Chilhowee is a small, 1,747-acre, cool water reservoir located within Blount and Monroe Counties in east Tennessee along U.S. Highway 129. The dam was completed in 1957 and impounds the Little Tennessee River.
Chilhowee Lake is located a solid 40 miles south of Knoxville, Tennessee, and it is perhaps one of the least-known and most remote places to enjoy a day in Tennessee. If you’re seeking a quiet region for a peaceful kayaking trip or hike, then this may be your spot.
Much of the reservoir is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Cherokee National Forest. The reservoir was created after the impounding of the Little Tennessee River in 1957. The primary game fish are Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, trout, Yellow Perch, Walleye, crappie, and Rock Bass. Trout are stocked on an annual basis and thrive in the cool clear water. Yellow Perch are abundant, and many anglers target this species.
The lake Provides a natural boundary between the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The man-made reservoir is shallow and a mere 10 miles in its entirety, narrow and twisting.
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.
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.
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 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.