Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Travel With Kids: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Part II)

"The true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active; the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes from the talk."
-Mark Twain

Far and away the best vacations our family has ever taken are what we call "walking holidays". I think walking and talking is the very best way to spend a day with your children - it bonds you together as a family more deeply than by any other activity or vacation I can think of.

Did you know Smoky the Bear turned 70 this summer? We thought it was a perfect time to make our maiden voyage to the Great Smoky Mountains to do some hiking. 

Driving into the gates of the park this past summer, the first thing that came to mind was the tune of America the Beautiful. The preservation of this space achieves it's highest intended goal. From the first moment, the goal of this park was simply to preserve the American way with examples of some of our finest flora and fauna in a green space where they could flourish. Writer Mary N. Murfree (pen name Charles Egbert Craddock) wrote that "the Great Smoky Mountains are like some barren ideal".

In the cradle of warm summer months, the Tennessee Mountains are at their peak of charm. Lush and green, with cool rivers and streams, they represent a perfect escape from the heat and humidity of South Carolina. My favorite part of a trip to these mountains is that you are spoiled for choice with the selection of hikes. There is a trail hike tailor made for whatever strikes your fancy on any given day to align with your abilities and timeline coupled with the day's forecast.

                   *image source: Gatlinburg Realestate - Clingmans Dome

A few tips: 

" Walks. The body advances, while the mind flutters around it like a bird."
- Jules Renard, French author
  • Stop at the visitors centers- they always have more detailed maps of surrounding trails.
  • Pack moisture wicking wool socks for the entire family and waterproof shoes. All of the hikes in this area have streams and rivers - wet feet are no fun for kids.
  • I love these tips for hiking with kids - especially the one about rotating your leader!
  • Always carry more water than you think you'll need! And snacks too...
  • On long hikes with kids, remember to keep talking, telling jokes, and pointing out interest along the trail - it helps to motivate and keep a check on how tired your child is.
   panoramic mountain view from our guest house window at the one and only Buckhorn Inn  outside Gatlinburg, TN - it drew us out to hike every day.

PMK recommended hikes from our first trip:
  • Sugarlands Visitor Center:  Start here for advice on trails and maps, walking sticks and souvenirs - click here for details
  • Cades Cove: Arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds and drive this 11 mile touring loop. Take a walk down Sparks Lane for deer sightings. This is a densely populated bear and wildlife area. click here for park details
  • Clingmans Dome:  This 1 mile roundtrip trek is moderate but steep. It's a perfect distance for young children and they love the tower at the turning point.
  • Laurel Falls: This is an easy family walk near Sugarlands Visitor Center. 2.6 miles roundtrip. 
  • Abrams Falls: At a roundtrip distance of 5 miles, this hike is a commitment of time and endurance - definitely one for older children (though we did see a family of 6 successfully hike it with 4 children under the age of 9!) The falls are beautiful here and there are huge, flat rock picnic surfaces making this worth the trek. 
  •  Further from the main park area, in Cosby, TN the hiking in Greenbrier was less touristy and fantastic for fishing. This link outlines these trails: Greenbrier Hiking Trails
*Linking with this PMK post Part I on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

More to come detailing horse riding in the mountains and the Buckhorn Inn.

1 comment:

  1. All sight presents the natural beauty of God. Great smoky Mountain National park is one of the most famous and major park in USA. I’m a tourist and like to go in different places around the world. I have visited there before boston to dc bus tours with my business Partner. This Park is famous due to its Heights Mountains. After visited your blog I want to go again there on next months. I hope it will be memorable for me.