Great Smokey Mountains Trip

Old Apr 1st, 2022, 06:08 AM
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I will tell you that even staying in Cherokee is less touristy than Gatlinburg and has good access to the Park.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 06:59 AM
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Well, we tried. I will be interested in the trip report.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 07:15 AM
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Though we only lived in Knoxville from 2019-2021 we spent nearly every day of every weekend exploring, and so with that caveat I'll share some thoughts and recommendations.

Skip Gatlinburg. Really. Parking and traffic are dispiriting; the "downtown" is small and always crowded with people; and the shops are average at best. Pigeon Forge is "arcadesville." The Old Mill area is probably the nicest part for walking about; within the area is the Old Forge Distillery (moonshine tasting) and a terrible winery along with a couple of pottery shops. The Old Mill Restaurant does not accept reservations, if you don’t like to queue for your food.

I'm torn on Dollywood. We are two 50-something empty nesters and bought a 2021 season-pass for the park, when attendance was strictly limited owing to the pandemic. We went for the crafts and the scenery, not so much the rides; and the capacity reduction made the park enjoyable. The capacity restrictions have been lifted, so your experience may be different.

Consider time for the Cades Cove Driving Loop. Two things to keep in mind if you do go, though:

1. Go EARLY. As in, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before it opens as the loop will close when vehicle capacity is reached. There is a lot of history to see and explore, along with wandering and hiking trails; and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Black Bears.

2. Pack a lunch/snacks. There is no food offering in the park, and there is a Visitors Center at the half-way with restrooms. At the end of the loop (it’s one-way) there is a picnic area along Anthony Creek that is nice.


Not too far from your resort is Local Goat, one of the few restaurants in the area that accepts reservations for lunch and dinner. Everything at Local Goat is delicious.

In Townsend, make time to explore the tiny railroad museum that tells the logging history of the area. A casual place to eat is The Abbey, that sits along the Little River; even more casual is the Riverstone Family Restaurant. I’ve only had the Fried Bologna sandwich and the Fried Pickles (on separate occasions), just to give you an idea of the menu. Upscale dining (reservations essential) would be at Dancing Bear.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is well done; nearby is a little roadside diner, BJ's, with burgers, onion rings and all sorts of heart-stopping goodies.

Hope this is helpful.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by WarrenWST
Well, that was quite a description. Thank you for sharing. After review and review and review we did finally get the hint of touristy. That is not what we wanted or expected on our travel to the Great Smokies.
BRP to the Westgate Great Smokie Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg -(3 nights) - this seemed like the place that although expensive gave us some seclusion from the downtown tourist traps and within driving distance to downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for a walk through and maybe dinner. Also is in close proximity to the National Park.I wanted something that wasn't in the middle of arcadesville!
Maybe Gatlinburg will work out for you, though I think you're in for a rude awakening.
You state that a touristy area is "not what we wanted or expected", yet that is exactly what you will get.
With the trip taking place in July/August (peak tourist season), the hoards of people there will ensure traffic gridlock between Pigeon Forge and the park entrance.
I think you'll regret wasting 3 days there unless you really enjoy Disney-like crowds while exploring hundreds of T-shirt shops and dumb attractions.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2022, 03:30 PM
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Hi again! I think we are all going to be happy once we make our final plans, go, and give you the feedback upon return. This is the good thing about reservations that allow cancellations since as we hear the feedback we rethink our choices. We are good and comfortable with our flight decisions and stays in Blowing Rock and Asheville. Our main purpose of coming is to enjoy the BRP and the Great Smokies. We love to hike and do our best to visit at least one National Park each year. We'll check out places to stay in Cherokee, Bryson City, and Townsend. I just thought it may be nice to stay in Tennessee. I thought we nailed it with the Westgate Resort since it gave us what we wanted, i.e., some seclusion from being on a main drag and an outdoor pool. May still be the right place to stay for the 3 nights since it is close to the park. I'll keep looking just in case.
Thank you all so much. W
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Old Apr 3rd, 2022, 01:46 AM
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At the risk of beating the dead haorse I'll offer you this map which shows how the part of the park with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is filled iwth ziplines itc. Cherokee is literally ON th border of the Park in the southern part with access to trailheads and Mt. Leconte, etc. Bryson City is the same.
When I have driven on I40 past the road that accesses the Park and Pigeon Forge the traffic is often backed up on the shoulder of the interstate.

Cherokee is a casino town now--but still very small. But that has brought good hotels. Bryson City also sits on the very edge of the Park. These are not great distances and the road traffic from south to north into the Park is not as congested as from the north to the south. Nantahala is also accessible from this side and the wild river.
You also mentioned price of the resort you chose.
So I honestly hope you have a wonderful time in a wonderful park and I will be quiet. Look closely at the map for trailheads (certainly not all of them) and the other "attractions (water park, zip line, fudge factory) not necessarily the hotels.

https://www.momondo.com/horizon/sem/...app=true&kw=-1
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 04:11 AM
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Thank you Gretchen! I'll be sure to send out the report after the wonderful vacation!
W
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 11:02 AM
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With the exception of a certain comment or two, what everyone is telling you, from their experience, is that Gatlinburg is NOT where you want to stay given your preferred activities. DH and I hike nearly every weekend and we would never choose Gatlinburg as a central location for the GSMNP. Choose Bryson City on the NC side, or Townsend on the TN side, but just don't choose Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. Especially in the summer.
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Old Jul 26th, 2022, 05:33 PM
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Hi everybody. As promised I wanted to provide a summary of our trip. We just got back on Sunday, July 24th. In short, it was wonderful!! We love the outdoors and visiting new places. Only one mishap which I will describe later.

The long of it is: We flew in and out of Charlotte, NC because we wanted direct flights by Delta. Both flights were roughly on time and pleasant for the most part.

We drove to Blowing Rock and stayed at the Chetola resort. A beautiful resort and town. For the first night we ate at their restaurant the Timberlake and had some great draft craft beer and burgers! The second day we went on several great hikes and then ate at the Speckled Trout where I had blackened trout. Highly recommend this place.

The next day we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville and it was as wonderful as expected. We stopped along the way and did another hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We stayed three nights at the Residences at Biltmore. Beautiful condo but with the overall service and location i would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Several times I had to walk back to our room and call the front desk and let them know that there were no towels at the pool. Asheville was very nice! Went to Biltmore Village. That was amazing. Enjoyed the wine tasting that was included in the admission. Had dinner at the Cantina in Biltmore Village, Wicked Weed brewery and played darts and had Pizza at Barley's Tap Room for the last night. All were excellent choices.

Day 6 we drove the Blue Ridge to Newfound Gap Road. Went to Clingmans Dome and then the Roaring Fork Nature Tail. Stayed at the Risverstone Lodge in Townsend. Great choice. Next day visited Cades Cove twice and hiked the Abhrams Falls. Had my best ribs ever at the Chapel in Tennessee. Had outdoor seating right on the river.

On day 7 we drove to Charlotte and stayed at the DoubelTree Southpark. This was the nicest of all. Beautiful pool and in a beautiful location. Had dinner at Magianos. Yes, I know it is a chain but we were up for Italian food and had a great time.

Overall it was amazing. The only question I have is whether we should have stayed in Townsend for 3 nights and Asheville 2. Townsend was absolutely the right choice for us where we did get to drive through both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge which are ideal if you have young children. But we are past that so fighting that traffic is not a consideration.

As far as the mishap, on day 1 driving from Charlotte airport to Blowing Rock I was stopped for speeding. I honestly don't recall driving as fast as the office said but there is no complaining and he didn't give me a break to the tune of a $221 speeding ticket for going 15 mph over the speed limit (so he claimed).

But anyway, overall, as mentioned the trip was wonderful and special thanks to all.

W
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Old Jul 29th, 2022, 09:13 AM
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thanks for the report, sounds like you had a good time.

They have electronic devices that record speed pretty well. Everyone claims they weren't going what they said and never recalls it, which doesn't mean anything as most people speed all the time so don't remember it as anything unusual. Not sure if you get a higher fine for 15 versus 10 miles, otherwise it wouldn't matter. If you were driving 85 on the interstate (where the limit is 70), that's pretty bad. Of course 70 on I77 in urban area where the limit is 55 is pretty bad also but a lot of people drive 70 where it is 55 where I live.
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Old Jul 29th, 2022, 10:48 AM
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WarrenWST— I only visited the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville for the first time last year but was similarly pleased; the scenery is quite remarkable. Glad to see others discovering the beauty of that part of the world! Thanks for your trip report and also for giving ideas by mentioning places in the region that appealed to you that I’d never heard of before (Townsend, to name one). Best wishes, Daniel
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Old Jul 29th, 2022, 05:36 PM
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As far as the mishap, on day 1 driving from Charlotte airport to Blowing Rock I was stopped for speeding. I honestly don't recall driving as fast as the office said but there is no complaining and he didn't give me a break to the tune of a $221 speeding ticket for going 15 mph over the speed limit (so he claimed).

Oh yes, 15 over the speed limit IS a big deal . And it is easy to do in today's cars on today's roads and with tody'a traffic. I put my cruise control (after sveral blue ight specials in my rear view mirror!) at about 7 mile over the speed limit. Works out OK. And I will say in NC and SC there are certain roads you KNOW not to speed on even if the road is SO open (seeming)!!
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Old Jul 30th, 2022, 05:24 AM
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Hi. As far as the speeding, I agree with all. I assume I was but honestly it caught me by surprise. Oh well, another life's lesson. The one good thing about it was I didn't speed from that time on and that just gave us more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Yes, it is absolutely a beautiful part of the country. So glad we did it. It has been on my list for quite some time. Would love to revisit if time permits! So many other places on the list. We are off to Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle end of August and then hopefully Tucson in late October.

Thanks again all, you were all special in contributing to our plans!

W
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