Our Smokey Mountains Vacation - Day Three, Part Two: Little River Road and the Gatlinburg Trail
This post is part of a travel series of our vacation in the Smokey Mountains. To start at the beginning, go HERE! The rest of the post in chronological order are HERE and HERE!
On our third day in the Smokey Mountains we got up super early to drive Cades Cove Loop Road. I had read how insanely busy this road is because it is one of the most popular attractions in the park, but because we arrived at the gate's entrance before it even opened, we had no issues whatsoever. By the time we finished the loop, we still had a lot of daytime left to explore more. We decided to then take another scenic drive, "Little River Road" and do a short hike. "Little River Road" is right on the way to Cades Cove Loop Road so you're gonna go through it one way or another, but it's nice to get out at one of the many scenic stops and look around.
Little River Road is a gentle, winding road between Gatlinburg and Townsend. It is aptly named because there is a beautiful river on the side of the road all along the way. The road spans 18 miles and includes overlooks, trailheads, picnic spots, campground access, and a waterfall that can be seen from the road (Meigs Falls). There are seven points of interest on this road, so keep an eye out for those sign posts:
Maloney Point – overlook
Laurel Falls – easy hiking trail to beautiful and very popular waterfall
We only stopped three times: at both waterfalls and at a river view (see video at end of post). We planned on hiking Laurel Falls but it was so crowded by the time we got there, we decided to save it for the next morning.
There are two notable waterfalls on "Little River Road": Meigs Falls (Stop 6) and The Sinks (Stop 5).
Because we were driving back to Gatlinburg from Cades Cove, we were taking our tour backwards and stopped at Meigs Falls first. This falls is right off the road so there is no hiking involved. Just pull your car over and enjoy!
This first photo shows the falls as if you were standing on the side of the road. It's far off in the distance, but still quite visible.
I zoomed in so you can see the falls closer.
I've also included a short video of this falls at the end of this post.
Our next stop is the main attraction of this road: The Sinks.
This waterfall has a small parking lot that is pretty tricky to get in and out of and unfortunately is always filled up with cars. Theres no where to park on the road, so you just have to wait for an empty spot to open up.
The Sinks formed where a beautiful mountain river makes an S-turn creating natural pools that are outlined on both sides by humongous river boulders (source).
Be sure to watch the short video of these falls that I included at the end of the post. I feel videos capture the moving water better than any photo can.
There is also another smaller waterfall on the other side of the bridge.
After driving in the car all day, with the exception of only short stops to get out and stretch our legs, we decided we were ready for some hiking. Like I said earlier in the post, the plan was to hike to Laurel Falls, but due to the crowds, we had to change plans. As we were driving back to our hotel, I saw a pretty bridge and a lovely trail alongside a river. I said to my husband "Let go over there! I want a picture on that bridge." So we parked our car at the hotel, then hiked 0.9 miles back to the trailhead.
The Gatlinburg Trail is the perfect trail for young families with strollers, the handicapped, the elderly, etc. for it is a flat, leisurely 1.9 mile trail (one way) that runs alongside Little Pigeon River. It starts at the edge of Gatlinburg, at the entrance to the park, and ends at the Sugarland Visitor Center.
This is such a peaceful, beautiful trail. The perfect trail for a leisurely evening walk. It is only one of two trails in the park where dogs and bicycles are permitted too. So if you bring a dog to the Smokies with you, this is the trail for you!
While walking on this trail, we saw so many young families enjoying the shallow water for a swim. This is the pretty pedestrian footbridge I saw from the car. The trail also features foundations and chimneys of old homesites. We only walked as far as the footbridge and turned around as we had to walk to the trailhead from our hotel, which already added 0.9 miles.
But I got my picture of me on the bridge, which is all I really wanted, so I was happy and content!
And the view of Little Pigeon River as seen from the bridge.
Every day we were in the Smokies we ate breakfast in our room. We would have loved to have gone out to breakfast every morning, but they always opened up too late for us. There is a Walgreens right on the main drag of Gatlinburg that was within walking distance from our hotel. They had bagels, cream cheese, yogurts, fruit, etc. so we just bought a bunch of breakfast items and kept them in our hotel refrigerator for the week.
For lunch, we just had snack foods like power bars, nuts, granola, fruit, etc.
Because we could not stand the crowds, we always finished early in the day and were back at our hotel between 1:00-3:00 pm. The first thing we did was change and enjoy the pool and hot tub. After a refreshing soak we then went out and enjoyed an early dinner around 4:00 or 5:00 pm.
Our two favorite restaurants in Gatlinburg were Mellow Mushroom and Bones BBQ Joint. They are both very casual dining places as we are not ones for fancy restaurants.
I know Mellow Mushroom is a chain, but we don't have these restaurants in Wisconsin so when we see one when we travel we always get super excited! Every time we go to Mellow Mushroom we order the same thing: a Greek Salad and a Great White Pizza! Both items are absolutely AMAZING!
Bones BBQ gives you a lot of bang for your buck! The prices are so reasonable and we loved the outside dining option. It was the closest restaurant to our hotel too, so that made it very convenient.
Now I don't normally post pictures of myself in a swimming suit, but I really wanted you to see photos of our hotel pool because it was so cool! Our hotel was nothing really special, we only picked it for the pool. Most of the hotels in the area only had outdoor pools, and we really wanted a hotel with an inside pool because we knew we would be there when the weather was still cool and the outdoor pools wouldn't be open yet. I was so happy I did this, because we enjoyed this pool and hot tub every single day! It was so refreshing to soothe our aching muscles in the hot tub after hiking all day!
My favorite part about this pool was the natural sunlight. They had skylights all above the pool area and I could literally lay in the sun INDOORS! I loved it! For those interested, we stayed at the Glenstone Lodge.
And now, as promised, here are some short videos of the three stops on Little River Road.
Another great day! That does look like a lovely pool area and I had no idea it was an indoor pool. I love a great indoor pool that is light and feels like it could be outside.ReplyDelete
I know, right? It was such a great pool for a budget hotel.Delete
Wow, the hike looks so very stunning and beautiful and the food looks great. The hotel looks like a wonderful place to stay. Very nice.ReplyDelete
Thank you. The hotel had a great pool, lobby, and they were renovating their dining area when we were there, so we couldn't use it, but it looked like it was going to be awesome. However, the rooms were just so-so. But that's ok with us. We appreciated the value and normally when we travel we don't spend much time in our room because we're running around sight seeing, so we don't mind.Delete
Love the pool area of the hotel, I was going to ask which hotel you stayed at, in case we ever plan a vacation there. Thanks for sharing the info!ReplyDelete
The mountain rivers and waterfalls look so nice and peaceful! These are all such pretty pictures! And the food looks delicious!!
It would be a great vacation for you because it's not a long drive from where you live. It's also so family friendly and there's so much to do there with kids.Delete
That pool was inside?? How cool is that? And I love that there are waterfalls...to me that seems so special. (both in the pool and on your hike)ReplyDelete
Yes, it was inside! We were so grateful to have a hotel with an indoor pool, especially after a long day of hiking.Delete
What a fabulous getaway! I felt so relaxed going through your hiking photos. I love watching and listening to waterfalls so naturally I was attracted to those. My son isn't quite up to par with walking too much but I am hopeful this summer we can find a hiking trail that he wouldn't be opposed to. I also agree with visiting restaurants that isn't near us. I love food so I just get excited about eating out regardless! Btw, thanks for your note regarding my website. I don't know why you are getting an error but I have been looking at it. So far nothing indicates any malfunction aside from perhaps my SSL certificate isn't up to date. Anyway, I appreciate the heads up. I hope you are doing well and happy Wednesday!ReplyDelete
Maureen | www.littlemisscasual.com
Thanks Maureen. That's funny that you mention your son not liking to walk. We saw a lot of kids on the trails and many were giving their parents grief about not wanting to hike anymore (and lots of kids were total troopers too, and I was impressed with them). However, I felt most of the trails in the park (at least the ones we did) were quite difficult. But I'm sure your son would love the Gatlinburg Trail, especially if he could bike it.Delete
These are such lovely sights - and it's nice you got that pretty photo on the bridge you wanted! :) While we haven't yet travelled anywhere to hike we have been exploring some local trails around us more - as often as my injured knee will allow! The kids love it, they get to explore and run around and get some energy out and we get a nice relaxing stroll each week :)ReplyDelete
Hope you are having a great weekend :)
Away From The Blue
Yes, they are. I hope your knee feels better soon so you can hike more.Delete
Wow, there is so much to see there, your photos are great! I could more appreciate the trails in my younger days.ReplyDelete
So happy to see your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!
I've never been to the smokey mountain's and it looks beautiful! The indoor pool at your hotel looks amazing too! I always get bummed out when it's too cold for an outdoor pool.ReplyDelete
Jill - Doused in Pink
Yes, I never understand why most hotels only have outdoor pools as even in the warmest of climates it is not always warm enough to swim outside.Delete
Looks like you had a wonderful time. We ate at a Mellow Mushroom once, they don't have them around us either.ReplyDelete
Yes we did. Thank you.Delete
Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.ReplyDelete
It is. Road trips are our preferred way to travel. You see so much more that way.Delete
Yum! Hiking and food (or drinks) are old friends.ReplyDelete
Looks like you all had a great time! Did you run into any bears on those trails? We have while there. They scurried off though. Thanks so much for linking up with me at the Unlimited Link Party 27. Pinned!ReplyDelete
Yes, we did. Thankfully we did not see any bears, of which I was very grateful.Delete
Amy, I have really enjoyed your series of posts about your Smoky Mountain trip. We don't have Mellow Mushroom here in northern New York either but I have gotten every time that I have visited North Carolina and it is sooooo good!ReplyDelete
Thank you, and it is so good to hear of another Mellow Mushroom fan!Delete