National Park Geek Series - Great Smoky Mountains


National Park Geek Series - Great Smoky Mountains


I turned 30 in the Great Smoky Mountains. We spent six days in the cutest little log cabin in the woods in Gatlinburg, TN and hiked four out of the six days. We got rain on the other two days and headed to Asheville to taste all of the delicious brews (mmmm, beer!)

I digress...the Great Smoky Mountains is a national park that has something for everyone. There are multiple scenic drives and several short hikes that are accessible to pretty much anyone. We saw several small children and a few wheelchairs along the way.

The first day we headed out early to hike to Ramsey Cascades. This was the hike I was the most excited for, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to find out it was closed due to a bridge wash out. But my national park geek friend, Jan, always says “the best stories happen when you’re off the trail.” I’ve definitely found that to be true like when we got attacked by bees and caught in a crazy thunderstorm while in Zion. You can read more about that incredible day here.


Anyways, back to the Smokies! We ended up changing plans and doing the scenic drive to Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome and the views were beautiful. Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains. The rain started shortly after we got to the top, so we kept heading east toward North Carolina and ended up in Asheville for the rest of the day and night.

The next day we did a long hike to Rainbow Falls. You take the Historic Nature Trail into the park to get to the trailhead. It’s a 5.4 mile round trip hike (out and back) and it took us about five hours to complete, including multiple stops to take photos. This hike is somewhat steep and the trail is not smooth at all but it’s beauty is stunning and was probably my favorite hike of the trip. You cross rivers, streams and see lots of small waterfalls throughout the trail. You can also walk to the base of the waterfall because it’s surrounded by large rock walls.

Later that evening, we did a short and flat hike to Cataract Falls. This is an easy one if you have kids but the waterfall isn’t overly impressive.


On the third day of our trip, we drove the Roaring Fork Nature Trail and absolutely loved it. This scenic drive is a 6 mile one way road and in my opinion, has the best scenery in the park. Everything was lush and vivid green (even in early April) and there was water everywhere in the form of lakes, streams and waterfalls.

The next day we took a lovely venture down the Cades Cove scenic drive which is an 11 mile loop, one way. You see expansive fields backdropped by mountains and we got to see some wild life, too. The trailhead to Abram Falls is along the Cades Cove drive, so we stopped to do this 5 mile round trip out and back hike. This was the steepest hike we did but it was still only moderately strenuous. We completed the trail in about four and a half hours, again allowing enough time for photos. Abram Falls isn’t very tall but the amount of water cascading down is impressive and loud. You can also get right next to the base of it if you cross of few rocks in the river. I would highly recommend this hike, it was beautiful.


We stopped at Laurel Falls on the way back toward our rental because you also access it off Cades Cove but I really wish I would’ve taken my advice when I made our itinerary to go early. This waterfall is really pretty and has several levels and it’s also very accessible, so there will be crowds. It was really hard to get a picture of the fall without people in it. It’s only a 2.5 mile round trip out and back trail that is paved. This is where we saw a wheelchair, but I’m pretty sure that person pushing the wheelchair wouldn’t do it again because there are some inclines to climb. I would highly recommended going to see this waterfall and go early!

Our last full day we had rain all day and it was my actual birthday so we had a really nice lunch in Gatlinburg and then headed to Asheville for round two!


Have you ever been to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park?


Images by Personal Branding Maven  Elise Kutt  at  Mod Bettie Portraits

Images by Personal Branding Maven Elise Kutt at Mod Bettie Portraits

My name is Anna VanAgtmael, and I am a certified yoga instructor with a passion for yoga, travel, and connecting with others.

I believe in trying everything once. My values lie in collecting memories over things. Though we desire adventure and authentic experiences, naturally our fear holds us back.

My ambition is to inspire and encourage you to unmask your fears and jump into the unknown.

Anna VanAgtmael | Yoga Enthusiast | Trip Planning Wizard