CANCELLED – Cades Cove Stargazing Event on October 8! View our Amazing Milky Way Galaxy!

This event has been cancelled due to cloud cover; confirmed with the Cades Cove ranger station at noon today. We’ll keep you posted on the next scheduled event!

Don’t miss the Cades Cove Stargazing Event on Saturday, October 8, 2016! Come view our amazing Milky Way Galaxy! If you’re a Neil deGrasse Tyson wannabe, or just a fan, then this is the event for you! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has partnered with the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society to offer a 2 1/2 hour stargazing program this fall.

Cades Cove Stargazing Event October 8

The FREE program begins at 7:30 p.m. at the orientation shelter at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road. A National Park Ranger will lead guests on a 1/3 mile walk to the viewing area. Please note that vehicles are not allowed to drive to the field for viewing so carpooling is highly encouraged.

Join experienced astronomerswith LOTS of awesome telescopes, and explore our galaxy. The amazingly low light environment of remote Cades Cove is one of the best locations to explore the  autumn skies. With a little help from Mother Nature, here’s hoping for clear skies and the unique opportunity to view stars, planets and constellations. Join a National Park Ranger and discover how the constellations received such interesting names and their significance to our human history.

“People will be amazed at the vast depths of this planetary world and all that they can see in complete darkness,” says National Park Ranger Mike Maslona,  “This program mixes astronomy, legends, and the beauty of the stars to create a worthwhile exploration into the wonders of the heavens.”

 PLANNING TIP! Remember the seasons are changing here in the Smokies so a warm jacket, hat, and gloves are a good idea for this adventure. Bring along a flashlight and binoculars. A lawn chair and blanket will add comfort to your outdoor nighttime experience.

Even if you only have a passing interest in the heavens this event should not be missed! In case of inclement weather. the program will be cancelled. Please call the Cades Cove Visitor Center at 865-448-4104 on the day of the event to confirm. Visit Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society to learn about other stargazing events throughout the year.

Bicycle Mornings in Cades Cove begin May 11th! Passing on your left!

Beginning Wednesday, May 11, 2016 Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to motor vehicles until 10:00 a.m. on both Wednesday and Saturday mornings to allow bicyclists, runners, and walkers time to enjoy the cove without having to worry about heavy traffic. This special experience on the 11-mile paved loop road will last until late September.

Bicycle Mornings in Cades Cove on Wed and Sat

Enjoy Bicycle Mornings in Cades Cove on Wednesdays and Saturdays until 10:00 am. (photo credit: Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority)

During the season, bicycles can be rented at the Cades Cove Campground Store. For pricing info, give them a call at 865.448.9034. Of course, you can bring your own bikes and helmets to enjoy the scenic ride through this historic landscape. Be mindful that Tennessee law requires cyclists under the age of 16 to wear a helmet. HeySmokies and the GSMNP recommend anyone of any age wear protective head gear…just sayin’!

You won’t find any mountain biking trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are only 3 trails in the National Park that allow bicycles:

Gatlinburg Trail
Begins at Sugarlands Visitor Center and travels 1.9 miles one-way toward the outskirts of Gatlinburg along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Leashed pets are allowed on this trail.

Oconaluftee River Trail
Begins at Oconaluftee Visitor Center and travels 1.5 miles one-way toward the outskirts of Cherokee along the Oconaluftee River. Leashed pets are allowed on this trail.

Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails
From the Deep Creek Campground, cyclists can access both Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails. Bicycles are allowed on both trails until the point where the old roadbed ends and the hiking trails begin. Pets are not allowed on this trail.

Bicycles are allowed on most roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so drivers need to be alert of cyclists when driving through the park.

For more information on bicycling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and adjacent National Forests, please visit NPS.gov.

Discover America’s Largest Underground Lake, The Lost Sea, in the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains

In the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains is America’s largest and the world’s second largest underground lake, The Lost Sea. The lake is located in an extensive cave system known as Craighead Caverns, a National Park Service National Natural Landmark, located in Sweetwater, TN.

The Lost Sea America's Largest Underground Lake

America’s Largest Underground Lake is The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN (photo: The Lost Sea Adventure)

The caverns are named after their former owner Cherokee Chief Craighead and were used by the Native Americans as a tribal council meeting place. In 1939, 20,000 year-old bones and footprints of a giant Pleistocene jaguar were discovered in Craighead Caverns and are now on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. There are markings on the walls of the cave left by Confederate soldiers who mined saltpeter in the cave during the Civil War.

The underground lake was discovered in 1905 by 13-year-old Ben Sands. At 220 feet wide and 800 feet long, The Lost Sea has made it into the Guinness World Records. The Lost Sea is second only to Dragon’s Breath Cave as the world’s largest, non-subglacial, underground lake. That cave is located in Namibia, a country in southern Africa.

HeySmokies’ own intrepid reporter Laurie Crater Battles, recently visited The Lost Sea for a first-hand account of this amazing adventure deep under the mountains:

Go underground at The Lost Sea Adventure in Sweetwater, Tennessee for a land and water experience that’ll have your family talking for years! I love caves. I suppose that makes me a cave woman (who reads an awful lot). I was not surprised to find myself relishing every minute of a recent tour of this fabulous attraction. It’s basically a wide-open cavern, complete with twists, turns, ups and downs, and eons of history that also features a 4-acre lake you can traverse by glass-bottomed boat. What could be better for the urban adventurer? Nothing, I submit to you!

America's Largest Underground Lake The Lost Sea

A yellow tunnel takes you into and out of the caverns at The Lost Sea (photo: The Lost Sea Adventure)

Though visiting in winter means you don’t get to tour the attraction’s village of historical shops and sites (more about that later), what it does mean is that you are not sandwiched into the throng (up to 1,000-person-a-day strong) that passes through the doors of this place every summer. You get to hop into a tour with a handful of others and meander through the place at a leisurely pace. You’re not crowded. You get good pictures and, best of all, you can savor this unique and wonderful natural phenomenon.

As soon as you enter the caverns, you’re treated to a vista that’s fairly expansive. You can see bends in the path, lit by recessed illumination that was added to give you a feel for the nooks and crannies that give the cave character. Your tour guide will fill you in on where to spot crystals and formations (like the larger one that resembles giant slices of bacon) and regale you with stories of Indians meeting in secret (See the smoke stains?) and Confederate soldiers using stalagmites for target practice.

Calcium deposits on the ceiling produce a substance that has “Neosporin”-like healing properties. Plants in the caverns grow due to the spores brought in by people like me. There is a secretive world underground here, and it’s fun to explore it.

Continue reading…

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…

The Abrams Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Abrams Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is great for hikers, bikers, campers, equestrians, and anglers! Nestled on the northwest tip of the National Park, the Abrams Creek Campground and Ranger Station are definitely on the quieter side of the Smokies making it the perfect destination for making family memories to last a lifetime!

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Abrams Creek in Autumn. (photo by Jennifer McKee, AllTrails)

Directions to Abrams Creek
To reach the Abrams Creek Campground (elevation 1,125 feet) and Ranger Station from the Foothills Parkway West and Highway 129 junction is approximately 8 miles. Turn left on Highway 129 to Happy Valley Road. Turn left onto Happy Valley Road and turn right on Abrams Creek Road. Proceed about a mile to the Campground.

Abrams Creek Campground
Abrams Creek Campground does not accept reservations and has an on-site, first-come first-served, self-registration system. Cost per site is $14. The small campground has 16 sites for tents or RVs up to 12 feet in length. There are no electric hookups or shower facilities; only cold, running water and bathroom facilities available. Each campsite does have a picnic table and fire grate. The campground will close October 13, 2015 and re-open in mid-May 2016.

Popular Hiking Trails at Abrams Creek

Rabbit Creek Trail  – 7.8 miles in length
Rabbit Creek Trail begins near the Ranger Station and will take you into Cades Cove near the Visitor Center. Back country campsite #15 is located on this trail. Be watchful as this trail is used by both humans and horses.

Cooper Road Trail – 10.5 miles in length
Cooper Road Trail begins at the eastern end of the campground and meanders along an old road bed to access backcountry campsite #1 and then on to Cades Cove. Cooper Road Trail can be combined with Little Bottoms Trail and Abrams Falls Trail to also access Cades Cove by way of the popular Abrams FallsCooper Road Trail is open to equestrian activities.

These are just a couple of our favorites of the many trails in the Abrams Creek area, there’s also Hannah Mountain Trail, Cane Creek Trail, Gold Mine Trail, Hatcher Mountain Trail and Beard Cane Trail. So much to explore! One of our favorite resources for trail information is the book, Hiking Trails of the Smokies, available for about $20 from the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Fishing in Abrams Creek
Because of the high-quality water chemistry of Abrams Creek, it is considered by many anglers to offer some of the best fishing in the National Park. Abrams Creek accessed from the Abrams Creek Campground contains more smallmouth bass than trout during most of the season. Better opportunities for rainbow trout are available upstream near the area known as Little Bottoms. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required in National Park streams and rivers.

Continue reading…