Filed under: Amusement & Theme Parks, Family Weekend Trips, Historic Places & Landmarks, Kid-Friendly Trips, Kid-Friendly Trips, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, State & National Parks
Pigeon Forge, TN & the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…
This spring we were able to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in the southeast corner of Tennessee and the northwest corner of North Carolina, the park encompasses over 500,000 acres, and is the most visited National Park in the nation.
Because of road closures and time constraints, we were only able to visit the northern part of the park (at the time, the main N/S road through the park was closed to thru traffic due to a landslide; it has since been re-opened). Our first stop was to the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center located south of Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, TN. The Sugarland v.c. has a nice gift shop, and a museum that features the area’s flora and fauna. We loved to be able to check out the local wildflowers in the museum since they weren’t quite out yet in the park (but would be now! :) ). In the gift shop, we bought the kids their Jr. Ranger booklets (6 x $2.50ea.), then it was off for a drive through this incredibly beautiful park!
The park has tons of gorgeous waterfalls, just off the road, and many of them had parking areas near them so visitors could get out and explore. We checked out the park campground that is located closest to Sugarlands, and found a few spots that we could fit in (we pull a 42 ft toy hauler). There is a lovely river that winds through the park, and some of the camping sites are on the river bank. We talked about whether to pull the toy hauler in that same day, but decided that since we already had plans for the next day, a relaxing camping trip to SMNP would have to wait until next year. :( (but since it might not have to wait until next year for you, I’m telling you now ;) ).
There are a lot of different things to do, and places to visit in the Great Smokey Mountains! The park has an old mill that we visited. Called Cade’s Mill, it had other buildings to explore, the mill is a working water wheel mill where the park grinds corn or wheat, and there is a small store there. When we were there, a volunteer had a touch table out that was full of pelts from animals that frequent the park, and the kids could handle them and asked the volunteer questions about the animals. At the Cade’s Mill location, during the summer months, there is a working blacksmith shop too!
The park is home to many animals; the bigger specimens that we saw were deer and turkeys. And the park is a lovely place to just take a scenic drive; though I would not particularly want to take a big rig through it.
After our day in Great Smoky Mountains N.P., we drove back through Gatlinburg and into Pigeon Forge where we were staying. We only had a couple of days to visit the area before moving on, but we did find 2 other gems to see in the area. The first was the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge (which was a fabulous museum!), and the other was the Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Smoky Mountain Knife Works was such a neat shop that hubby and 5 of our boys spent an entire afternoon there, and called it, “The Cabela’s of knife stores!” LOL! The shop is a museum, taxidermy shop, and knife store all in one; ‘the world’s largest knife showcase’.
We loved this area of the US! There were so many things to see and do! We only had a few days there this spring, but really hope to get back when we have more time! All 3 of these great destinations are on our ‘do again!’ list!