5 May 2016

The Great Smokies of the south

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC

Moving campsites

The Great Smoky Mountains NP is half in Tennessee and half in North Carolina. After four days in the Tennessee section we moved to the Smokemont campground which is in the southern part of the park. As went over the Appalachian Trail which marks the state border there was snow on the ground and sleet was wetting our windscreen. A little bit different to 4 days ago when it was a humid 80°F.

Just as we were leaving Cave Cove we met an Australian couple from Caloundra. They are travelling around America just like we are. They found a 27’ RV within two days of arriving in LA for $6k. While it might not be the fastest thing on the highway and needs patching up every now and then, it’s getting them to where they want to go. They came to Smokemont campground the day after us and so we met up for drinks. It was great swapping travelling stories and talking about home. There's something about catching up with people from your own country when you've been away for a while.

Steve & Caroline
The weather is still cold and rain keeps making an appearance but we are still able to see a few things and walk a few trails.

Our first waterfall for this area was Mingo Falls. We tried to reach it without reading the instructions and ended up on part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It wasn’t really any different to other parts of the GSMNP and while I’m sure it is beautiful in autumn, it’s not making me very excited to drive any more of it.

Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls is only a 0.2 mile walk off the Big Cove Road. The steps are steep and definitely not built to code. They are one of the tallest in the southern Appalachians.

Mingo Falls

Mingus Mill

Like most mills in this park, Mingus uses water from the rivers to make flour from corn and wheat. It’s a two story wooden building and grain was moved to each floor in buckets.

Mingus Mill

Bryson City Trio

There is a group of three waterfalls just north of Bryson City. Juney Whank Falls, Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls can be accessed by walking a loop of about three miles. The first one is a bit steep, but the others are along a flat gravel road.

Juney Whank Falls
Tom Branch Falls
Indian Creek Falls
Clingman’s Dome is a lookout at the highest point in the GSMNP. The day we went was 40°F and a bitterly cold wind made the experience a little unpleasant as we had forgotten our gloves and beanies. There was snow and ice on the walkway and at times it was safer to walk in the snow so that you didn’t slip on the ice. The reward? you get a 360° view of the mountains. Back down at the campground, it was 80°F.

Partial 360° View
Snow at 40°F 4°
The Oconaluftee nature trail starts from the Oconaluftee visitor centre and follows the river which eventually takes you into the town of Cherokee. It’s supposed to be one of the wildflower trails. Of course flowers don’t all bloom on queue, so some had finished, some were flowering and some had buds that were just forming.

Nature trail

We tried unsuccessfully to photograph the large yellow and black butterflies that were everywhere but as they never land it’s pretty much impossible. We did however get some of the beautiful bumblebees.


While we were walking back a herd of Elk crossed the river and walked right past us, there were some really big boys but they don’t have any racks at this time of year. Unbeknown to us we were standing in patch of poison ivy. Even if you don’t touch it directly the oil can get on your clothes and you can infect yourself later but we were lucky and didn’t get any rashes.

Elk crossing the river

The town of Cherokee is on an Indian reservation. We had to drive eight miles to get milk, there seems to only be one grocery store in town and the gas station stores we tried didn’t sell milk. Maybe the Indians don’t drink it… you can’t buy alcohol anywhere within the reservation.

The Tennessee section of the GSMNP is still my favourite and if you were going to GSMNP and only had a limited time, I would stay up north.

Related Posts:
Great Smoky Mountains - 1
Campground Review-1
Campground Review-2

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