Cantilever Barns? HeySmokies! What’s Up With That?

What’s up with those oddly-shaped barns in the Smokies? Well, the cantilever barn is a late-19th century style of architecture found primarily in Sevier and Blount counties in east Tennessee. The unusual design features an overhang, or cantilever, over one or more storage areas known as a crib to the mountain farmer.

Cantilever Barns Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s believed that this architectural style of barns predates the more modern design principle of “form follows function.” Because the Great Smoky Mountains receive over 80 inches rainfall annually, they are one of the rainiest places in the continental United States. This high level of rain and humidity in the Smokies created a constant struggle for farmers to keep their crops from rotting. The cantilever barn provided a great solution for funneling rain off the roof and away from the storage cribs. The open space between the cribs kept the structure ventilated allowing air to circulate further reducing spoiled inventory.

There is also a long-standing rumor in the Smokies that the unique cantilever design was created to stay one step ahead of the government tax man. Apparently, taxes were assessed based on the total square footage of a structure touching the ground. Barely a third of the cantilever barn is on ground level. By building a cantilever barn instead of a traditional barn the farmer would have saved big on his tax return!

Cantilever Barn in Greenbrier Great Smoky Mountains National ParkCantilever Barn at Greenbrier Hiker Cabin Smoky Mountains National Park

There are several examples of the cantilever barn in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In Cades Cove  the Tipton Homeplace has a nice double cantilever barn at the Cable Mill Historic Area. Hikers will want to seek out the John Messer double cantilever barn one mile up Porters Creek trail in Greenbrier. The Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee has fine examples of both single and double cantilever barns.

Cribs housed livestock, tools, agricultural products and supplies. The cribs often measured twelve feet by eighteen feet and had a breezeway separating them. The upper logs of each crib were much longer than the others to create the cantilever. The cantilever doubled as the floor for the large upper loft.  The loft was typically used for storing hay and drying tobacco.The cantilever barns often had a gabled roof.

In the 1980’s author historians Marian Moffett and Lawrence Wodehouse documented 6 cantilever barns in Virginina, 3 in North Carolina, 183 in Sevier County, Tennessee and 106 in adjacent Blount County, Tennessee.

Feeling Great in Asheville!

Feeling Great in Asheville, North Carolina  near the southeastern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Oconaluftee, Cataloochee, Big Creek and Balsam Mountain areas are all about an hour’s drive from downtown Asheville. If you’re staying on the Tennessee side of the Smokies, Asheville makes a great day-trip!

SkyBar in Downtown Asheville North Carolina

SkyBar in downtown Asheville offers beautiful rooftop views of the city and surrounding mountains from the historic Flatiron Building.

Reaching Asheville is convenient and easy. Interstate 40 enters the city from the east and west and Interstate 26 accesses the city from the south and north. The Asheville Regional Airport is nine miles south of downtown on Interstate 26.

Asheville is a vibrant, thriving city with a definately cool vibe. The Huffington Post ranked Asheville as one of the 9 Most Romantic Cities in South and the Hippie Capital of the South. Boasting over fifteen micro-breweries, it’s easy to see why the Conde Nast Traveler named Asheville one of Amercia’s Best Beer Cities.

Biltmore Estate Asheville North CarolinaNo trip to Asheville would be complete without a visit to the famous Biltmore Estate. Completed in 1896, Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States. The estate encompasses over 8,000 acres and includes a winery, hotel, historic conservatory and expansive gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. There are hiking trails, kayaking opportunities, biking, picnicking, Segway adventures, and tours of the mansion. Christmas at Biltmore is one of the most popular times to visit when the home is decorated for the holidays. Be sure to take the candlelight tour offered evenings during this special time.

Other fun options around the city include a visit to the famous Grove Park Inn, a tour of the beautiful North Carolina Arboretrum, and perusing the WNC Farmers MarketDining options are endless from fine dining to mom and pops offering up everything from gourmet pizzas to good ol’ country cooking. You may even want to join in on a drum circle! For more information on restaurants in Asheville, visit Romantic Asheville.

Asheville is surrounded by the Southern Appalachian mountains and is bordered by the Pisgah National Forest. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes through the city limits a few miles south of downtown. A short ride north on the parkway takes hearty adventurers to the highest peak east of the Mississippi river, Mount Mitchell. At 6,684′ the views from Mt. Mitchell are amazing. Traveling south on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a lovely drive any time year and will deliver you to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The history of Asheville is rich and diverse. Once the domain of the Cherokee, Hernando Desoto first explored the region in the 1,500’s. The town had modest beginnings with a log cabin built in the Swannanoa Valley in 1784. The settlers faced opposition to their presence from the Cherokee. Many incidents of violence ensued ultimately ending with the Cherokee’s forced removal on the Trail of Tears.  The civil war put its mark on the city but left Asheville intact compared to others decimated by Sherman’s “March to the Sea”. In 1880 the railroad came to town and things were never the same. This sleepy hamlet slowly but steadily grew and evolved into the largest city in Western North Carolina.


4 Awesome Scenic Drives to Savor Late Summer Wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains!

4 Awesome Scenic Drives to Savor Late Summer Wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains! In brilliant shades of purple, yellow and white, the late summer and early fall wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains bring joy to all who wish to savor the glorious days of the changing seasons!


Joe Pye Weed in the Smokies. The early settlers called the 12 foot wildflower “Queen of the Meadow.”

Did you know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also known as the Wildflower National Park? There are as many as 19 different kinds of Goldenrod, over 20 species of Aster, and 6 different Rudbeckia that are native to the Smokies.

Check out these primo viewing locations we’ve scoped out for you to enjoy now on into the fall season!

Cades Cove is the #1 Scenic Drive for Late Summer Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!

At five miles long and less than two miles wide, the scenic valley known as Cades Cove offers visitors an 11-mile loop road to drive, bike, and walk to explore this natural wonder’s flora and fauna. The paved road skirts the open valley’s 6,800 acres providing ample opportunities for wildflower and wildlife viewing.

Some of the beautiful flowers you’ll spot in Cades Cove are the tall Joe Pye Weed, Purple and Yellow Gerardia, Great Lobelia, and Ironweed.  You’ll also see Downy Aster, Goldenrod, Virgin’s Bower, and Wild Golden-glow in the meadows of the cove.

Although the road is open daily from sunrise to sunset, it is closed to motor vehicles each Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10:00 a.m. for walkers, joggers and cyclists only until late September. This is a great time to enjoy Cades Cove and really be able to stop and smell the flowers! The Cades Cove Nature Trail, near the bike rental shop, offers a chance to see the unusual non-green, Pinesap, with drooping red and tan flowers that bloom through September.

For more info on Cades Cove, check out our HeySmokies blog about the Cades Cove Experience.

Iron weed is one of most dramatic flowers in the Smokies!

Rich Mountain Road is the #2 Scenic Drive for Late Summer Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!

This less-traveled, country road begins just off the Cades Cove loop directly across from the Missionary Baptist Church at sign post #8 and heads north. Rich Mountain Road is a one-way, gravel road that climbs about eight miles up Rich Mountain and then descends into Tuckalechee Cove and travels for another five miles into Townsend.

In this oak-dominated forest, you’ll see the blue-striped Mountain Gentian and the delicate and rare Rose-Pink also known as Meadow Beauty. Rich Mountain Road also offers iconic views of Cades Cove that are certainly photo-worthy.

Please be aware that motor homes, buses, vans longer than 15 ft., and trailers are prohibited on Rich Mountain Road. The road is closed in winter.

Clingmans Dome Road is the #3 Scenic Drive for Late Summer Wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!

Take the high road into the National Park’s Canadian Zone and see plenty of the 3-5 ft. tall White Snakeroot (there are 13 different types of Snakeroot in the Park) as well as the large clusters of Filmy Angelica, a member of the parsley family. There’s the easy to recognize Pink Turtlehead, Monkshood, and the Rugel’s Indian Plantain, found only in the high country of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Although not a wildflower but a tree, we have to tell you about the Mountain Ash trees found along Clingmans Dome Road. This time of year this tree’s shiny red fruits burst forth in an explosion of color found only in the north woods and the Smokies.

Clingmans Dome Road (7 miles long) is closed in winter. For more information, check out our HeySmokies blog, the Clingmans Dome Experience.

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue-ridge-parkway-sign-heysmokiesDid you know that the Blue Ridge Parkway is connected to Great Smoky Mountains National Park? That’s right; another National Park is attached to the Smokies! The Blue Ridge Parkway begins (or ends) at milepost 469, a half mile south of the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in North Carolina. The Parkway meanders from there along the mountain tops to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile long scenic drive through the Southern Appalachian highlands. The average speed limit on the Parkway is 45 mph. The Parkway has no red lights or intersections to slow traffic. All access to the Parkway is via on and off ramps connecting to nearby roads. There are no places to purchase fuel on the Parkway so plan carefully.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has access to camping, trails, waterfalls, and historic structures.

Blue Ridge Parkway Campgrounds

Otter Creek @ Mile Post 61 This campground has sites for 45 tents and 24 RV trailers. Facilities currently include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Area hikes include Trail of Trees, Otter Creek, Otter Lake Loop and James River Canal Trails.

Peaks of Otter @ Mile Post 86 This campground has sites for 90 tents and 53 trailers or RVs, water, comfort stations with flush toilets and cold water sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Area hikes include Sharp Top, Elk Run, Harkening Hill and Johnson Farm Trails.

Rocky Knob @ Mile Post 167 This campground has sites for 81 tents and 28 trailer or RVs, restrooms, trailer dumping stations, and a campfire circle that accommodates up to 150 campers. For the more adventurous, backcountry camping is permitted at the designated site in Rock Castle Gorge. A permit is required and can be obtained from the Rocky Knob Campground by calling 540-745-9664 from May-October and calling 540-745-9668 during the off season.


Blue Ridge Parkway

For those in primitive camping areas, keep in mind the following: camping and campfires are only allowed in designated areas, only dead firewood may be gathered for fuel, pack out all trash, do not use soap or shampoo in any streams, and toilet facilities must be at least 200 feet from water supplies. Area hikes include Rockcastle Gorge, Black Ridge, Rocky Knob Picnic Area and Round Meadow Creek Trails.

Doughton Park @ Mile Post 241 This campground has 110 campsites and 25 trailer sites, 4 comfort stations, and a campfire circle at the campground. Area hikes include Bluff Mountain, and Fodder Stack Trails.

Julian Price Park @ Mile Post 297 This campground has 129 tent sites (2 handicap sites) and 68 trailer sites, 6 comfort stations (1 handicap accessible). Area hikes include Green Knob, Boone Fork, Price Lake, Gwyn Memorial and Tanawha Trails. For boat rental info call 828-963-2292 or visit blueridgeparkway.

Linville Falls @ Mile Post 316 This campground has 50 tent and 20 RV sites which sit on the banks of the Linville River. It is the Parkway’s smallest, most popular campground and the only developed site on the Parkway that allows group camping. Area hikes include Flat Rock, Camp Creek, River Bend, Duggers Creek, and Linville River Bridge Trails

Mt. Pisgah @ Mile Post 408 This campground has 70 tent and 70 RV sites and shower facilities are available. The campground is the highest, coolest and most secluded on the Parkway. The campground is located in Flat Laurel Gap. Area hikes include Buck Spring, Mount Pisgah, Picnic Area Loop and Frying Pan Mountain Trails.

Camping is $16 for each site. Reservations for ALL campgrounds can be made online at or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking

There are numerous trails suitable for hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Find out about trails near you by stopping at a Ranger Station or Visitor Center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or thunder storms and downed trees may temporarily close trails.

At a minimum be sure to carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for hiking.

One of the most daunting tasks facing hikers is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Old-growth forests? Endless views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. It can be as easy as that!

There are over 369 miles of trails to choose from along the Blue Ridge Parkway! The Appalachian Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail are two long distance trails that follow closely with stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sections of these trails can be hiked in a day, or for the more adventurous, over a number of days.

Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfall Hikes


Crabtree Falls at Mile Post 339

Remember to always take caution while enjoying waterfalls around the Parkway. Do not climb on rocks near waterfalls and use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks. The rocks are slippery due to mist and algae. Never dive or jump into the water. Submerged rocks, trees or debris could be immediately below the surface of the water.

Here is a list of popular hikes with waterfalls along the Parkway:

Linville Falls @ Mile Post 360 Linville Falls has four different overlooks to properly appreciate the falls with two main hiking trails. Both begin at the Linville Falls Visitor Center and pass through remnants of a virgin hemlock forest mixed with other familiar tree species such as white pine, oaks, hickory, and birch. A colorful and varied display of wildflowers decorates the trails in spring. Red and golden leaves in fall beautifully contrast with the soothing green of hemlocks. The Linville Falls trails range in difficulty from moderate to strenuous.

Looking Glass Falls @ Mile Post 411 Looking Glass Falls is one of the most symmetrical waterfalls in western North Carolina. The name comes from Looking Glass Rock which resembles a wintertime mirror, or “looking glass,” of sunlight as water freezes on its side and reflects the sun.

Crabtree Falls @ Mile Post 339 At the base of the 2.5 mile loop trail is spectacular Crabtree Falls, where water cascades over a 60-foot rock cliff. Many types of ferns and wildflowers thrive in the hollow benefiting from the fall’s cool spray. Originally, these falls were known as Murphy’s Falls. The National Park Service changed the name to Crabtree Falls when the Parkway was built in the 1930’s.

Graveyard Fields Falls @ Mile Post 419 The name “Graveyard Fields” originates from a time when a great windstorm felled hundreds of spruce and fir trees in the area. The moss covered stumps resemble graves.

Skinny Dip Falls @ Mile Post 417  Skinny Dip Falls features a swimming hole at the bottom of the cascades. These falls lie along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Falling Water Cascades @ Mile Post 83 Near Peaks of Otter, the trail is lined with rhododendrons creating a beautiful hike setting.

Apple Orchard Falls @ Mile Post 78 These falls have a viewing platform directly underneath the falls creating a refreshing shower during the summer months.


Be mindful of your picnic supplies or may have an unexpected guest!

The Blue Ridge Parkway has something for everyone. Here at HeySmokies we love to pack a picnic basket and drive until we find a beautiful spot for lunch. Critters love your “pickanick” basket, so please be extra careful with your picnic supplies! Be mindful with your picnic basket or you may have some unexpected guests!

National Junior Ranger Day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on April 25


Junior Rangers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates National Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at Cades Cove Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Sugarlands Visitor Center.

This free event for kids and families includes special activities like ranger-guided walks, old-fashioned toy making, fun stuff at the blacksmith’s shop, and more! Learn all about the Park’s wildlife with hands-on activities with animal skins, bones and even scat!

Children ages 5-12 can become a Great Smoky Mountains National Park Junior Ranger. Simply pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for $2.50 at any of the Park’s Visitor Centers or Cades Cove and Elkmont campgrounds. Complete all the activities in the booklet, stop by a Visitor Center and talk to a Ranger to receive your very own Junior Ranger badge!

Be sure to take advantage of the fun and informative Ranger-led programs offered by the National Park Service this season. Click here for a complete schedule of programs.

find-your-park-heysmokiesIn related news, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently launched Find Your Park, a public awareness and education campaign to set the stage for the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. Find Your Park encourages the public to get out and really experience  our national parks so that they are not only seen as a destination, but a state of mind, a special feeling to bring about a sense of American pride in our nation’s exquisite natural and cultural gems of the National Park system.

Find Your Park is also the theme for this year’s National Park Week, April 18 – 26.

“National Park Week is a time for visitors, of all ages, to get out and experience their national parks, especially the Great Smoky Mountains,” says Superintendent Cassius Cash, “I hope during National Park Week and over the next year as we celebrate the National Park Service’s second century, everyone will take the opportunity to Find Your Park.”