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Smoky Mountains Spring Break

BK2
NW Chicago Suburbs...
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9 posts
72 reviews
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Smoky Mountains Spring Break

I'm trying to throw together a somewhat last minute trip to the Smoky Mountains for spring break - last week of March. We are a family of 4 - Mom, Dad, and 2 boys ages 12 and 15. Both boys are scouts and enjoy hiking, though Mom and Dad prefer to keep to easy to moderate trails. We are looking to relax, hike, and maybe visit Dollywood and Gatlinburg but not stay in the middle of the touristy parts of town. I'm looking at renting a cabin in Wears Valley.

A couple of questions -

1) Looking at a map, it seems we'd be okay with exploring the park on the TN side even with the 441 road closure. We're coming from Chicago so I wasn't really planning on driving to the NC side for this trip. Does that seem accurate?

2) On the NPS site for the Smoky Mountains, I see a lot of references to other seasonal road closures and the possibility of trails being washed out. For light to moderate hiking trails in the

vicinity of Townsend/Wears Valley, will this be a concern?

3) Wears Valley seems to be a good location for a quieter experience but still with easy access to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for attractions should we want to go there. Agreed?

Thanks for any feedback... I'm usually an obsessive planner and work on trips for months, but we're winging this one a bit.

nashville
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1. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

yeah, if you're not heading to the NC side, then the 441 closure wont affect you. there's plenty to see on the TN side to keep you occupied.

the only other important road closure to keep an eye on is Greenbrier... normally i would recommend that you guys do some hikes in the Greenbrier area.

yeah, Wears Valley is a great place to base. it's a very quiet area but only a few minutes drive to the "louder" areas.

have a nice trip. i hope you guys get a chance to hit a few trails while you're at it.

Townsend, Tennessee
Destination Expert
for Townsend, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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966 posts
14 reviews
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2. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Wears Valley is a great location for a quieter experience where you will be anywhere from 3 to 15 miles and no more than 20 - 30 minutes, maximum from the strip in Pigeon Forge depending on how far off of Wears Valley Road your cabin is located. None of the current trail closures should affect your hiking in the Townsend/Wears Valley area on the light to moderate hiking trails. Only a small connector trail (Scott Mountain) and an area at the western edge of the park along Beard Cane and Hatcher Mountain are still affected. From Wears Valley, you will have access to the Smokies via Lyons Springs road which leads to Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, so on the days you are heading into the Park this is a nice way to avoid the Gatlinburg traffic.

BK2
NW Chicago Suburbs...
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9 posts
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3. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Thanks for the feedback. We ended up booking the Appalachian cabin which gets really good reviews. Looking forward to exploring the area and hoping for some spring like weather.

Louisville, Kentucky
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626 posts
103 reviews
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4. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Last week of March is a great time to visit the Smokies. You should be seeing some nice spring wildflowers by that time! There are plenty of trails to choose from, some easy, some longer and tougher. To get an idea of some trails to choose from, this site categorites the trails by difficulty level:

www.hikinginthesmokys.com/difficulty.htm

Be sure to check out Cades Cove, a one-way 11 mile loop drive with spectacular scenery and lots of historic buildings to check out along the way. Although, I'll warn you, unless you get there early in the morning, it can get crowded with very slow traffic!

Lexington, Kentucky
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684 posts
6 reviews
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5. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Just a few hiking suggestions--go to Elkmont Cabins and the Walker Sisters Cabin. It's an easy hike on a paved road to the Walker Sisters Cabin. So cool to see the old homestead.

If you are looking for something a little longer, try maybe Laurel Falls (paved trail) or even Abrahm's Falls. We did that one a couple years ago and we loved it. It was a bit longer, I think around 5 miles round trip, but we absolutely loved it!! I am sort of out of shape, and it wasn't too bad. There were plenty of places to stop and rest.

Have fun on your trip!

Karen

BK2
NW Chicago Suburbs...
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9 posts
72 reviews
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6. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Just a follow up... we enjoyed our time in the Smoky Mountains. Had some chilly weather but we're from Chicago so we were used to the cold, just hoping to escape it. We stayed in a cabin in Townsend. We spent one night in Pigeon Forge because of the timing of the cabin rental... I would go out of my way NOT to do that ever again. Definitely not our style. We has some thought of going to Gatlinburg one day but didn't really want to do the long drive from Townsend so we skipped it. Spent most of our time hiking or relaxing at the cabin and having some family time. We did more challenging hikes than I originally anticipated. We did the Little River Trail/Cucumber Gap loop and West Prong Trail. We also drove the Cades Cove loop one day, and then did the 8.5 Rich Mountain Loop trail another day. (whew). Kids were fine, mom and dad were huffing and puffing. Lots of elevation gains and drop offs on several of these trails, though admittedly drop offs are an issue for me so I'm pretty sensitive to that. The rest of the family was just fine with the terrain. I used hiking poles though and found them to be very helpful for keeping my footing and balance. Several of these trails had small streams to cross ( though I will tell everyone back at home that they were large rivers!) and the higher ones still had probably 6 inches of snow on the ground. Beautiful scenery, took lots of pictures, and had a nice sense of accomplishment for conquering some of these trails. ( and some achy muscles too). Only disappointment was the lack of wildlife. We saw a couple of deer, but other than that hardly even saw very many birds. The Hikingthesmokys.com site that people recommend was extremely helpful. I would pull up the page for our hike on my phone and reference it even when we didn't have service which is the case throughout most of the national park... that's okay, it was nice to be out of touch for a while. All in all, a nice fairly laid back trip. Thanks for the helpful tips.

Lexington, Kentucky
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684 posts
6 reviews
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7. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Glad you had a great trip, sound like you had a nice & relaxing time.

Karen

Ontario, Canada
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1,070 posts
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8. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

Thanks BK2 for following up and telling us about your trip. We are making our first trip to the area in 3 weeks and we are so excited to do some hiking. Your review was really helpful.

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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345 posts
144 reviews
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9. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

For future reference, the Walker Sisters cabin is not on a paved trail. The walk begins at the Greenbrier School House and is called the Little Brier Gap Trail. It is one mile to the Walker Cabin, two miles RT. The Elkmont Cabins are former summer homes, not pioneer homesteads.

Lexington, Kentucky
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684 posts
6 reviews
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10. Re: Smoky Mountains Spring Break

For the Walker Sisters cabin, it's true it isn't a paved trail, more like a gravel road. But we hiked it back in October and it was just as good as a paved trail. Maybe even better since we only saw maybe 5 or 6 people the whole time hiking there and back. Very peaceful. :)

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