Clingmans secret tunnel
A footpath once used by hikers, the Thomas Divide Tunnel passes under Clingmans Dome Road.
Writer Horace Kephart famously called the Smokies “the back of beyond.” Naturalist John Muir, in an 1867 journal entry, noted the “simplicity and mysterious complexity of detail” of this “ocean of wooded, waving, swelling mountain grandeur.”
No doubt about it, with 814 square miles to roam, Great Smoky Mountains National Park keeps as many secrets as there are trout coursing through its 2,900 miles of streams. Beyond the bumper-to-bumper traffic of Cades Cove, scores of scarcely trodden woods and tucked-away spots beckon.
Indeed, finding your own space in the Smokies is as simple as knowing where to go. To celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (see page 68), we asked an array of locals to share their favorite places and ways to explore the Smokies—from picture-perfect overlooks to fishing holes “no map could name,” as writer Ron Rash describes in his poem, “Speckled Trout”:
Water-flesh gleamed like mica:
orange fins, red flankspots, a char
shy as ginseng, found only
in spring-flow gaps, the thin clear
of faraway creeks no map
could name. My cousin showed me
those hidden places. I loved
how we found them, the way we
followed no trail, just stream-sound
tangled in rhododendron,
to where slow water opened
a hole to slip a line in,
and lift as from a well bright
shadows of another world,
held in my hand, their color
already starting to fade.
"Speckled Trout," by North Carolina author Ron Rash, appears in Poems, a new collection of his poetry released this spring by Ecco Press.
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Banks of blue
Bluets line a stream in the Smokies.
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A black bear strikes a pose.
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Rugel's ragwort appears only in the Smokies.
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The Lonesome Pine Overlook offers an impressive mountain panorama.
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Old remnants of a plane crash dot Snake Den Ridge Trail.
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A kayaker plies Fontana Lake.
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An old-fashioned swimming hole
Midnight Hole is a pool filled with bone-chilling waters that appear ink-black (because you can’t see the bottom). Lounge on the huge boulders to heat up before taking a dip.
[Insider’s Guide] Paths Less Traveled
Of the 59 national parks in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains attracts the most visitors. More than 9.4 million park visits are recorded each year, which can make it challenging to find room to roam. With 522,427 acres divided roughly in half between North Carolina and Tennessee, however, there’s always somewhere new to discover away from the crowds. Here we offer a dozen ways to explore a less-trodden side of the Smokies.
Become a Not-So-Junior Ranger The park’s Not-So-Junior Ranger program targets big kids (ages 13-130) looking to deepen their experience of the Smokies. Earn a patch by participating in three ranger-led programs (check the park website and the park’s free Smokies Guide newspaper for details). Document your participation by having the ranger sign your Not-So-Junior Ranger card, available at the Cades Cove, Oconaluftee, and Sugarlands visitor centers.
Take a guided hike Discover the history, identify the flora and fauna, and learn about your favorite trails or a new-to-you route on a hike led by a ranger, naturalist, historian, or other park expert. Guided hikes and walks are offered by the national park, as well as partner organizations such as Friends of the Smokies (friendsofthesmokies.org), Great Smoky Mountains Association (smokiesinformation.org), and the University of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain Field School (smfs.utk.edu).
Drive Rich Mountain Road It’s no secret that Cades Cove is a top tourist destination. That popularity regularly causes bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road. For a different perspective on Cades Cove, turn off the loop at the Rich Mountain Road entrance, across from the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. “Rich Mountain Road is well worth the drive,” says John Reaves, an avid hiker who lives in the Blount County, Tennessee, foothills of the Smokies. “One of the first pull-offs affords an unobstructed view of the Methodist Church in Cades Cove. It’s one of the most photographed scenes in the Smokies.”
Also viewable from the eight-mile road (which climbs out of the cove and down into the gateway town of Townsend) is Dry Valley and other areas outside the national park boundaries. Tip: Rich Mountain Road is one-way until it reaches the park boundary, meaning you won’t be able to turn around and reenter the park.
Camp or picnic at Cosby Campground Located in the less-visited northeastern part of the park, Cosby Campground is off-the-beaten tourist path (yet only a 30-minute drive east of Gatlinburg). Even if you don’t camp overnight, stop here to picnic, walk the one-mile Cosby Nature Trail loop, or to hike. “Trails lead out to the Appalachian Trail for the more adventurous, but there are a few shorter trails that aren’t too hard,” says Knoxville resident Ric Brooks, leader of the Happy Bottom Hiking Club. “Lower Cammerer Trail will lead you to a beautiful lookout, and Henwallow Falls, a 2.2-mile hike, is a nice place to picnic.” Tip: A tougher hike is Snake Den Ridge, which leads up to the A.T. Near the A.T. junction, look for remnants of a plane crash (there have been two near here) scattered along the trail.
Enter the park at Greenbrier Ramsay Cascades, the park’s highest waterfall, is what draws most visitors to Greenbrier. Even if you’re not ready for the strenuous, 7.7-mile (out-and-back) hike up to the cascades, there’s plenty to see and do.
“Greenbrier is my favorite part of the Smokies,” says Reaves. “It was thickly settled before the park was formed, so it is full of fascinating stone walls, house sites, cemeteries, and other evidence of human activity.” Reaves recommends hiking the Porter’s Creek Trail in the spring to see dozens of wildflower species, including huge displays of several kinds of trillium.“In a good year, the white-fringed phacelia near Fern Falls looks like a snowfall,” he says. Tip: Greenbrier provides easy access to the eight-mile Great Smoky Arts and Craft Community trail, where you can meet artists and purchase original pieces.
Take an early morning hike to Little Greenbrier School The Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area fills up fast in summer thanks to the shaded picnic tables tucked along the Little River. Arrive before 8 a.m., though, and you may have the place to yourself. Park at the picnic area and walk across the one-lane bridge to follow the trail up to the one-room, Little Greenbrier schoolhouse. This easy hike leads through a rhododendron tunnel, which is outrageously gorgeous when blooming (usually early June). Tip: The road through the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area is a back entrance out of the park and into Wears Valley.
Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail If you’re short on time or are mobility impaired, this 5.4-mile-long driving loop near Gatlinburg is an easy way to sample the best of the Smokies. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour, ensuring you won’t miss the sights, such as well-preserved homesteads, old-growth forest, and (particularly after a heavy rain) the fast-flowing Roaring Fork stream. Tip: Trailheads for two of the park’s prettiest waterfall hikes—Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls—are located on (Grotto) and just before (Rainbow) the motor trail.
Paddle and play on Fontana Lake Created by the tallest (480 feet high) concrete dam in the eastern United States, Fontana Lake covers approximately 11,700 acres and forms the far southwestern border of the park. Canoe, kayak, paddleboard, and tube rentals are available nearby at Fontana Village Marina, as are scenic boat tours. Tip: The marina offers a backcountry boat shuttle service for trout fishermen, hikers, and campers who want to reach remote North Shore locations such as Hazel and Eagle Creeks.
Soak in an old-fashioned swimming hole The Big Creek Trail follows an old jeep bed, a remnant of the days when lumber companies logged the surrounding forest. Today, day-hikers follow the trail about a mile-and-a-half up to Midnight Hole, a pool filled with bone-chilling waters that appear ink-black (because you can’t see the bottom). Lounge on the huge boulders to heat up before taking a dip. Tip: Horseback riders share this trail, so watch your step.
Experience Cataloochee Getting to Cataloochee is part of its allure. The entrance road is a narrow, winding gravel route without guard rails in some places. “Cataloochee is remote but worth the trouble,” says hiker John Greaves. “The drive over the gap at Mount Sterling is half the pleasure of the trip, especially in early August when the yellow-fringed orchids bloom along the roadside.” Tip: Although Cataloochee’s elk herd is the big draw, the valley also is home to the park’s largest intact settlement of late 19th-century and early 20th-century frame buildings. Most are open for self-guided touring.
Go backcountry “hiking” in your SUV Of all the roads less traveled in the Smokies, Heintooga-Round Bottom delivers most everything you’d want out of a day in the Smokies: seclusion (it’s rare when you see another vehicle), scenic overlooks, thick woods, wildlife, and, depending on the season, wildflowers or fall foliage. The one-lane, 14-mile gravel road begins along Balsam Mountain and travels down about 2,000 feet to the end point near the Qualla Cherokee Indian Reservation. Tip: Make the drive in a high-clearance vehicle (such as a Jeep or SUV) due to the potholes and places where low water can cover the road.
Hike to a Deep Creek waterfall Start at the parking lot at the end of Deep Creek Road and choose a waterfall loop hike that fits your fitness level. The easiest is the 0.6-mile Juney Whank Falls trail. The longer loops (such as the 4.4-mile Deep Creek-Indian Creek loop) pass multiple falls and typically have lighter trail traffic. Tip: Deep Creek is one of the only places in the park where mountain bikers can trail ride. Only certain trail sections are bike-friendly. Obey posted signs.
About the author: Knoxville-based writer Maryellen Kennedy Duckett is the co-author of 100 Secrets of the Smokies.
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The Balsam range
As it traverses the Smokies, the Appalachian Trail opens up to this view of the Balsam Mountain range.
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A stand of painted trillium.
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[Photography tips] Trail Magic
A former staffer at LeConte Lodge, nature photographer and hiking enthusiast John Northrup (facebook.com/SmokiesStoriesandGlories) knows the Smokies inside and out. As a member of the elusive 900 Miler Club, he has hiked every trail in the park. For that matter, he has nearly finished his second time around the map. Here he offers his top picks for lesser-known wonders of the park.
Silent spring “As popular as Mount Le Conte is, one trail that receives insufficient attention for being so beautiful is the Bull Head Trail,” says Northrup. “It’s one of the best wildflower trails in the park for multiple reasons: If solitude is what you seek, you'll find it on Bull Head, whereas Alum Cave and Rainbow Falls get the most visitor action.”
On an average year, Northrup says, mid to late April is the best time to explore this trail. Hikers can see wildflowers from top to bottom, with an elevation difference of 4,000 feet rising from the cove hardwood forests in Cherokee Orchard to the spruce-fir forest atop Mount Le Conte. “Working your way up the trail, you'll see some of the first pink lady slippers, crested dwarf iris, and wood betony of the season, along with star of Bethlehem,” he says. “As you reach the middle elevations, several varieties of trillium dominate the slopes, intermixed with Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn, and lingering rue anemone. The area around the top of Bull Head is a mostly pine forest that houses a great deal of fetterbush, as well as mountain laurel and rhododendron that bloom several weeks later. As you transition into the spruce-fir forest and approach the crest of Mount Le Conte, dense patches of spring beauties and trout lilies line the trail, their blooms closed when cloudy and open in the warm spring sun.”
Another reason this trail is so unique in the spring is due in part to the abnormally large white trillium that flourish a couple miles up from Cherokee Orchard. On a stretch along the western slopes of the mountain, the trail passes beneath two tall rock overhangs. Predominantly shaded, the area features a few well-drained seeps that pass between the boulders. Here the largest of these trillium bloom. “If you were to imagine a circle around the outside of the plant’s three leaves, then measure the diameter of that circle, you’d find several plants with a span of two feet across,” Northrup says. “The Smoky Mountains have trillium everywhere in the spring, but I’m yet to stumble upon a stand that is as impressive as this one.”
Blooming wonder Another area of the park for wildflower lovers that prefer solitude, Northrup says, is along the upper reaches of the Miry Ridge Trail, between the junction of Lynn Camp Prong and the Appalachian Trail. In late April and early May, many of spring’s early bloomers reach these higher elevations.
“Along that 2.5-mile stretch is the best population of painted trillium I’ve ever seen, numbering in the hundreds,” Northrup says. “One year, I seemed to have caught it and other flowers in a grand super bloom along this same stretch. There were sweet white, white erect, and yellow trillium numbering in the thousands above and below the trail as far as the eye could see, most populous below the summit of Cold Spring Knob.”
Lonely at the top Of the many overlooks in the Smokies, Northrup points to the Lonesome Pine Overlook, along the lower end of the Noland Divide, as an under-appreciated highlight. Getting there requires a 2,300-foot climb in 3.5 miles from the Deep Creek Campground, enough to deter the average park visitor.
“Guidebooks make mention of Lonesome Pine, but words can’t put into detail the experience of seeing the view for yourself,” he says. “The ridge narrows greatly and the trail dances along the spine, where it reaches several exposed rock outcrops. The approximately 270-degree view is stunning as you look out in all directions and see mountains out to the horizon. The southern half of the Smokies fill the western and eastern fringes of your view. Directly below lies Bryson City and the numerous open fields filling the Deep Creek watershed. To the south stand the mountain ranges of the Nantahala National Forest and beyond. It's a great spot to have a picnic, listen to the birds, and soak up some sun in peace and quiet. I’m yet to share the vista with another soul.”
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Cross if you dare
An off-the-beaten-path stone bridge connects the second and third old cabins in the Elkmont Historic District.
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Seeds of peace
Former Cades Cove resident Golman Myers planted the tree 75 years ago as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
[Photography Tips] Into the Woods
Photographer Deb Campbell of Maryville, Tennessee (debcampbellphoto.com), seeks out unexpected attractions in the Smokies. Here are three of her favorites:
Tunnel vision Just after you turn onto Clingmans Dome Road, a small foot path leads down the side of the mountain and around to a stone tunnel under the road—a former hiker’s underpass known as the Thomas Divide Tunnel. “Very few people know about it,” Campbell says.
Cross if you dare Not visible from the main trail in the Elkmont Historic District, an off-the-beaten-path stone bridge (pictured below) connects the second and third old cabins off of Little River Trail. “Some people refer to it as the ‘troll bridge,’” Campbell says.
Seeds of peace In Cades Cove, take the first pull-off on the right past the big overlook, then follow the trail through the woods to the top of the hill. There you’ll find a towering sweet gum tree, with a rusty wheel embedded in its trunk. Former Cades Cove resident Golman Myers planted the tree 75 years ago as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Myers’ son added an engraved metal tag in the 1970s to note the tree’s history.
Straight out of the 'Flintstones'
The Heintooga Picnic Area was built by Civilian Conservation Corps workers when the park was established.
[photography tips] Personal Picnic Spot
As a volunteer for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville photographer Kristina Plaas (facebook.com/plaasabilities) knows her way around the most popular spots in the park, as well as how to side-step the masses.
One of her favorite places for solitude—and crowd-free photos—is Heintooga Picnic Area, accessed by taking Heintooga Ridge Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway and driving past Balsam Mountain Campground to a turnaround parking area. At 5,326-feet elevation, the picnic area is in a spruce-fir forest that is never hot, even on the warmest days of summer.
“It is never crowded, even on the Fourth of July, and it is always peaceful,” Plaas says. “Wildflowers abound all summer long, and it is an excellent place for birding.” Hikers can walk the short Balsam Mountain Nature Trail, between the picnic area and campground, or take the longer Flat Creek trail, which skirts the crest of Balsam Mountain and offers an easy walk in the woods.
Civilian Conservation Corps workers built Heintooga Picnic Area at the time the park was established. The original restrooms, located in a stone building near the parking area, are still in service. “If you walk up the steps to the picnic area, past the modern picnic tables, and over the top of the hill, you will find Heintooga’s hidden secret—enormous rock slab picnic tables hand-carved by CCC workers,” she says. “Looking like something straight out of Bedrock on the ‘Flintstones,’ these tables are pure art—art that has endured more than 80 years. I’ve enjoyed gatherings with friends and peaceful solo meals at these tables, surrounded by towering spruce trees and wildflowers such as Canada mayflower, yellow clintonia, and fly poison. In my opinion, a picnic at Heintooga is the best-kept secret in the Smokies.”
A short stroll from the parking area along the Flat Creek trail, just north of the picnic area, leads to Heintooga Overlook—a stunning view over remote and rugged ridges to Mount Guyot and the eastern crest of the Smokies. Two wooden benches allow visitors to sit and savor the view while enjoying cool mountain breezes from this high-elevation perch.
“Those wishing for more adventure may elect to drive the one-way, gravel Balsam Mountain Road on their return to Cherokee. It’s what I call ‘hiking on four wheels,’” Plaas says. “For almost 15 miles, Balsam Mountain Road meanders between ridges deep in the forest. In late summer wildlife and wildflowers abound along this drive. Though not for the faint of heart, it can be safely driven in a passenger vehicle. It's slow, bumpy driving, so allow one-and-a-half to two hours for this journey. I highly recommend it.”
Plaas notes: This area is not suitable for all park visitors. There are restrictions on vehicle size on Heintooga Ridge Road (no large RVs, buses, and other oversize vehicles). In addition, vehicles with trailers are not permitted on Balsam Mountain Road. Both roads have areas with very sharp curves. The picnic area is not ADA accessible. Disabled persons can get to the restrooms, but there is no paved or level access to the picnic tables. The walk to the overlook is flat, but not intended for wheelchairs or scooters.
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Momma knows best
"You need a good camera with a long zoom lens to get the close-up shots that you want at a safe distance as to not change their behavior. The rule is 50 yards, which is 150 feet, to keep you and the animals safe." — Jon Phillips
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"The best way to capture good photos of [bears] is to be quiet and have your camera ready at all times." — Jon Phillips
[Photography Tips] Bear Essentials
Photographing wildlife can be a bear of an endeavor. For Erwin, Tennessee, hobby photographers Jon and Regina Phillips (facebook.com/JandGPhotos), patience is more than a virtue—it’s their M.O. A mechanic by trade who has been visiting the Smokies for 30 years, Jon Phillips shares a few secrets to capturing candid shots of animals in the wild:
“The black bear is the symbol of the Great Smoky Mountains Park and, of course, everyone would love to see one. First of all, you always need to be bear aware—respect them and give them plenty of space; do not disturb them in any way, as they are wild animals. Next, you need a good camera with a long zoom lens to get the close-up shots that you want at a safe distance as to not change their behavior. The rule is 50 yards, which is 150 feet, to keep you and the animals safe. If they start walking towards you, back away slowly—do not run.
“You can see bears anywhere in the Smokies, such as Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Cades Cove. You just have to be patient, look for signs on what they are feeding on, and walk the trails and backwoods. A lot of the bears we know use the same territories year after year, but they cover big areas.
“The best way to capture good photos of them is to be quiet and have your camera ready at all times, because you never know when they will walk around the corner or into a field and pick their head up from feeding, wake up from sleeping, or go get a drink of water. I have sat on a ridge at a safe distance for over five hours to get photos of bears eating and sleeping. It takes a lot of commitment and time. Some days we don’t see any bears out and about, but there is always another day—and that's what keeps us coming back time after time.”
Tremont's hidden gem
Spruce Flat Falls.
[Photography tips] A Waterfall All to Yourself
For the better part of a decade, William Britten has run a photography gallery along Gatlinburg’s historic Arts and Crafts Loop (williambritten.com). A former University of Tennessee professor, he finds himself drawn to the layers of history present throughout the park.
He considers Spruce Flat Falls a hidden gem in the Tremont section of the Smokies, an area first settled by Black Bill (William Marion) Walker in the 1850s. “Walker was a legendary frontiersman who reportedly fathered 26 children and killed 100 bears in his lifetime,” Britten says. The Smoky Mountains Institute now stands on the site of Walker’s former homestead and provides the starting point for accessing Spruce Flat Falls (follow the sign simply marked, “Trail to the Falls”).
A hike of about a mile each way passes through a thicket of mountain laurel that blooms in early May. “Since the national park does not publicize the trail, it has much less traffic than some of the more well-known falls—you may have this one all to yourself,” Britten says.
The trail climbs up, then meanders along the side of a ridge, and then abruptly descends to the basin of Spruce Flat Falls. From there, Britten says, photographers find “many possibilities for climbing around the falls to find special vantage points.”
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[Insider’s Guide] See the Forest for the Trees
Timber barons had already laid waste to most of the accessible eastern forests by the early 20th century, but the rugged terrain of the Smokies spared pockets of these primeval forests.
The protection of these relic forests was a major factor in the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today the park is home to more than 100,000 acres of old-growth forest, with the Chimneys picnic area and the Cove Hardwood Trail among the easiest places to access old growth. More strenuous hikes noted for old-growth forests include the Ramsey Cascades Trail and the Albright Grove Loop.
Old growth is impressive and awe-inspiring wherever you find it. But there’s a lot to be said for taking the trail less traveled to commune with these gentle giants in solitude. Cherokee legend tells of a time when trees could speak and routinely took part in council meetings. They don’t talk to us today, at least not in words. Or perhaps we can’t hear them, but they speak to our hearts if we can find a place to be still and listen.
Josh Kelly—the public lands field biologist for the nonprofit environmental group Mountain True—is familiar with many stands of old growth across the landscape of the Smokies.“There are some huge chestnut oaks along Old Settlers Trail,” Kelly says. Old Settlers Trail can be accessed from the Greenbrier area near Gatlinburg or from the Albright Grove Trail just west of Cosby, Tennessee.
The Boogerman Trail in Cataloochee Valley is another favorite of Kelly’s. “It’s home to the tallest white pine in the park, the Boogerman Pine.” And one of the cool things about the Boogerman Trail is that much of it is relatively flat and easy walking. It was spared the axe because reclusive owner Robert “Boogerman” Palmer refused to sell to the timber barons.
A third favorite of Kelly, Noland Divide Trail is a 15.6-mile out-and-back trail located just outside of Bryson City, North Carolina. Camping is allowed along the trail, but you must have a backcountry permit from the park. “Noland Divide is a tougher hike,” cautions Kelly, “but it has some great old growth spruce-fir forest” near the terminus of the trail at Clingmans Dome. An easier way to experience the old growth is to access Noland Divide from Clingmans Dome Road. You can hike down as far as you like; just remember that there will be a climb when you turn around.
Perhaps one of the best-kept old-growth secrets in the GSMNP is the shortleaf pine forest along the western edge of the park. Trails to look for around Abrams Creek include Gold Mine, Pine Mountain, and Rabbit Creek. Because these trees don’t reach the girth or height of other species such as poplar, hemlock, and white pine, one might not immediately recognize them as old growth. But there are shortleaf pines in the area more than 300 years old.
Old growth forests are great places for secrets; secrets held and secrets told; secrets that ride on the wind and sing in the branches.
About the author: Don Hendershot is a naturalist in Waynesville, North Carolina.
For the hardy or foolhardy
Casting a line on Bone Valley Creek.
[Insider’s Guide] Go Fish
In younger days I thought any respectable trout fisherman had to keep some secrets. Years of mellowing have led to a far different perspective; namely, that favorite destinations can be revealed without fear—after all, most of the best spots lie back of beyond or demand special approaches. Here are five top picks, chosen from a life spent astream, for “must visit” trout waters in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Forney Creek Accessible only via Fontana Lake or by a four-mile hike starting at the end of the “Road to Nowhere,” this remote stream holds only wild trout and is ideal for two or three days of camping and fishing.
Beech Flats Prong Also called Upper Luftee, this stream parallels Highway 441 for miles but is not served by any trail. Once the road leaves the creek, you need to bushwhack to access it, but getting in and out is fairly simple and involves little walking. It is a great place to catch a “Smoky Mountain Slam”—a rainbow, brown, and speckled trout in a single outing.
Bone Valley Creek Hike several miles up fabled Hazel Creek to where Bone Valley Creek enters from the west. A trail follows the dandy little stream fairly closely to the Hall Cabin. That’s it for trail access, and two small feeders upstream, aptly called Desolation and Defeat, suggest that only the hardy or foolhardy will continue farther.
Left Fork of Deep Creek There is no trail system whatsoever on the Left Fork, which can only be accessed by bushwhacking; the point where Fork Ridge Trail drops down to Poke Patch backcountry campsite on the Right Fork is the best bet. It offers mile after mile of surprisingly open fishing thanks to the fact that occasional headwater cloudbursts keep vegetation at bay.
Upper Straight Fork For miles a gravel Park Service road runs alongside Straight Fork as one heads upstream. However, almost immediately after it crosses a bridge the road veers away. Soon afterward there is only a vague fisherman’s trail that follows an old railroad grade upstream. It is difficult to find at times, but this is beautiful water and, as is true for several other destinations, the stream effectually becomes your trail.
About the author: Jim Casada is the author of Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Insider’s Guide to a Pursuit of Passion (High Country Press, 2009), among other outdoors books.
Chimney Rock State Park
Saluting the flag atop Chimney Rock.
[Insider’s Guide] Parties of the Century
The year 1916 marked a banner year for land conservation across the country with the dedication of the National Park Service.
Southern Appalachia is home to a few of the country’s most popular park entities—Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail—as well as Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and North Carolina’s Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, a lesser-known gem just south of Asheville.
Also 100 years ago: North Carolina launched its state park system with the dedication of Mount Mitchell State Park. Plus, the wilderness of Pisgah Forest officially became one of the first national forests in the eastern United States. The parks are celebrating the centennial with a host of events.
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian National Scenic Trail challenge park goers to hike 100 miles of trails throughout 2016. Participants receive a commemorative pin.
- Centennial events at Shenandoah National Park range from special fee-free days (August 25–28) to live music (June 17, 18, September 30, and October 1). Plus, on August 20, the park will host a rededication of Hawksbill Viewing Platform.
- From September 10 to 25, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site will host a two-week community celebration of the poet and the park service.
- In March 1916, 6,683-foot Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park, protecting the highest point in the eastern United States from logging. August 26 to 28, a lineup of educational programs, exhibits, and hikes will commemorate the park’s first century.
- The Fourth of July will be extra special this year at Chimney Rock State Park, which marks 100 years since the first raising of the American flag over the 315-foot rock monolith. A special flag raising will kick off the holiday starting at 7:30 a.m., with the first 100 cars admitted free of charge.
- Gorges State Park, near the North and South Carolina border, will host live music and family-friendly activities on July 2 and October 15.