Sightseeing in the Smokies -- fun for the whole family!
Never let it be said that visitors were at a loss for things to see in Gatlinburg. In fact, that could be the reason people come back year after year to our city; there's so much to see one visit is not enough.
If you need a quick guide to some of the ‘must see’ places in the area, take a look at this checklist we've put together. While we'll let you discover the shops and attractions, we'll focus on a few of the natural wonders. Start your sightseeing trip with this list and you'll get a great cross-section of the natural wonders in the Gatlinburg area:
1) Cades Cove Historic Homesteads: Driving, biking or walking through Cades Cove puts you in touch with the past. The history here reaches back before recorded time. It begins over 200 million years ago, when the North American and African tectonic plates crashed together and their force created the mountains.
The Cades Cove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can see dozens of buildings erected by some of the first settlers in the area. Several of them, like the Cades Cove Cable Mill, let you imagine what life must have been like in the 1800s. In the mid-1800s nearly 700 settlers lived and worked in Cades Cove. As you traverse this 6800 acre natural wonder, watch for cabins, granaries and smokehouses. See quaint churches, barns and forges.
While you admire the old settlements you'll be surrounded by wildlife. Cades Cove is the nesting place for hundreds of bird species. From butterflies to 9 point bucks, visitors to the area always find unique creatures to watch and photograph. Bears, ducks, bald eagles and many more creatures populate the thousands of acres within the valley. The diversity of wildlife never ceases to amaze. More than two million visitors a year visit Cades Cove, it's *the* 'must see' for your trip.
2) Newfound Gap Road
See the Smokies on the most popular drive in the area.
Driving the Newfound Gap Road is magical any time of day. Many visitors like to visit this area in the early morning to view the mists as they float and hover over the valley. There are numerous places to park and get out and hike. Talk about being one with nature -- That phrase must have originated with visitors traversing the Newfound Gap Road. Picnickers, newlyweds and people who just want a place to admire spring wildflowers and evergreen woodlands away from the hustle and bustle are all frequent visitors on the Newfound Gap Road.
The views on this scenic drive are spectacular in every season. The crest of the road reaches 5,000 feet. The road is known for its vibrant fall foliage, waterfall views and for bear and elk sightings. Some people have enjoyed taking their motorcycles on this beautiful drive.
3) Mt. LeConte
While many of the most enjoyable sightseeing roads are perfect for a drive, hikers will appreciate the sunrises and sunsets at Mt. LeConte. Make a day trip here and be rewarded with incredible views all the way to the top at 6,600 feet. Four main trails can lead you to the summit. The Trillium Gap Trail comes from the north, from the south you can traverse the Alum Cave Bluff trail, coming from the east you can take the Boulevard trail and from the west you can hike the Bull Head Trail.
There are a number of fun stopping points along the way. See Alum Cave, Arch Rock and a wild turkey or two! Many hikers report that the climb can be somewhat strenuous, taking anywhere from 3-5 hours. People are encouraged to take their time, hike at their own pace, and bring along water and food.
There are cabin rentals in the Mt. LeConte area that are a great reward for hikers who have spent the day on the trails and want to luxuriate in a hot tub at night as they view the lights below in Gatlinburg. It's recommended that you make reservations if you would like to stay in one of these cabins as they do fill up fast.
4) Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Make a trip to Roaring Fork your new family tradition.
Find a haven of mountain streams only a mile from Gatlinburg. This is one of the natural wonders that brings visitors back to Gatlinburg every year. Either sit along a stream or enjoy a pleasant hike to a waterfall; you decide how you want to enjoy this popular setting that is not only easy to get to, but offers so many beautiful experiences -- visitors of all ages rave about it.
This pleasant 8 mile loop offers an easy one way course through some of the most beautiful country in our area. See gorgeous mountain views and enough wildlife to keep you snapping pictures! Kids love this area as there are many opportunities to view wildlife. Bears and wild turkeys are frequently seen here.
Get out and walk the many trails and immerse yourself in the forests, gaze at the waterfalls and show children historic buildings so they can see how life used to be. Any time of year is a great time to visit Roaring Fork. Many visitors return later in the year to enjoy the fall foliage. While there is no charge to visit this area there are some donation boxes along the way for those who wish to leave a donation.