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Something we love about the Smoky Mountains is it represents its name so well. The way the fog rolls over the mountains is truly majestic. Showing up at Escape Campervan’s Atlanta depot will get you closest to these mountains, about 3 hours out. If you are going in the fall be sure and hit the first week of November timeframe as the colors are magical!

Laurel Falls Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A few of our favorite hikes

Laurel Falls Trail

This is an easy 2.3 (in and out) hike and is pretty popular. But trust me, there is a reason! The hike itself is somewhat paved (I wouldn’t recommend strollers) and has a slight incline the entire time. You will have a couple viewpoints as well as gorgeous trees tapering over you. You’ll also see some sweet rock formations. Once you reach the end, the falls will take your breath away. It goes below you and above you (BE CAREFUL, very slippery year-round)! The kids will love to explore around and it’s a perfect place to stop for a packed lunch or of course those Instagram pics!

Chimney Tops Trail

3.7-mile (in and out) challenging hike. The first mile or so you will pass a couple of gorgeous views of the river. You will hit many sets of stairs throughout the hike and will be going up up up almost the entire way out! At this time you aren’t able to go quite to the top (because of the fires, so sad) but you can see a great landscape view at the top of the beautiful mountains.

Little River Walk Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Little River Trail

This was a 12.3 very peaceful, easy hike that goes along the river.  Don’t let the miles scare you as there are many areas you can pop in and out. Hike a while and call it good! It is possible for any hiking level including young children. If you go in the fall this is going to be your ‘sweet spot’ for those incredible colors mixed with rocks and the beautiful water. There’s a campground right off of this trail that is gorgeous!

There are beautiful vistas all along the 441 Bypass near Gatlinburg. These views are something to call home about!

Also, we haven’t tried it yet, but they just opened a new highway called: The Foothills Parkway. One Tennessee senator labeled it the ‘prettiest drive in America’. You’ll have to check it out and let us know if this is true!

Cades Cove

This is the classic. You really are not allowed to take a trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park without a trip to Cades Cove. It is a valley in the mountains with an 11-mile one-way loop you drive through. Many early settlers came and set up camp here before it became a national park. You can still see some of the old wooden structures.

A big draw beyond the views of the mountains and historical significance is the abundance of wildlife. Look for whitetail deer, coyotes, turkeys, groundhogs and, yes, the animal everyone is there to see, the black bear!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Vista

Downtown Gatlinburg

There is so much nightlife to explore! There’s something for the whole family, from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, mini golf, candy stores, ice cream and many options for dinner!

If you want to get a truly authentic Tennessee experience, be sure and get yourself on in for a moonshine tasting! They have them everywhere but there are a few fun ones right downtown Gatlinburg too!

Gondola Ride

If you are like our family you can never get high enough! The gondola rides are a great way to do this. Ober Gatlinburg and Gatlinburg Skylift are the more popular ones. Some days they have special events at the top. Ober Gatlinburg takes you to the top of a mountain where you can access a little amusement park with an ice skating rink, snacks, food, rides, and another chairlift to go even higher!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Vista

Horseback Riding

What’s better than experiencing the beautiful Smoky Mountains by foot? How about by horseback!

There are many options to choose from. Don’t ever pay full price. There’s a coupon and deal at every corner. We have been two or three different places and they all were great! Do some research to see what you are looking for. We like to find a place that takes you to a viewpoint—some only go through the woods.  Also, if you have young kids, some places allow young kids to accompany the adult so call ahead!

One little side-note to save the embarrassment. We have found places treat weight differently. Some actually charge per pound, and they have you step on a scale right there at the ticket office… How crazy is that? Call ahead if you have any questions about this.

Laurel Falls Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We hope you enjoy your time in the Smokies as much as we do. The Great Smoky Mountains is going to be one of those unique trips you’ll never forget!

Laurel Falls Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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