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Trip Report Cherokee, Bryson City and the Smoky Mountains

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Needing to see some spring flowers and warmer weather, we headed to North Carolina last week to check out Bryson City, Cherokee and do some hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Cherokee since it seemed to be a central point between the park and Bryson City. Although Cherokee is more of a touristy type town, it's nothing like Gatlinburg. It was much more laid back and didn't have all the "chain" attractions, but did have lots of Native American souvenir shops. Probably the biggest attraction in Cherokee is Harrah's Casino. We are not gamblers and had no intentions of visiting the casino until we were told it's the only place in town that serves alcohol. (nothing like a cold beer after a day of hiking!) The casino is huge and even though smoking is allowed in the casino, they must have an amazing ventilation system since I could barely pick up the odor of smoke.

Bryson City is much smaller and has a lot more ambiance. We visited Nantahala Brewing Company to try out some local craft beer. They have a large bar and some tables inside and a deck outside. Beer was great, especially the nitro porter, but only complaint is they don't serve food. So, based on some local recommendations, we headed to Cork and Bean, which from the outside looks like it's just a coffee house, but there is a separate room for dining. The food was outstanding!

While in the Smokies, we visited the Mingus Creek Mill which is still a working mill and where they make their own corn meal which is available for purchase. The Mountain Farm Museum located just behind the Oconaluftee Visitor's Center is great place to have a picnic or take kids so they can run around and visit all the historic structures.

We saw lots of spring flowers along the hiking trails in the Smokies, especially a lot of white trillium. In the lower elevations the trees were all starting to bloom and fill out. It was great to see so many signs of spring! We had a spectacular hike on Saturday to Andrew's Bald which starts at the Clingman's Dome parking area. It's a short hike of less than 4 miles, but you hike down to the bald, which means hiking back up!. The weather was sunny and warm and there was practically no wind and the views were amazing. This is definitely one of my favorite hikes in the Smokies:

http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/andrewsbald.htm

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