We enjoyed two nights in the thick of the forest of the Great Smokey Mountains. After passing through the extremely touristy mountainous village of Gatlinburg, we headed on to our campsite in Elkmont at the centre of the park. After setting up camp we headed off on a drive of the Cades Cove Loop Road. The extremely slow drive (11 miles at 25mph, not that we were complaining) was quite stunning as we drove through dense forest and sprawling landscapes. We passed by wild looking horses with crazy blue eyes, white-tailed bucks and historical cabins once occupied by the Cherokee Indians back as far as 1815.
On our second day in the park we decided to drive the Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park
. The drive itself was intriguing as we ascended almost 4,000ft from lowland hardwood timber to high altitude spruce-fir forests. Along the way we had intended on stopping to do the Chimney Tops Trail however it was closed so settled for the Alum Cave Bluffs trek, quite impressive regardless. On the way up this trail we walked along a beautiful creek and up through Arch Rock, a tunnel made by many years of erosion. We were greeted with amazing views over the Smokies when we neared the top. We then continued on to the overlook at the Newfound Gap where the Tennessee- North Carolina State line runs and then moved on to Clingmans Dome. Here we received stunning views across the mountains of the park which were a thousand shades of blue. We walked up a steep half-mile trail (never heard so much complaining by passers by as we came back down!) to a spiral lookout tower where we got spectacular panoramic views.
After a long day of driving and trekking we headed back to our campsite for dinner and toasted marshmallows by the fire.
We saw a bear!! On our drive out of the Great Smokey Mountains NP on the last day a young black bear ran across the road. We were quite excited although happy not to have encountered the bears up close as could have been the case had we left any food out at our campsite. Slightly scary...