Monday, April 18, 2016

Exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park


So, the real reason that we turned back south after leaving Monaco (besides escaping the cold weather!), was so that we could meet Nicolas in Pigeon Forge for the Spring Rod Run . . . which just happened to coincide with his four day weekend.

We arrived at Creekside RV around noon and got set up.

Creekside RV Resort

Nicolas and Casey arrived a few hours later.

Nicolas checking out the Jeep











Casey looks happy to be camping again

Nicolas wasn’t going to be able to put up his tent at this RV Park, so they would be spending the weekend in the motorhome with us.  So, to minimize shedding, Casey got her “summer cut” last week . . . she looks pretty good!

Most of Nicolas’ agenda for the weekend centered around the Rod Run, but he also wanted to do some hiking in the National Park and pick up his new annual military pass.  We decided to do that on Friday morning. while may of the cars were still arriving in Pigeon Forge.

We drove to the Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up a map and Nicolas’s pass, and to decide which area of the park to explore.

Smoky Mountains - early Spring

Exploring in the Jeep











We’ve done the Cades Cove Loop several times, as well as Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome, so we decided to try something new – the Roaring Fork Nature Drive.

It’s a one-way, narrow winding road that climbs the mountain . . . so it sounded like a fun challenge for the Jeep!  Bryce was determined to do the driving!

Narrow, winding road

Not a very wide road!











Do they really share the same genes?

As we followed the trail up the mountain, we stopped at a few overlooks, and about half way around we reached the trail for Grotto Falls.

There are several waterfalls in this area, and we chose Grotto Falls because the trail was just about 1.5 miles each way, and rated “just” moderate.

Lots of other people apparently had the same idea – the parking lot was full when we got to it . . .but we have a Jeep now . . . who needs a parking lot!!??!!


We did a little rock climbing, and got the Jeep parked off the side of the road.

The entire trail was uphill

The trail to Grotto Falls


The trail was all uphill, with lots of obstacles – rocks and tree roots – LOTS of interesting tree roots!

We definitely had to be careful – especially me!







Crazy tree roots


The boys were having fun,

Bryce - always up for a challenge!


Nicolas said the water was COLD!


running and jumping, climbing on stuff – I don’t know where they get the energy!  Tom and I continued at our own pace . . .








My three guys

As we neared the waterfall, Nick and Bryce decided to take a side trail down to the bottom of the falls.

Climbingdown to the bottom of the falls

They made it to the bottom,

They made it!

and then climbed back up again!

Grotto Falls



We reached the top of the lower falls, and as we crested to top of the trail, we became aware of just how many people were there ahead of us!

And we reached the waterfall!

What a crowd!

Tom and the boys went behind the falls, but I stayed back because it was a pretty slippery, rocky path. 

Really, Nicolas is there!!  He’s behind the water!

Nicolas is hiding behind the water!

We did get a family picture alongside the stream,


and a selfie in front of the waterfall!


Whew!  After making it up, we needed to make our way back down!  We got back to the Jeep with no mishaps, and had our lunch on the rock that we had driven over.

Following the stream



The rest of the nature drive was more winding, narrow road as we followed the water down the mountain, and passed a few old buildings.







Cabin in the woods

More cabins










After completing the Nature Drive, we continued along the river through the park towards Wears Valley and Townsend, to take the back way into Pigeon Forge.

Smoky Mountains

Along the river











There were even some Rod Runners enjoyed this beautiful day in the park!









Bryce and Nick like the old Broncos!


Even with the early-Spring lack of foliage, it was a beautiful drive!

Following the river now















We somehow missed the turn that would have taken us on the shorter route through Wears Valley,

Found a Jeep Shop!


so we ended up enjoying an additional 8 miles of winding, twisting roads (which Bryce loved!), but the bonus was stumbling on a Jeep Shop in the little town of Townsend!

It was a cute shop, and we were able to pick up two of the hand-holds that we were missing in the Jeep and Tom got some information on accessories and tow bars which will come in handy!




It was a really nice day, and after dinner the guys still had time to cruise the Parkway, checking out some of the cool old cars!


  1. The Smokey Mountains are one of our favorite places!! The Roaring Fork Nature Trail was where we saw a Momma bear and her twin cubs. I doubt with all those people you would see much wildlife. Regardless, it certainly was a beautiful day. How great that Nicolas was able to be part of the fun!!

  2. After seeing the Rod Run for the last three years it felt out of place to miss it this year.
    Glad Nicolas was able to join in the family fun.
    We've had a few great days of weather lately but the temps are sliding back to below seasonal for next week. Glad you are in a warmer area.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  3. Glad you had fun in the Great Smokey Mountains -- you're only a couple hours from me----does that mean you're coming to visit?? we must be on the way to "somewhere" off I 81 close to Abingdon VA----


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