Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scenic Drives in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over 800 square miles and there are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars.

To help you find your way around, inexpensive booklets are available at park visitor centers and online. Self-guiding tour booklets are also available from dispensers at the start of the roads they cover.
These booklets are keyed to numbered posts or landmarks and include information on park history, wildlife, and plants. Booklets are available for the following roads:
  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cataloochee Valley
  • Newfound Gap Road
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Upper Tremont Road
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, so it is important to note the best times to beat the crowds. Times when visitation is highest are July 1-August 15 and the month of October (especially October weekends). During these times, traffic may become congested, especially on the Newfound Gap and Cades Cove Loop roads. Anytime you want to escape the crowds, try one of these alternatives:
  • Foothills Parkway East or West
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Balsam Mountain
  • Rich Mountain Road
In summer, you can also avoid the crowds by traveling before 10:00 a.m. in the morning or after 5:00 p.m. in the evening. During October, traffic is heaviest during the afternoons and evenings.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Devil's Courthouse Is A Spectacular Hike

The Devil’s Courthouse, at milepost 422.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, presides over some of the most spectacular views in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Devil’s Courthouse has a short but strenuous trail climbing a half mile to its peak where panoramic views can be seen. The mostly paved trail starts from the overlook beside the mountain. From the top of Devil’s Courthouse at 5,720 feet, visitors can see into South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee in a 360-degree panorama. The view from the top is spectacular. It's a great place to watch the sunset.

Devil’s Courthouse may have received its name because of the sinister aspect of the rock formation, or because, as legend holds, the devil held court in the cave that lies beneath the rock. In Cherokee lore, this cave is the private dancing chamber and dwelling place of the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla.

This rugged mountaintop is home to a variety of rare and exotic plants, such as Spreading Avens and Rock Gnome Lichen. To help protect these delicate plants always stay on the trail when hiking the steep half-mile route to the bare rock summit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Clingmans Dome a Must-See in the Smokies

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.

Temperatures here can be 10 -20 degrees cooler than in the surrounding lowlands, and clouds and precipitation are to be expected. Dress in layers and be sure to bring a jacket, even in summer.
Clingmans Dome is a popular area for photographers and mountain view enthusiasts. When the weather is relatively clear, you will find photographers lined up for the perfect shot at sunset.

Directions: From Cherokee, NC, proceed on Newfound Gap Road and turn off onto Clingmans Dome Road near Newfound Gap. follow Clingmans Dome Road to the large parking area at the end. It’s seven miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road and there are scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way. Total mileage to Clingmans Dome from Cherokee is 25.

Although Clingmans Dome is open year-round, the road leading to it is closed from December 1 through March 31, and whenever weather conditions require.