Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Parks, photos, Staying Active

Deep Creek Hiking Trail

The Deep Creek Loop Trail, which is located just outside of Bryson City, North Carolina, is a moderately difficult, 4.6 mile roundtrip hike with rewarding water views, plentiful wildflowers, and peaceful river sounds.

This loop hike takes you past three great waterfalls. Approximately 0.8 miles into the trail, turn right onto the Indian Creek Trail – this marks the beginning of the trail loop.

The first waterfall on the hike is Tom Branch Falls, an easy 1/4 mile from the parking area. The path is nice and wide. You will even find benches next to the water.

Approximately 0.8 miles into the trail, turn right onto the Indian Creek Trail – this marks the beginning of the trail loop. One-tenth of a mile after this junction, you will see a small trail on your left side – this trail leads down to a beautiful 45-foot waterfall and is well worth the jaunt. You take a slight detour off your trail to head uphill and then downhill to be at the base of the falls. This is very near the put-in point for any tubing. After rejoining the main Deep Creek Trail, it hits the horse trail and heads uphill. There are also a few bridges to cross. Continue hiking over a footbridge and past the Rhododendron-rich Indian River Valley on your right. Around 1.4 miles, you will reach a junction in the trail – continue straight ahead (one mile to the right is the Thomas Divide). When you get to the 1.7-mile point, there is an intersection with the Deep Creek Loop – turn left to stay on the loop and ascend 350 feet over the next half-mile.

Next, you will reach the Sunkota Ridge junction at around the 2.2 mile mark – to stay on the loop trail, continue straight ahead. This is the highpoint in the Deep Creek Loop trail and it is downhill or flat hiking from here! At approximately 2.9 miles, you will reach the Deep Creek Trail again – turn left. Now, you will continue across a footbridge.

The trail culminates in the Juney Whank falls. It’s a quick downhill walk from there to the parking lot. You can just sit on the bench, built into the bridge with Juney Whank falls running beneath us.

Directions to Trailhead:
From Gatlinburg, drive into the National Park on the main Parkway. When you pass the Sugarlands Visitor Center on your right, take note of your mileage and continue 32.1 miles through the National Park. Once you reach the intersection of Route 441 and Route 19 in Cherokee, turn right on Route 19 and continue for 10 miles to Bryson City. Turn right onto Everett and continue for 0.2 miles to Bryson Street. Turn right onto Bryson Street and continue for 0.2 miles. Take your third left, which is Ramseur Street. Make your second right, which is Deep Creek Road. Continue on Deep Creek Road for 2.8 miles to the Deep Creek Loop trailhead (you will enter park 0.5 miles prior to arriving at the trailhead).

It will take you about 2 hours to get to the trail from one of our Great Smoky Vacations cabins. So, plan on making a day of it.

https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/deepcreek.htm

Advertisement
Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, History, Parks

Why do they call them the Smoky Mountains

The Cherokee called the mountains Shaconage – place of the blue smoke.

The rising mists are produced by the forest itself.

Water is pulled from the soil up into the plants and trees and eventually rises from the leaves, evaporating into the air.

The water cools and forms the blue-tinged mists you see rising over the mountains, eventually forming clouds and falling back to the earth to repeat the cycle.

The mountains, in many ways, retain the charms that made them attractive to the National Park Service.

Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Parks, Staying Active

Look Rock Tower Trail

Look Rock Tower Trail is a paved Smoky Mountain hiking trail you won’t want to miss. This trail is considered easy and is 0.8 miles roundtrip. The path is steep on this trail too. It is located off of Foothills Parkway near Maryville, Tennessee. There is an ADA friendly picnic area at Look Rock where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and spend some time with family and friends outdoors. This trail is not tagged as wheelchair or stroller friendly because although the trail surface is paved asphalt and it is typically at least four feet wide, it is moderately steep most of the way and very steep (over 12%) in areas. At the end of this trail is a beautiful view of the mountains. Pets are not allowed on this trail.

Look Rock Trail Observation Tower
Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, History, Staying Active

MOUNTAIN TIME: GLENN CARDWELL OF THE SMOKIES

By Arthur “Butch” McDade

Butch and Glenn
Arthur “Butch” McDade, left, and Glenn Cardwell, right, outside of Sugarlands Visitor Center in 2014. Photo courtesy of Arthur McDade.

In Greenbrier there’s a path that leads to an old homesite. The house is gone but you can still spot foundation stones and a stone springhead nearby. And, if you really look around, you can find an old automobile frame.

I had the honor of hiking to this homesite several times with Glenn Cardwell. The last time was in 2014, two years before his death. Hiking there meant a lot to Glenn; it was where he entered this earth on a cold Christmas Eve in 1930, four years before his birthplace and the surrounding forest became part of the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As we hiked, Cardwell would talk and point things out. He had a soft voice and was one of the kindest folks you’d ever meet (I once asked his wife Faye if Glenn ever got mad—she said, “No.”). He told me everything about his life, from his humble beginnings in Greenbrier to the 34 years he spent as a national park ranger in the Smokies.

A sense of place permeated Cardwell’s life—he never forgot where he came from. He attributed this to his mother “Pearlie,” who took him into the forests of the Smokies on long walks along Hills Creek. Cardwell attended school, but he believed he got his real education by following his mom in the woods. She was an “herb doctor” familiar with healthful native plants.

Glenn Cardwell
Glenn Cardwell on a footbridge in Greenbrier during a hike with Arthur “Butch” McDade in 2014. Photo courtesy of Arthur “Butch” McDade.

His mother’s teachings served him well when he became a ranger in the Smokies in 1961. With his knowledge of the woods, he became a go-to authority on plants and animals. In the Smokies, he mentored well over one hundred park rangers during his career and guided thousands of park visitors on nature walks. He directed visitors to family cemeteries and assisted on “lost person” cases. He became a “ranger’s ranger” and was later honored by Great Smoky Mountains Association as one of the 100 most influential people in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cardwell once mentioned that after he left this job in 1995, he intended to retire, but his retirement didn’t quite go as planned. In 1998 he became mayor of nearby Pittman Center, Tennessee, a position he held for nigh on 18 years. He also authored two history books on the area. He stayed busy, he said, because “if you rest, you rust!”

Cardwell was a man of the Smokies. He never wanted to leave these mountains, turning down jobs from other parks. He only temporarily left while in the Navy during the Korean War and while attending the University of Tennessee. He said that while in the Navy, half-way around the world, he vowed that if he ever got back to the Smokies he’d never stray farther than the local co-op store in Sevierville. And to cement his attachment to the area, he married his childhood sweetheart and they lived permanently in Emerts Cove, only three miles from where his mother brought him into this world.

On my last hike with Cardwell, I asked what the most memorable thing was that his mother taught him. He said he learned a lot from her, but she gave him a saying he remembered to that day. She’d told him, “Glenn, once you fall in love with nature, you’ve got a friend for life.”

Arthur “Butch” McDade worked 30 years for the National Park Service at several sites, ultimately retiring from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He currently works as a freelance writer.

I just love to hear stories of people who lived in the Great Smoky Mountains before it was the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I had the honor to meet Odis Clinton Abbott when at the primitive church in Cades Cove. I also really enjoy the Walker Sisters story.

Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Parks

Your Guide to Visiting the Smoky Mountains National Park in the Winter

If you’re imagining hikes to frozen waterfalls or pictures with snow covered mountains as the backdrop, winter may be the perfect time for you to visit the Smokies!

What to Pack

Depending on the elevation, the average high for this season in the Smokies is 45°F and the low is 22°F, so you’ll want to pack plenty of warm clothes to wear. Layers are always a great idea because even though it’s cold. When you start your hike, the weather may be comfortable. But, as you get to higher elevations, it will get colder and you may experience snow on the ground. You may also experience mud at the higher elevations from the snow and ice melt. Be sure to wear appropriate foot wear. You should also bring some snacks and enough water to last for the entire hike. Just be sure that you don’t leave trash or leftover food anywhere, because it could attract wildlife. Feeding Wildlife is illegal and could lead to a nuisance animal which may have to be uthenized. Please refer to our Bear safety guide.

What to wear

Dress in layers, cover all of your skin, wear sunglasses or goggles and pack a flashlight.

Where to Hike

There are over 850 miles of hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, however, some are better than others at certain times of the year. Waterfall hikes like the Laurel Falls Trail are gorgeous during the winter! You’ll feel like you’re in a winter wonderland as you look up at the half-frozen, 80-foot falls. The hike to the falls is arguably just as beautiful, with mountain views peeking through the bare trees. Please note they are starting to require a parking pass for Laurel Falls. So, be sure to purchase yours in advance. Another great place to hike during the winter months is Porters Creek. This trail is rich in history and is conveniently situated at a lower elevation, making it less likely to be closed off due to snow.

Grapeyard Ridge Trail in Greenbrier

With less foliage to camouflage old home sites and farmsteads, winter is a great time to take historical hikes. Prior to the creation of the national park in 1934 hundreds of families lived in the Smokies and many remnants of their legacies are still standing today. Old engine wrecks can be found from a time when railroads were one of the primary methods of transportation through the mountains. The Grapeyard Ridge trail in Greenbrier is an excellent place to see one of these wrecks as the old engine, which turned over in the creek, is still largely intact.

Alum Cave Trail

Another option that tops the list of best winter hiking trails is Alum Cave Trail. Alum Cave is a concaved bluff that towers nearly 80 feet above the trail. During the winter months, droplets coming off the ledges above the bluff form into large icicles.

Schoolhouse Gap Trail near Cades Cove

Schoolhouse Gap is another family friendly winter hiking trail that is located near Cades Cove. The trail is relatively short and is one of the trails where hikers are most likely to spot wildlife. Cades Cove is also home to many cabins and historic sites, many of which have been restored to how they looked over 150 years ago.

What Roads Are Open

Scenic drives are a great thing to do during any season as long as the roads are in good condition to be driven on. There are several primary roads that are open year round as long as the weather permits. These roads include US-441 (Newfound Gap Road), Little River Road, and the Cades Cove Loop Road. You can enjoy the stunning mountain views as you go along your way, and there are lots of spots where you can pull over to take pictures.

You can view the current road closures at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm

Does it Snow in the Smoky Mountains?

Lower elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park typically see several snowfalls each winter, while higher elevations tend to get more snow more frequently. Although many winter days see temperatures of 50 degrees or higher, the lows tend to range at or below freezing. It is important to check the conditions of the park and its roads any time you are planning a visit during the winter months. For the latest information on road conditions, check the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website or call (865) 436-1200.

If you have never seen snow in the Smokies, you are missing out on some beautiful scenery. Winter snowfalls, frozen waterfalls, and hanging icicles offer ample opportunities for capturing some amazing winter photos.

You also have an opportunity to spot wildlife during the winter in the Smoky Mountains. Watch for animal prints if there is snow as you venture down the trails. Just remember to maintain a safe distance from the animals. Check out some of our wildlife safety tips before you head out.

I personally love hiking in the winter. The trails are much less crowded and the temperature is much more enjoyable. Just be prepared and plan to spend the day stopping to smell the roses.

Book your Smoky Mountain Getaway at https://www.greatsmokymountains.online/