Pigeon Forge Cabins, Tennessee
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Great Smoky Mountain Driving Tour (con'd)
After the Chimney Tops trailhead, there are several pullouts to view the cool
and inviting Little Pigeon River. Here you find northern hardwood forest land,
and also you will discover opportunities to see the purple-flowered Catawba
rhododendron that bloom in mid-June and the Rosebay rhododendron in the busiest
At the 9-mile point from your Smoky Mountain cabin base, you will find the Alum
Cave Bluffs trailhead-a very challenging hike. You will climb approximately 2.4
miles to the bluff cave where you can pause to catch your breath and enjoy the
scintillating view, then continue on another 2.6 miles to the aforementioned
Mt. LeConte Lodge (reservations are required and they are usually booked a year
or more in advance). Remember to book your Smoky Mountain cabin before arrival.
The Appalachian Trail (AT) lies just beyond and above the LeConte Lodge. If you
don’t have reservations here during your current trip, it is worth the
trouble and wait to stay at the lodge.
Not far beyond the Morton Overlook, you come to Newfound Gap, where you will
find yourself at 5,048 feet and from here you can enjoy the views of both the
Tennessee and North Carolina sides of this high ridge. The ridge also represents
the entire 69 miles of the AT in the National Park.
At Newfound Gap, the Rockefeller Memorial sits at the end of the parking area,
which lies half in NC and half in NC. It memorializes the efforts and $5 million
donated by the Rockefeller family to ensure the establishment the the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park- (GSMNP) which was dedicated on this spot in 1940 by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Just past the memorial and parking area, you will approach the turn towards Clingmans
DomeRoad (which is closed November through April due to winter hazards), which
takes you to the Clingmans Dome. The dome is the highest point in the GSMNP and
Tennessee. On a clear day—if you are lucky enough to time it--you can see
parts of 7 states. From here, hike the 4.1 round-trip to Andrew's Bald—it’s
worth it. The grassy balds found here are believed to have been caused by lightning
fires, but have since been maintained in this condition by the Park Service.
Gorgeous stands of rhododendron can be viewed here in June. Smoky Mountain attractions.
From Clingmans Dome, turn right on Newfound Gap Road toward Cherokee North Carolina,
and you will come to the Oconoluftee Valley Overlook, providing a look into North
Carolina spectacular views of the Oconoluftee River Valley where it falls away
to your destination--Cherokee, North Carolina.
Continuing on, you will approach the 18.5 mile point and one of the most interesting
walkways in North Carolina. Shortly after entering the walkway, the trail splits.
The left fork parallels the Oconoluftee River, and the right fork traces the
trail of the old Newfound Gap Road. You can still see some of the crumbling pavement
from that time. The new road was built to Park Service standards in early 1964.
Then one-half mile further you will approach Smokemont Campground. This area
was once a lumber company town which sustained a church, school, store and several
boarding houses, but now contains 140 campsites. You can camp at Smokemont for
$11 per night with a 7-day maximum stay during season (May through October) and
reservations can be made in advance by calling 800-365-CAMP.
Just 2.7 miles further you'll come to Mingus Mill, a grist mill still in operation
from Spring through Fall, where you can purchase corn meal. Even 100 years later,
the millstone still turns from water funneled through the sluice and down over
Your final stop on this tour of Newfound Gap Road is the Oconoluftee Visitor
Center on your left. Here you will find a bookstore and exhibits (as at the Sugarland
Visitors Center near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge side of the Smoky Mountains).
An on-duty Park Ranger will be on-hand to provide information about opportunities
for your visit.
Smoky Mountains • Pigeon
Forge Cabin Rentals • Pigeon Forge TN
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Headquarters | 865-436-1200