Hi, everybody! This is my first blog about one of our trips! It is actually quite exciting to share our experiences with you! Alright, enough with the exclamation points. No one is actually this chipper.
We had a weekend to ourselves, sans children. Andrea normally gets her two boys every other weekend, but they had school trips of their own to do so we decided to take the time honored excursion that everyone I know of in Kentucky (and probably most of the south) do: go to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ve heard that it is the most popular park in the whole United States to go to, so I guess more than just the locals head there. Throughout the trip we saw license plates from almost every state east of the Mississippi River and even from as far away as Alaska along with a few from some of the Canadian provinces.
As we knew a month or so in advance that we were going, and going to do as much hiking as we could, we both bought a pair of hiking boots from Dick’s Sporting Goods. That purchase ended up being a great decision. We also put in some time at the gym focusing on leg exercises and, for me at least, the Stairmaster. I even did some running around a park nearby that has a lot of hills.
The trip from Louisville took a little more than four hours for us to get down there. We stopped at a place in Pigeon Forge for lunch (just some good old fried chicken) and then headed into the park. As it was a beautiful day without a cloud in a the sky, we went straight to Clingmans Dome which, at 6,643 feet, is the highest mountain in the park. The drive on the way up was gorgeous despite seeing some of what the fire from a few years ago had done to parts of the forest. There is a large parking lot near the top of the mountain, but it was packed since the dome is a popular stop, so we had to park back down the road a ways. If you do end up going to see the dome it may be best to go early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. It only took us a few minutes to walk back up to the parking lot but getting to see the view from there was worth the extra effort.
From here it was about a half mile walk to the top of the dome with a close to 45 degree incline in some areas. This would end up being just a warm-up for us and our hiking ambitions for the weekend though.
At the top was an observation tower that put us up even higher in elevation and had some great views of the surrounding mountains.
After the dome we went back down the mountain to hike our first trail for the weekend, Rainbow Falls. We had to drive back through Gatlinburg for a little bit to get there as there was no direct way to get there inside of the park.
The great thing about the park was that all of the trailheads had something like the above picture at the start letting you know how long the trail was. From here it would be another 2.7 miles until we made it to Rainbow Falls. And it was uphill the entire way! Don’t let that deter you from making the trip if you get the chance though.
The trail itself was quite well-maintained and wide enough for multiple people to walk side-by-side. There was a stream near the trail that we saw multiple times and could be heard all the way up to the falls.
Along the trail we saw a few trees that were burned out. Whether it was from lightning or the fire from a few years ago we did not know. There were some giant rocks too (if you’re into that sort of thing).
A little more than halfway up we came across a bridge made from a tree trunk. It wasn’t the most steady thing I have crossed, but it did the job. After that there were two small waterfalls to prepare us for the main event.
Finally, after over an hour of climbing, with almost no flat land on the entire trail, we made it to our destination.
The photo, of course, does not do justice to the size and height of the falls. I took a video as well, but it looks like I’m not able to load that onto this site. Oh well. This was still a nice first trail to complete in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and an awesome way to see some of the park from the bottom of a valley and then going up a mountain. As you can see below it took us just over an hour to get up to the falls. The way back was much quicker and we were able to shave off 17 minutes of time. These are both screen shots from my Fitbit app.
Our previous record on floors was 125 while hiking the Natural Bridge and Red River Gorge Kentucky State parks last year. We shattered that on this day.
If you think that was impressive wait until you see what we did to ourselves the following day as we had even bigger hiking plans and more mountains to conquer!