Attractions, Hiking, Parks, photos

The Best Swimming Holes in Gatlinburg and The Great Smoky Mountains

 

Metcalf Bottoms Swimming Area

MetcalfbottomsswimmingThis picnic area located between Gatlinburg and Townsend offers great access to the Little Greenbrier River. Several shallow swimming holes are scattered along this picnic area. The area is wide and makes for a perfect spot to throw a tube into the water and relax. It’s also the perfect swimming area to have a nice picnic, with many tables sitting along the water. If you visit Metcalf Bottoms in summer and spend much time at the river it is likely you will spot at least one water snake (especially if you’re looking for them). The good news is that they are not poisonous and are actively afraid of people. So if you have a strong aversion to snakes you may want to stay out of the water here.

Just across the bridge from the picnic area is a trail that leads to the Little Greenbrier schoolhouse. The trail is only a half mile or so and leads through the woods. If you don’t want to walk off your picnic lunch you can also drive to the school. Just cross the bridge and follow the road about half a mile to a gravel road on the right leading to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse.Greenbrier schoolhouse

The schoolhouse still contains the desks and blackboard left there when it was last in use in the 1930’s. Grades 1-8 were taught at Greenbrier school by a single teacher. During summer months in the past the National Park Service has offered presentations on mountain schooling. Information on the schedule should be available by the end of March. On the hillside just outside the schoolhouse you will find an old community cemetery.

If you have a few extra hours to spend in Metcalf Bottoms visit the Walker Sisters’ home site. The trailhead to their home is located off the parking lot for the Greenbrier Schoolhouse. The Walker SistersThe sisters were some of the last living residents inside what is now the National Park.  When the federal government decided to establish a national park in the Smokies the five sisters refused to sell their land. They eventually came to an agreement with the government whereby they sold their land but retained a lifetime lease on the property. The Walker sisters claimed their land produced everything they needed except sugar, coffee, soda and salt. And until the last sister passed away in 1964 they farmed the land while supplementing their efforts with the sale of souvenirs to tourists.

The Metcalf Bottoms are also close to many other attractions in the area, so you can fit in a swim, a picnic, a hike and even some antique shopping.  To get in some shopping before heading back to the cabin, take Lyons Spring Road to Wears Valley. Here you will experience beautiful mountain views, cute antique stores, and some small local shops.

Directions: Take US-441 into the park. At the Sugarlands Visitor Center turn right onto Little River Rd. toward Elkmont. Travel about six miles to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area on the right.

Greenbrier Swimming Holes on the Little Pigeon River One of the clearest mountain rivers in the park, the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River flows through the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a favorite spot for tubers and swimmers to splash and play in the pristine pools that collect below small rapids.

Directions: From Gatlinburg at light #3, head east on Hwy 321. Travel for approximately 7 miles and turn right on Greenbrier Road. Swimming pools are located on your left along the road before you reach the ranger station.

The Sinks

The SinksLocal legend has it that there once was a logging train that derailed here and plummeted into the Little River. No train was ever recovered and since the mysterious crash occurred this area has been referred to as The Sinks. This is one of the easier swimming holes to access and as such is usually popular on hot summer days. The Sinks offers visitors a beautiful waterfall with small cliff and rocks that flow down into a reservoir  below.  This swimming hole is a mix of rapids and deep pools. Remember this area is very rocky,the waterfall is massive and there are often strong currents; be cautious and never go behind or around the waterfall as this is very dangerous.   The Sinks is a very rocky area with massive waterfalls and is a very dangerous swimming area.  This it the Smokies’ deepest swimming hole!

Take a relaxing drive through the mountains and enjoy your views on your way to. The view alone is worth the drive.

Directions:From the resort head southeast on Powdermill Rd toward Elk Spring Way, turn right to stay on Powdermill Rd, take a right onto Glades Rd for about 1.7 miles then turn right onto East Pkwy. Take a left onto US-441 S/Parkway until you reach Little River Road where you will turn right onto it.

The Chimney Top Trail

This swimming hole is for the adventurer and skilled hiker. The Chimney Top trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area and is great spot to enjoy a swim, beautiful mountain views, and a challenging 1,700 feet climb in a two mile radius (for more advanced hikers in good shape and not afraid of heights). For those of you who are just looking for a place to cool off, this is where you can enjoy the refreshing Little Pigeon River. There are plenty of rocks to jump off into the rivechimney topr, however, be sure that the water levels are high enough for jumping (average level runs about six to eight feet deep). Glide into the nice cool waters and enjoy a lovely picnic with your family. The cascading waters are calming and a great relax. If you’re there for the hike follow the trailhead and be prepared for an exciting and challenging excursion. This 2 mile hike is filled with a rocky ridge-line and once you reach the top a near 360 degree view that is stunning.

Directions: Head southeast on Powdermill Rd toward Elk Spring Way, Turn right to stay on Powdermill Rd, Turn right onto Glades Rd, Turn right onto East Pkwy, Turn left onto US-441 S/Parkway, Continue to follow US-441 S into the park and past the visitor center. Continue on the 441 S until you reach the entrance to the Chimneys picnic area and trailhead.

The Townsend WYE Swimming Area

The Townsend Y Swimming areaThe Townsend Y is where the Little River and the Middle Prong of Little River join. Probably the most easily accessed and popular swimming hole, this wide pool is located provides fun for the whole family. Located just after the Townsend entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this swimming area provides plenty of water to play in. Visitors can also sunbathe or enjoy a great picnic on the sloping hill above the pools and watch as sightseers enter the park.  The road is curvy and narrow in spots.

Directions: From Gatlinburg head North on US 441 for 8.4 miles. Take a left on Wears Valley Road and follow for 12 miles. Turn left on TN-73 until you reach the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek Road.

Abrams Falls Swimming Hole

This waterfall and creek are named for Cherokee Chief Abram, or Abrams, whose village once stood several miles downstream. Located in Cades Cove, this swimming hole is a Kodak moment waiting to happen. Although Abrams falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over the falls makes up for its lack of height. The water plunges into a large 100-foot pool at the base that sparkles with laughter and light. While there is a bit of hike to this swimming hole, 2.5 miles from the trailhead, viewing Abrams Falls and lounging in the swimming hole make your arduous hike worth the effort. Don’t forget your camera and swimsuit for this picture perfect spot! AbramsFallsSwimmingHole

Directions: The turnoff to the trailhead that will take you to Abrams Falls is located past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road. To get to Cades Creek Loop Road from Gatlinburg head north on US 441 for 8.4 miles. Take a left on Wears Valley Road and follow for 12 miles. Turn left on TN-73 and follow into the park. When you reach the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek Road turn right onto Laurel Creek Road and follow until it dead ends into Cades Cove Loop Road. http://www.pigeonforgetourism.com/swimmingholes#

Midnight Hole NC

The magical Midnight Hole in North Carolina has long been a secret swimming spot for locals and travelers alike. Located in the Big Creek area of the Smoky Mountains, getting there involves a short but worth it hike. Many people love to take a dip here in the heat of summer as the mountain-fed water stays pretty cool year-round.

Midnight Hole NC

Follow Big Creek Trail from the parking area. The trail flows you through dense wilderness and in the late spring and early summer wildflower blooms add an extra treat to the scenery. In about 1.5 miles you’ll reach Midnight Hole.  https://blueridgemountainlife.com/midnight-hole/

Midnight Hole is also located near Mouse Creek Falls. If you continue to follow Big Creek Trail for 0.5 miles after Midnight Hole, you’ll stumble upon a side trail that will lead you to Mouse Creek.

http://www.pigeonforge.com/top-5-swimming-holes-smokies/

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Hiking, Parks, photos

Little Pigeon River

 

The Little Pigeon River, which got its name because the birds seemed to favor the area, has long been at the center of Pigeon Forge’s beauty and history.  Little Pigeon River is located entirely within Sevier County, Tennessee and is made up of a series of streams which flow together on the dividing line between Tennessee and North Carolina inside the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   parksign

The river is subdivided with three separate tributaries: East, Middle, and West.  The East Prong is paralleled for most of its length by State Route 416, and the Middle Prong emerges from the Greenbrier  area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   Six miles of mostly gravel road follow the river and its tributaries into the upper Greenbrier area.  The Greenbrier area of the park is renowned for its wildflowers.  Greenbrier-Mountain-Stream

The West Prong is far better known because it drains the major tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.   The West Prong of the river has helped to provide the area with fresh ground corn and wheat from the Old Mill located along its banks. This is a central meeting place for the communOld-Mill-Pigeon-Forge-TNity and place to enjoy the scenic view that makes Pigeon Forge so special.

In the old days, the Mill was the heart of the community and served as a gathering spot for villagers. During the Civil War, looms were set up on the second floor to make woven articles for soldiers. The area around the Old Mill was first settled by pioneers in the early 1800s.  William Love dammed up the Little Pigeon River and began construction of the first building of the Old Mill.   The mill has been in continuous daily operation since its completion in 1830.  William Love utilized 40-foot-long, 14″-by-14″ Yellow Poplar logs, which are clearly visible even today. Huge river rocks serve as pillars to support the structure. This is one of the most photographed structures in Tennessee.smoky-mountain-outdoors-whitewater-raftingRiver_Romp_Tubes_and_Kayaks_Rentals_(002)

Besides the beauty and history of the Little Pigeon River, there are many activities on and in the river.  People can enjoy White Water Rafting, Gatlinburg’s Annual River Raft Regatta, Fly Fishing, Tubing and countless other activities.

 

 

 

 

Attractions

River Romp Tubes and Kayaks Rentals in Sevierville, TN

River_Romp_Tubes_and_Kayaks_Rentals_(002)This rafting center is located on Pitman Center Road.  I have found that it is sometimes easier to get around Pigeon Forge by this road.  It is much less congested and parallels the Pigeon Forge Parkway (it is about 6 miles off the Parkway) and turns into Birds Creek Road at Upper Middle Creek Road.  Birds Creek Road will take you into Gatlinburg.

Each trip takes approximately two hours, depending on river conditions. there is a shuttle to take you back from your trip. Afterwards you can enjoy a picnic on the grounds, fish or take another ride down the river at NO ADDITIONAL charge. You can ride all day!

The River Romp is a family owned attraction in its 20th year in the water recreation field. they are located on the Little Pigeon River, less than five miles from Dollywood’s Splash Country, yet it offers the scenery and peacefulness of a secluded mountain river.

Your tubing experience begins at the “Barn” and goes approximately 2.5 miles where you exit to a Pavilion with a phone that is “hot-lined” to the office. Once you identify yourself, they will dispatch a driver, who will pick you up within minutes and return you to the “Barn,” where you can get back in the River, picnic, leave and return (prior to 4:00 p.m.) and take another ride.

Address – 1980 Pittman Center Road • Sevierville, TN 37876

Website – http://www.riverromp.net/index_files/FAQ.htm

History

The Old Mill Square History

Old-Mill-Pigeon-Forge-TNHistory of The Old Mill, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

In the early 1800’s, a water-powered gristmill on the banks of the Little Pigeon River became one of the main hubs of activity in the small mountain community of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In those days, the mill faithfully produced the meals and flours that were crucial for the day-to-day existence of the Smokies’ early settlers. In fact, The Old Mill even furnished electricity for the town until 1935.

Isaac Love Builds an Iron Forge

In 1817, a businessman named Isaac Love built an iron forge on the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River. Love had inherited this pristine riverside property from his father-in-law and decided to take advantage of Tennessee’s tax incentives for the creation of iron works on unfarmable land. Isaac Love’s forge produced bars of iron, building equipment, and farming implements that were sold across the United States.

The Old Mill on the Little Pigeon River.The Old Mill Makes Its Debut

In 1830, Isaac Love and his sons constructed a grist mill beside his iron forge. This mill became an important resource for local farmers, who used it to grind their grain into flour. When the community’s first post office was established at the grist mill in 1841, the burgeoning town received the name “Pigeon Forge,” taking inspiration from the iron forge on the Little Pigeon River. While the iron forge is no longer standing, The Old Mill is still in operation today and attracts over one million annual visitors.

One of The Old Mill’s most distinctive features is the giant water wheel that harnesses the flow of the Little Pigeon River. Inside the structure, an antiquated yet reliable system of shafts, belts, and pulleys still gets the job done, working to turn the 4600-pound stones and grain elevators.

Weighing one ton each, the massive flint granite stones, called French Buhrs, are only the second set ever used in The Old Mill’s 178-year history. When they’re in action, the stones convert grain into about 1000 pounds of product each day, six days a week. Resident millers then hand-fill, weigh and tie each bag of stone ground grain.

Products ground at The Old Mill are used in many of the dishes at The Old Mill Restaurant including biscuits, corn bread, pancakes, hush puppies, muffins and grits. We also use our own grains for the homemade artisan style breads that are prepared each day at The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille .

The area’s heritage is also being preserved through a variety of crafts that are practiced at the nearby shops of The Old Mill Square. Our Pigeon River Pottery has been home to pottery making for over 50 years, and the best of time-tested recipes are prepared by our confectioners (with decades of experience among them) in The Old Mill Candy Kitchen. The entire Square is a working tribute to the Smokies’ pioneer days.

Today, The Old Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and just as in the 19th century, it’s still one of the most popular places in the Smokies and one of the most photographed mills in the country.

http://www.oldmillsquare.com/history.htm