Our Smokey Mountains Vacation - Day Four, Part One: Laurel Falls
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, HERE, and HERE!
On day three of our Smokey Mountain vacation we had planned on hiking the Laurel Falls Trail on our way back from Cades Cove, but it was so insanely busy, we skipped it and planned to hit it the first thing the following morning. As always, we awoke before dawn and we were only the second car in the trail parking lot. A photographer beat us. It was so nice to have the trail mostly to ourselves. We got beautiful tourist-free photos of the falls!
Laurel Falls Trail is popular not only because of the beautiful falls, but because it is short and paved. There are signs everywhere warning you not to bring a stroller on the trail, wheelchairs, etc., but the day before we saw lots of people with strollers. I think it's perfectly fine. I think the concern is that it is a steep trail and if you're not holding tight to the stroller, you could easily lose control. Also, at the end of the trail, near the falls, the nice pavement ends and it gets slightly rocky. But if I was a young mum, I would still bring a stroller on this trail.
One of the best things about getting up and at it so early in the morning, other than having some privacy on the trails, is that you always get to see a beautiful sunrise!
This trail is short, only 2.6 miles round trip, but it is all uphill on the way to the falls, so it is rated moderate in difficulty.
I didn't mind the constant uphill climb because I had such beautiful views to look at. Laurel Falls is a beautiful trail to hike even without the falls, because the views are so spectacular.
Laurel Falls is named for the mountain laurel which is an evergreen shrub that blooms along the trail and at the falls in May. We were there the first of week of April so we must have just missed the blooms.
Hubby found an interesting photo spot along the trail. There was water coming out of this rocky area.
We did have a chuckle at the "Danger" signage. My husband and I are avid hikers and we have been on some seriously dangerous trails in our adventures, and this was not one trail I would consider dangerous. However, Smokey Mountain National Park is a park that really attracts a lot of families. We saw so many little kids on the trails, which we usually don't see when we travel, so maybe the signage was for them. It does say on the park website to "Closely supervise children at all times".
Although we never saw any mountain laurel blooming while we were there, we did see this pretty tree covered in white blooms behind me.
Laurel Falls for me was the prettiest waterfall in the park. It is 80 feet tall, and a unique aspect to this falls is that a bridge goes right through the center of it allowing you to get so close to the upper falls and then be above the second falls. I just loved it!
My husband hiked on a bit further past the end of the trail to get this picture. Here you can see both the upper and lower falls with the bridge in the center.
The hike back down the Laurel Falls Trail was spectacular, for now the sun had fully risen.
During the entire week we were in the Smokies we kept trying to stop at the Visitor's Center. It's usually a good idea to go to the Visitor Center the first day of your trip, but every time we tried it was so insanely busy we couldn't even get IN the parking lot. But now that we were out and about early, I thought, "Here's our chance! Let's stop at the Visitor Center!" And guess what? They were closed! They didn't open till 9:00 am. I tell you, I loved the Smokies but I was constantly frustrated. Every blog post or website you read says "Get up early to beat the crowds!" but then it seemed nothing opened early enough to beat the crowds! Most restaurants in town didn't serve breakfast until 8:00, only two restaurants opened at 7:00. We would have needed to eat by 6:00 am at the latest to hit the trails on time, so we ended up having breakfast in our room every day. Cades Cove Loop has a gate that doesn't open until 8:00 am. It says open from "Sunrise to Sunset"on their website, but I think they have a different opinion of sunrise than I do because we were driving in the light long before we got there, and the gate was still closed when we arrived. Then, one scenic road, Roaring Forks Motor Road, was closed most of the week we were there, and didn't open up till the last day of our vacation. That was disappointing, because many of the popular trails are accessed from Roaring Forks Motor Road. I hate to sound like a whiner. It truly was a wonderful vacation and a blessing to be able to visit the Smokies, but because I am reviewing a travel destination I have to be honest, and my readers need to be prepared if they are planning a trip to the Smokies. My husband and I have been to many National Parks in our travels, and I felt of all the parks I've been too, the Smokey Mountain National Park has done the least to help with crowd control. I do realize, the Smokies is the most visited park in the nation, but that fact alone should encourage MORE things to be done for crowd control. Having Visitor Centers and restaurants open earlier would help immensely. Also, park shuttles from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to the park's most popular trails would clear up parking lot space. I also feel even more trails, especially more family-friendly trails, would be beneficial.
But enough preaching, while at the closed Visitor Center, hubby spotted this beautiful crabapple tree and wanted to take a picture. So here is the pretty tree with the outside of the Visitor Center in the background.
As always, I've included a short video of the waterfall. I think you can get a much better idea of the falls through a video than pictures. It's hard to capture the beauty of moving water through a photo.
There was still plenty of daylight left on Day Four, so we decided to hike one more trail, and it ended up being my absolute FAVORITE trail in the park! I can't wait to share that one with you, but you will have to come back next week to see which trail it was!
The waterfall is so pretty and loved listening to it on the video! You had such beautiful sunrise views and I'm glad you got to go before the crowd arrived. But I totally get why you are frustrated. It really doesn't make sense that everything opens so late! I'm not usually one to get up too early, but when on vacation I always make it a point to do so, to have a more peaceful time. Breakfast in the room is definitely a great idea!ReplyDelete
Thank you Ellie! The Walgreens on the strip saved our lives! It was like a mini grocery store.Delete
We seem to run into that problem a lot too when we travel; even this weekend the earliest breakfast offered was at 7:30 and by then I have already been up for several hours and ready to GO. Luckily the trails were still fairly empty by 8/ 8:30 when we arrived but we weren't at a huge national park either. The falls are so pretty!ReplyDelete
I'm sure it's hard getting employees to come in early, but somehow Dennys and Cracker Barrel does it. Too bad there wasn't either of those restaurants on the strip. Thanks so much!Delete
wonderful. US has such great national parks. lovely photos, and you really made me smile with being second in the trail park, beaten by photographer.ReplyDelete
Thanks. Yes, those professional photographers are at it early, aren't they? They'd have to be, or they would never get a photo of nature without people in it.Delete
What a lovely trail with the falls! It looks so nice :)ReplyDelete
Hope your week is going well :)
Away From The Blue
Thank you. Yes, it is!Delete
Such a lovely place. I have enjoyed this hike.ReplyDelete
Thanks. That's good to hear.Delete
Enjoyed seeing your photos. I was thinking recently that'd be a good trip as I've not been there in ages, but your honest review has me moving that trip way down on our list. My husband and I don't like crowds and we're not early risers. LOLReplyDelete
Well, you could try going during a warm winter week, :). But yes, it's very crowded.Delete
What beautiful scenery! It's so good to see everyone getting out and enjoying nature again!ReplyDelete
It sure is. We never stopped getting out and enjoying nature.Delete
I would spend SO much time there if I lived close by! What a gorgeous part of the world.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!
Yes, I loved the Smokey's and hope I can see more. I heard there are other parts of the Smokey's that aren't near as crowded.Delete
Looks like you had a wonderful time. We have never been to Smokey Mountains.ReplyDelete
Yes, it was a good vacation. It's a popular spot for people who live on the East Coast, you should go there sometime.Delete
So much beauty in these photos, Amy! My husband and I are like you and would be up with the sun in the hopes of hiking a vacant trail. And watching the sunrise on a beautiful trail like this is an absolutely priceless experience. Thanks for sharing your amazing trip with us! I have really enjoyed your series of posts on this.ReplyDelete
Thanks Shelbee! I'm glad we're not the only nuts who'd rather get up early and hike alone than with a ton of people.Delete
Thank you for including the handicapped info. It is so helpful. Your little films are breathtaking! This is a trip I want to take! Thank you!ReplyDelete
oh, you're welcome. I always include whether a trail is stroller/wheelchair accessible because I think it's so important that parks include trails of many types so that there is something for everyone to enjoy. There are two other trails in the Smokies that I know of that are for the handicapped: Gatlinburg Trail and Oconoluftee River Trail.Delete