Dad and 7 y/o daughter made a return visit to the Smokies a few weeks ago -late May. Only part of the trip was in the Natl Park, but being the bulk of the trip, that is where we'll put this report.
Arrived in Elkmont campground for 4 nights. used a the walk-in site hard by the roaring Little River. Next time we'll try to get a drive in site - its nice to have the extra space and privacy of the walk-in - but we'd be fine not lugging stuff back and forth from car.
Still, just a lovely spot to be - the white noise from the river makes for great sleeping.
Unfortunately the closest restroom was under remodel while we were there, so we had to trek or drive about a quarter mile when nature called. The construction activity in the area was pretty noticeable, but I figure it was mainly that they were rushing to complete the work by memorial day weekend. The river did buffer much of the noise from the trucks, so it wasn't too bad. And We didn't hang out at the campground during the day
Really enjoyed Dollywood Splash Country. Had great weather and lines weren't too long. Having been to other water parks, such as Holiday World - I did find Splash country was on the pricier side without any discounts.
Gatlinburg - took the little one in for some tourism fixes. She's pretty laid back, but it draws out whatever ADD she has in her, and raises my stress level constantly diggin in the wallet. I was able to use the town as a reward for her going on hikes etc. I guess I'm glad Gatlinburg is there, if anything to keep traffic down in the park.
Had a great hike up to the top of Chimney Tops. My knees turned to jelly as the little one scampered up without hesitation. An iconic hike. People up top got a kick out of seeing her make it up there.
Also took in the Porters Creek and Greenbrier area of the park. Quite scenic. Highly recommend.
After 4 days in the park, we packed up and headed to the North Carolina Mountains. Stopped in Cherokee for some quick sluicing for gems. Also stopped by Dillsboro Chocolate Factory. Good stuff, nice people that run the store - gave us good recommendations for the NC side. Nice B&B type town.
Thus we were off to Standing Indian Campground in the Nantahala National Forest. A gorgeous drive up the Winding Staircase. Campground was all that it was touted. A bear woke me up sniffing out our campsite - that is a crazy feeling being in a tent. Kind of spooky but awesome in retrospect.
Drove the gravel forest service roads and made short hike Laural Falls and Pickens Nose. Incredible. The forest is thick as could be with trees and rhodedendron bushes. Definitely bear country.
We'll be back - probably spending more time exploring the NC side of the park - barely scratched the surface over there.Edited: 3:30 pm, June 04, 2010