Gatlinburg Getaway

In September of 2018 I visited the an eastern Tennessee town hidden away along the Great Smoky Mountain rage. As the memories pop up in my social feed (a great reminder of what adventure I was on this time a year ago), it prompted me to write about this destination lesser known.

With an elevation just about 1,000ft it’s a great destination for families and kids seeking a lower scale mountain experience during the fall months, as the Main Street is geared towards the traditional American tourist (fried, flashy, fun). But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover the natural beauty this town has to offer.

As the sort of gateway to the Smoky mountains there’s various hiking options within the 520,000 acre national park. Soar above the clouds with each step you take, that’s only a convenient five to 45 minute drive away.

For those looking to stay in town, within walking distance is Anakeesta; a 70+ acre park for families and couples that requires a lift to make it up to the top. There, explore the ‘downtown’ area and dine at the Clifftop Bar and Grill, ride the Rail Runner mountain coaster, or, my personal favorite, feel with with nature as you walk 50 – 60 ft in the air in the Tree Top Skywalk.

If you’re seeking a little bit more thrill, like I was, try the Dueling Zipline. As my first, and thus far only, zip lining experience it was exciting riding through the tree line. I even got lucky and saw bears below, a reminder of how interconnected we all are.

Most recently added to the area is the new Skybridge, the longest of its kind in North America spanning 680 wide with views for countless miles. Those with a fear of heights can opt for the SkyDeck instead, with expansive views and solid ground. All conveniently accessed by the SkyLift, which boards on the Main Street.

Back on the ground I saved the best for last. What would any true Tennessee visit be without some Tennessee whiskey? Leave the kids at home and explore one of many distilleries; Ole Smoky, Sugarlands, or Doc Collier. If tapping into that moonshine isn’t for you, head to Tennessee Homemade Wines, Gatlinburg Wine Cellar, Goodwater Winery, Sugarland Cellars for some wine. Looking Untapp? Head to Smoky Mountain Brewery, Gatlinburg Brewery, or Tennessee Cider Company. All of these places located right on the main road in town. The best part about a walking town is just that, walk through, no Uber needed.

Have a place you think is worth exploring? Drop me a line!


Sugarland Distillery w/ O’Damnit



The Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. The park was marked an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It provides over 800 miles of trails (I only explored less than 15), making it a top hiking destination in the Eastern U.S. With more than 520,000 acres, it welcomes more than 11.3 million recreational visitors annually, and is the most visited out of the 59 National Parks (Grand Canyon coming in second at 4.6 million).

Alum Cave trail is one of the most popular trails in these woods. With unmatchable geological features and viewing points, I guided through Arch Rock and the accomplished mark of Alum Cave itself, which is more like a concave bluff. The roughly five-mile round trip, moderately difficult, trail gains an elevation of nearly 1200 feet.

I started crossing Walker Camp Prong and log bridges as I rose up through the hardwood forests. The most unique site was walking through the narrow tunnel of Arch Rock, gripping onto the wire rail for support. From there, I went through Peregrine Peak and viewed the beauty of mountain laurel and rhododendron flowering, evergreens. Overlooking a full panoramic view of the Smokies, I stopped at Inspiration Point, rightfully named for its inspiring view. I then came upon Alum Cave, with water dripping from the ledges above and breathtaking views. I felt an even greater sense of accomplishment. Those seeking a more challenging adventure have the option to continue onto the summit of Mount LeConte, sitting at over 6500 feet.

As I walked through the trees, over the river, and higher into the mountains, I remained in complete awe. At moments I understood the power of nature, as conceptualized by the Native American people. In modern society, it’s so easy to become consumed by our phones, schedules, and running around to keep up with day-to-day life. On this trail, in this moment, it was only about myself and nature around me, and the occasional “hello” from fellow hikers. The sounds, smells, and sights were overwhelmingly clear, like seeing the world for the first time.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart . . . and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean” — John Muir.

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This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here