falls Trail Parking lot is located at the end of the road and the trailhead is just a few steps away.

5th Annual Wears Valley Fall Festival

Wears Valley fall fest

Wears Valley fall fest is a great family friendly event!

5th Annual Wears Valley Fall Festival is fun for the entire family! Sixteen acres of family fun including crafters, storytelling, interactive activities, entertainment, children’s events and great food awaits all in attendance October 19-21, 2018 at the 5th Annual Wears Valley Fall Festival coordinated by Keep Sevier Beautiful.  The wide array of activities at this year’s event will give families a great way to make memories, experience a variety of fun activities and enjoy the incredible beauty of fall in the Smokies.

This year’s event begins on Friday, October 19 and continues through Sunday, October 21.  Hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.  A single day pass is the nice price of only three dollars. The festival site is next to Tennessee State Bank off Route 321 in Wears Valley in Sevier County.

Get ready for some great live music! The center stage features free live singers including country, southern gospel, Elvis, and much more!

Wears Valley Fall Fest features an Antique Tractor Show and rides for the kids. What make this particular fall festival so unique are the opportunities for fun while learning stewardship for our natural resources. The Kids’ Tent features free crafts that kids of all ages can make. The crafts all show kids how to make things from repurposed items such as t-shirt bags, Christmas and fall decor, and much more! Kids also can play games made from recycled and repurposed items. Ring toss, checkers, and many games will keep the kids entertained. Want a high energy adventure?  Take them through the obstacle course or one of the inflatables!

There will be a wide variety of exhibitors and vendors at the festival showing off their artwork and jewelry as well as live demonstrations of metal crafts, basket making, and woodworking. Don’t worry about going hungry, there’ll be plenty of kettle corn, candy apples, and fried Twinkies for dessert first, then you can enjoy some grilled chicken or steak on a stick. If Italian or Greek food twangs your buds you are in luck at the fest. There is something for everything.

Great Smoky Mountains Purchase Knob Stargazing Event

Purchase Knob stargazing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Purchase Knob stargazing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Great Smoky Mountains Purchase Knob stargazing event. Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center beginning at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 5, 2018. Located on beautiful Purchase Knob, the learning center provides one of the best views of the sky in the Smokies and Haywood County, NC.

The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky at this high elevation site with a 260-degree unobstructed view of the sky. The club will provide a variety of telescopes for the participants to use. If skies are clear, visitors can expect to see the Milky Way Galaxy high overhead that night, along with the planets Saturn and Mars, the Andromeda Galaxy, and many striking star clusters. This is a great opportunity for families to explore the universe without leaving terra firma.

National Park areas often offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Parks across the country monitor and manage for natural night sky conditions in much the same way as we do to protect our air and water. Visitors are often amazed at the number of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The event starts with an indoor presentation, which will be held rain or shine, to discuss what can be seen in October skies. Following the presentation participants will become acquainted with the telescopes and begin to stargaze. The learning center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation and it will be chilly. Visitors are encouraged dress in warm layers. The program is free but limited to 80 people. Reservations are required and can be made by registering through Eventbrite, at STARGAZING, or by calling 828-497-1946.

Purchase Knob is easy to find, located off US 276 near Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The use of GPS or an internet map service to find Purchase Knob is not recommended, but park staff can provide reliable directions when visitors make reservations.