Archive for the 'Hikes & Walks' Category
It costs nothing to visit the 200-foot high Mingo Falls. But after you’ve climbed the 161 rough-hewn steps from the parking lot, you may feel that your legs have paid a price for admission. Yet that’s a small price to pay for one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Smokies. At the top of the stairway a short path leads to a bridge at the base of the falls, a safe place to stand and enjoy the view.
Mingo Falls is on the Cherokee Indian Reservation just off Big Cove Road. From the Saunooke Village shopping area in downtown Cherokee, drive north on Big Cove approximately 5 miles (past the KOA Campground) to the Mingo Falls parking lot. It will be on your right, across a bridge next to the Mingo Falls Campground.
On his website, NCWaterfalls.com, photographer Rich Stevenson says the above photo was shot following a heavy rain… a time when all waterfalls are at their very best. It’s a beautiful photo, Rich. Thanks for sharing it with us.
For more about waterfalls in the NC Smokies, visit this page on GreatSmokies.com
Clingmans Dome is not only the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s one of the Park’s most heavily-visited sites. To better accommodate Clingmans’ heavy traffic, the National Park Service recently made a number of upgrades to the mountaintop facilities.
The original comfort station, constructed more than 60 years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corp, was renovated and converted into a seasonal information center (above). It also houses a bookstore/sales area managed by the non-profit Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), which funded the renovation project. At 6300 feet, it’s the highest elevation national park visitor center in the eastern U.S.
A new comfort station consists of three sets of vault toilets installed at the west end of the parking area designed to accommodate all visitors, including those with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Now that it’s too cold to swim or go tubing in Deep Creek, that’s no reason to stay away. The area’s three sparkling waterfalls are a treat any time of the year, and you can see them all in an hour’s walk from the trailhead parking lot. Because they’re on the main trail, Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls are the most-visited. But if you follow the short quarter-mile uphill trail to Juneywhank Falls, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful 80-foot cascade, a quiet out-of-the-way spot that has inspired numerous wedding proposals.
Deep Creek is one of the most accessible areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just two miles north of Bryson City. For more information on these and other area waterfalls, visit the Bryson City online visitors guide, GreatSmokies.com. Download a printable PDF map of Deep Creek’s trails and waterfalls.
While their horses enjoy the cool water, these riders drink in the beauty of Fontana Lake and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 800 miles of trails, and most are open to horseback riding. Water features — streams, cascades, waterfalls — are plentiful, including the massive Fontana Lake with its more than 240 miles of shoreline.
Photo courtesy of James Clark, Deep Creek Boarding Stables
This week’s Postcard from the Smokies begins our fourth year of publishing these weekly highlights of living and playing in the Smokies. If you’re a relatively new reader, we invite you to browse through earlier postcards here.
Chip Penlan, a hiker from Memphis, stops to admire the view from the heights of the Appalachian Trail. In March, he and fellow hiker Tyler Stanley trekked over 50 miles from Deep Gap, at the GA-NC state line, to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. While some dedicated “thru hikers” attempt to cover all 2181 miles of the AT in the same year, Chip and Tyler are like most, chipping away at the trail in more manageable segments over time.
Stretching from Springer Mountain in North Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the trail passes through 14 states. North Carolina has 88 miles of AT not counting the more than 200 miles that follows along the Tennessee border. The trail runs for more than 71 miles through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, entering from the south at Fontana Dam and exiting in the north at Davenport Gap. The highest point anywhere along the trail is at Clingmans Dome (6625 ft.). The trail also passes by other notable landmarks in the Smoky Mountains such as Charlies Bunion, Rocky Top and the historic stone fire tower atop Mt. Cammerer.
Most people usually take seven days to hike the Smoky Mountains section. But it can be broken into two 3 to 4-day segments at the Newfound Gap or Clingmans Dome midpoint.
The AT is maintained by thirty different trail clubs and multiple partnerships. And it’s managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do cross towns, roads and rivers.
Photo by Tyler Stanley
Just below the third bridge on the Deep Creek Trail, little Hammer Branch bursts out of the thick Rhododendrons and tumbles into Deep Creek. Writer and Deep Creek historian Jim Casada tells us that this spot was once the home of Sam Hunnicutt, a legendary mountain sportsman and author of the extremely rare book, Twenty Years Hunting & Fishing in the Great Smokies. Casada added “You can still see the yellow bells (forsythia) blooming there about this time of year. Old Sam was a mighty bear hunter. He always wore high boots, thanks to having been snake bitten at some point in his life.”
Click here for a PDF map of Deep Creek’s trails and waterfalls.1 comment
A Saturday walk along the Deep Creek trail revealed an indisputable sign that Spring has arrived in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — a small cluster of Hepatica on a rocky ledge. Home to more than 1500 species of native plants, the Smokies provides an ever changing display of flowering plants throughout the Spring and Summer.
To learn more about Deep Creek and wildflowers in the Smokies, follow these links —
Any time of the year is a great time to visit Deep Creek’s three waterfalls, especially the largest – Indian Creek Falls (above). You can see them all in an hour’s walk from the trailhead parking lot at the Deep Creek Recreation Area.
Deep Creek is one of the most accessible areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just two miles north of Bryson City. For more information on these and other area waterfalls in the North Carolina Smokies, visit the Bryson City online travel guide, GreatSmokies.com. Download a printable PDF map of Deep Creek’s trails and waterfalls.
Burls are rounded outgrowths on a tree trunk or branch that are filled with small knots from dormant buds. They’re usually the result of some sort of stress but are generally not harmful to the tree.
James Clark, owner of the Deep Creek Boarding Stables, photographed this ‘smiling’ burl while riding his horse “Blackjack” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last summer. He was riding the Lakeshore trail along the north shore of Fontana Lake, and says this one is about the size of a soccer ball.
In her blog “Hiking in Stilettos”, Ashley Hamby recently chronicled an October weekend in Bryson City …making us appreciate the fact that she also hikes with camera. Her post included several nice images shot around Bryson City, including the one above.
Ashley says Bryson City is one of her favorite weekend getaways “especially since there is so much to do there.” About the photo, she said “We started on the Deep Creek Trail and hiked to Martin’s Gap trail, then down Sunkota Ridge back to Deep Creek for a total of 14 miles. This is where the waterfall and leaf pictures are from.”
A few hundred feet below Indian Creek Falls is a much smaller cascade where Indian Creek narrows to just three feet in width forcing the water to churn through the narrow opening between two boulders. The “baby’ falls can be viewed up close from a bridge on the Deep Creek Trail.
You can see Indian Creek Falls, Juneywhank Falls, Tom Branch Falls and the baby falls on a short walk through the Deep Creek recreational area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just two miles north of Bryson City. More about waterfalls in the North Carolina Smokies.
Photo by J.R. vanLienden
The two most popular vistas in the Great Smoky Mountains are at Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome, primarily because both are accessible by car …although there’s a fairly steep half-mile walk from the parking lot to the Clingmans Dome observation tower.
The spectacular view from atop Mt. LeConte requires considerably more effort. It can only be reached on foot, the most popular route being the rather strenuous 5.5 mile trek along the Alum Cave Trail. From the parking lot on US 441, hikers climb 2763 feet to reach the 6593 foot peak, averaging more than 500 feet elevation gain per mile. But the reward is the breathtaking view that Shari Jardina enjoys above.
Most make it a day hike — an 11-mile hike roundtrip. While there are overnight accommodations at the rustic LeConte Lodge, space is limited and in high demand. Reservations generally fill up months in advance.
Shari is an Indianapolis photographer who’s captured many images of the North Carolina Smokies. This one was made by her husband Eric.
Deep Creek offers a ‘perfect three’ waterfalls. And you can visit them all within an hour’s walk from the trailhead parking lot at the Deep Creek Recreation Area. Because they’re on the main trail, Tom Branch Falls (above) and Indian Creek Falls are the most-visited. But if you take the short side trail to Juneywhank Falls, you’ll be richly rewarded. And if you’re one of the many who enjoy tubing on Deep Creek, you’ll get an up-close view of Tom Branch Falls.
Deep Creek is one of the most accessible areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just two miles north of Bryson City. For more information on these and other area waterfalls, visit the Bryson City online visitors guide, GreatSmokies.com. Download a printable PDF map of Deep Creek’s trails and waterfalls.1 comment
Because they’re on the main trail, two of Deep Creek’s waterfalls — the Tom Branch and Indian Creek falls — are relatively easy to visit. But Juneywhank Falls requires a little more effort. And those that make the short quarter-mile uphill trek to the falls are rewarded with a beautiful 80-foot cascade. And if a brief rest is desired, there’s a wide foot bridge at the foot of the falls, with benches for sitting and viewing the show.
Photo by Shari Jardina, an Indianapolis photographer who’s captured many images of the North Carolina Smokies.
Shortly after Horace Kephart’s death in 1931, the newly-formed Horace Kephart Troop, Boy Scouts of America, placed a millstone marker on the site of the writer’s last permanent campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park above Bryson City. The plaque reads —
On this spot Horace Kephart – Dean of American Campers and one of the Principal Founders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – pitched his last permanent camp.
In his book, Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City author George Ellison wrote “… Kephart found refuge from summer visitors seeking him out by camping at the old Bryson Place, now a designated camping area in the national park, situated about 10 miles north of Bryson City alongside Deep Creek. He would sometimes go there for an entire summer, hauling in by wagon or on horseback the supplies and equipment he required, which included a small folding desk and writing materials.”
The marker’s location is generally described as “Campsite 57, at Bryson Place”, yet many hikers have tried unsuccessfully to locate the marker. But with a GPS it can be found at 35° 31.197′ N, 83° 25.182′.
On the Historical Marker Database website, W. Frank March of Sevierville, TN added the following assistance — “The memorial is located approximately 322′ SW (bearing 220 degrees) from the Martins Gap Trail sign. From the trail sign, go back down the trail toward Deep Creek campground approximately 150′, then go off the trail at an angle, to the right. The marker is below the trail, on the right.”
Horace Kephart is buried in the Bryson City Cemetery.
Photo by Sharon McCarthy, Smoky Scout
It’s no surprise that visitation to the Smokies rises and falls with the temperatures. Most people simply prefer the warmer months with the wealth of outdoor activities available from March thru October. But the hardy individuals that weather the cooler temperatures are treated to an entirely different and equally beautiful Smoky Mountains landscape. The colors are more subtle, even monochromatic. And with the leaves on the ground, they can see much deeper into the woods revealing a striking array of patterns and textures …like the crosshatch pattern of Poplar trees and shadows in this week’s Postcard.
When hiking deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the last thing you expect to find is a piece of office equipment. Yet that’s just what Sharon McCarthy discovered last Fall when she and fellow hiker Judy Gross reached the peak at High Rocks, high above the North Shore of Lake Fontana.
In her excellent “Smoky Scout” online hiking journal, Sharon explained, “High Rocks is the site of a long-removed fire tower, but the view is still there. The short trail up seemed endless as we fought our way through more blackberry brambles and overgrowth. We topped out at the rocky bluff upon which the tower once stood. The foundation and the caretaker’s cabin remain, although the cabin is extremely deteriorated and there are currently no plans to rehab it. Since I was here last year, someone has made a statement by placing a chair on top of the rocks, inviting valiant hikers to pause and enjoy.”
Photo by Judy Gross
From late March thru November, the remote and rustic LeConte Lodge is a busy place with the arrival of overnight guests. Most are hikers who have have completed the seven mile, 4000 foot trek on Trillium Gap trail to the top of Mt. LeConte (elevation 6593 ft.). Others will have taken the equally challenging Boulevard or Alum Cave trails. Needless to say, all are hungry and looking forward to the evening meal prepared by the Lodge’s cook Doug McFalls.
But in the off-season, when things are quiet at the lodge, Doug is still there in his role as winter caretaker …and the only person to witness the winter wonderland created by last week’s snowfall. On the morning of December 21 when he took this photo, the temperature was 12 degrees and the snowfall measured 32 inches.
While in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, LeConte Lodge is a privately-owned business. The Lodge is so popular that, when reservations are opened on October 1 each year, many of the bookings are immediately filled. For more information, visit their website.
For more of Doug’s photos, visit his solar-powered “Life on LeConte” blog.
Robin Fowler took this photo while hiking on the Kephart Prong trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and added the comment “This is one of the prettiest and most peaceful places I have ever been to in my life!”
The Kephart Prong Trail (‘prong’ means a bend in the river) is a four-mile hike (in and out) that crosses the Oconaluftee River six times, with narrow footbridges provided at each crossing. The trail itself is an old road-bed with broken and exposed pavement at the beginning of the trail and eventually leads to a backcountry shelter.
The trailhead is about seven miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on US 441. The hike is considered moderate with an elevation gain of 810 feet (2700 ft – 3510 ft).
As the colors change, everyone enjoys the grand panoramic vistas. Yet the most brilliant colors are often viewed up close, especially when the afternoon sun is backlighting the scene, as photographer J.R. vanLienden captured in this week’s Postcard From The Smokies.