For me, transitions in life always lead me back to nature. I am often reminded that the changing of the seasons in nature are like the transitions we all go through; we all know the joy of summer, the isolation of winter, the rebirth of spring and the harvest and colors of the fall. Nature shows that that everything has its time and that nothing lasts forever. Whenever I feel stressed in my life, I love to get back into nature. That’s one of the true joys of living in Colorado. Our gentle transition into the fall reminds me of one of my favorite places to visit this time of the year. That place is Gatlinburg, TN and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The quaint town of Gatlinburg, TN is a must to do anytime of the year but especially in the fall. The town’s year-round population is only approximately 4,000 but it’s filled in the summer and the fall with thousands of tourists because it stands at the gateway of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Gatlinburg is a town that is terrific for everyone, from families to nature lovers to honeymooners and destination weddings. There is so much do for anyone from the world class aquarium; Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to shopping in all of the unique shops along Gatinburg’s main street “Parkway”. In addition, there is the “Dollywood” theme park in the neighboring town of Pigeon Forge, dinner at the Dixie Stampede show, white water rafting, miniature golf and several wedding chapels to renew your vows or get married.
I’ve been going to Gatlinburg since I was 5 years old and whenever my wife Heidi and I have gone we always stay at one of the beautiful cabins that sit in the mountains above Gatlinburg. My favorite rental company is Chalet Village. They have nightly rentals from $80 - $700 a night. All of the cabins we have stayed in are high quality, wonderful places.
Sometimes in all the busyness of Gatlinburg it is hard to remember that a beautiful national park is only minutes away from downtown. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is always one of the top visited national parks in the country and one of the few that charges no daily entrance fee. The vastness of the park makes it hard to cover everything in one article but here are some of my favorite places:
Cades Cove – Is an 11 mile loop road that is only one way. If you don’t have time for anything else in the Smokies you should drive this loop. On busy days in the summer or fall it can take well over an hour to get through the entire loop but the beauty you will encounter makes it very much worth it. You will see lots of wildlife including white tailed deer, black bear and occasionally a turkey or coyote. There are original settler’s homes and farms to walk through and my favorite the hike out to Abrams Falls, a five mile out and back hike that brings you to a magnificent waterfall at the end.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail - This 5.5 mile one way loop starts right behind Gatlinburg’s main street. The trail is open from May 1st through November 30th and winds through lush forest with beautiful views of several small to midsized waterfalls that are so close you can almost reach out of your car to touch them.
Clingmans Dome – Is a great place to take in the beauty of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the observation tower reaches to the highest point in the Smoky Mountains (6,643ft). The half mile trail from the parking is fairly step and not an easy trek for everyone but the payoff at the top is incredible. On clear days you can see at least 100 miles all around you and begin to appreciate the beauty of the park below you.
Quiet Walkways – These small foot trails that dot the main roads in the park are often overlooked by the masses of people that visit. They can range anywhere from .25 – 2 miles and just bring you into nature. Many times there are streams near the pathways and you can enjoy the sound and beauty of the water as well as the lushness of the forest around you.
All in all, Gatlinburg and The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful place for anyone to visit. The beautiful colors of the fall make an even better option this time of the year. Hope you will check it out.