I got lots of great information from this board before our trip, so I decided to post a trip report. Thanks to all who provide such great information. It is truly helpful for us tourists.
July 29-We stayed at the Great Smoky Jellystone Campground out on rte. 321 near Cosby. We camped with a travel trailer, and I highly recommend this campground. Most campsites back up to a mountain stream which is just great! In the evening we ate at Cherokee Grill in Gatlinburg and we enjoyed our meal.
July 30-Spent the day in Dollywood. We had a great time! It was about a 45 min. drive from our campground, but all the driving in the area is so scenic we didn't mind a bit. There is so much to do and see at Dollywood that we probably could have used another 1/2 day.
July 31-Hiking Day! We hiked part of the Maddron Bald Trail which was accessible from the back of our campground. There is an old cabin on this trail as well as some old growth forests. Very nice. In the afternoon we hiked the Hen Wallow Falls trail which is accessible near the Cosby campground. Also a nice hike which ended at a falls. Beautiful forest scenery! We drove out to Corky's BBQ in Pigeon Forge for dinner. We'd had Corky's in both Memphis and Nashville. This Corky's experience was somewhat lacking. The food was good, but not outstanding like we had remembered from our other visits.
August 1-Boy oh boy were our legs tired from the hiking the previous day! We took it easier this day with a visit to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. We enjoyed both the exhibits and the movie. We also walked the short trail around the visitor center. We then took off for the Roaring Forks Motor Trail. Beautiful drive but very crowded. It wasn't bumper to bumper, but there were an awful lot of cars on the road. Many were pulled off (and in some questionable parking spots) to access the hiking. We had picked up a guide book in the visitor center, and I read to the family as we drove along. We then headed up the Newfound Gap Road. We really enjoyed stopping in Newfound Gap and standing in two states at once. Great views here! We then drove on up to Clingman's Dome. The parking up there was crazy, but we managed to snag a good spot. The clouds were really heavy looking but we managed to get a few great photos before the rain started. We were still in the parking lot area when the rain started, so we just got back in the car and left. For those who had hiked up to the observation platform, I'm guessing they got soaked. Dinner that evening was at Bennett's BBQ in Gatlinburg. Delicious! We also walked the strip, shopped, and did lots a people watching. What a fun way to spend the evening.
August 2-The previous day we had stopped at the Rafting in the Smokies office in Gatlinburg and signed up for a rafting trip. We had an 11:00 trip. I was really nervous about the rafting, but it was a lot of fun! Our guide was excellent. There are so many different companies to choose from, but this company had high ratings and I highly recommend it. That evening we ate at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. Good food, not great, but good. We shopped on the strip again and enjoyed walking around.
August 3-For our last day we spent the morning in the campground. After lunch we headed towards Cades Cove. Now... I knew it would be crowded, but the traffic was literally stopped. As we entered the loop we stopped immediately b/c there were park rangers keeping watch of a bear in a tree. We saw a bear! That was cool and we were feeling really positive about this loop drove. That's when things got bad. Traffic stopped and we actually turned off our car and just sat while no one moved. We saw on the map that there was a one-way road (unpaved) that headed over the mountain towards Townsend. We took it! It's called the Rich Mountain Road and it was quite an adventure. Really twisty, gravel, and steep. It put our SUV through it's paces. After getting off that road, we headed toward Pigeon Forge to eat dinner at The Old Mill. Great dinner. We didn't have time to browse around, but it seemed liked there was a lot to do and see.
We had a great trip in a beautiful part of the country. We hope to go back one day soon!