Forests that seem to run on forever, ridge after ridge of green crossing the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, The Great Smoky Mountains are an outdoorsmans paradise, or at the very least, his or her playground.
The Smoky Mountains, known the world over for their vast diversity in animal life, plant life and just life in general, these mountains with their ancient beauty and a culture nearly as ancient as they are, are one of the most visited places in America, yet still retain the wild look, feel and reality, with bear, hawk, eagle and deer literally surrounding you as you travel through them.
The Smoky Mountains are lined with over 900 miles of trails that are maintained each year by volunteers.
The trails range from short half day hikes to very difficulit strenuous journies that will probably require overnight camping in the high backcountry.
More than the hiking, the mountains are a paradise for nearly any outdoor activitiy, whether its fishing, picnics, mountain biking, horse or trail riding, wildlife viewing and photograpy, or just a simply relaxing stay in one of the many cabins and campgrounds that can be found scattered among the mountains.
Many of the parks campers and hikers come to the mountain trails hoping to see their first black bear in the wild, and with some 1500 bears living here, its quite likely that you will. Among the other wildlife such as birds of prey, deer and myriad smaller creatures, in 2001, the Smoky Mountain Park service began a program to introduce elk back into the area.
Once upon a time elk were scattered over the Smokies but due to overhunting and habitat loss they began to be eliminated.
Several other animals which were introduced successfully from breeder pairs to return to their native habitat are barn owls and the beautiful river otter.
The Smoky mountains have one of the most biologically diverse areas in the entire world among temperate zones, wtih an amazing display of not only animals, but also plant life available to see as well.
The higher elevations in the mountains can see some tricky weather, with a sunny day of about 70 degrees one day and a twenty degree day of snow the next, however it is far more temperate in the lower areas if you’re not of the hardy winter camping or hiking stock.
Typically in the lower elevations,the weather is fairly moderate, with very hot humid summers and very cool, but mild winters, however when you plan your trip, do bear in mind that you will be visiting an area whose elevations have a very broad range, from about 800 feet on up to about 7000 feet, so the weather between the two can be quite different.
The temps can change 20=30 degrees between the bottom and the top and just because its pleasant and sunny down below,doesn’t necessarily mean that the peak is going to be the same.
If you’re the adventurous sort, you might like to try fly fishing in one of the many clear mountain streams, taking a hike into the back country to get there.
If you select something a bit more moderate, the Great Smoky Mountains National park has a guided llama trek that will take you through the smoky mountains without a hike or having to haul a backpack. You might select a day trip, or if you prefer to rough it a bit, there are two day and longer llama hikes through the mountains .
To check it all out, pay a visit to the Hiking in the Smokies Web site.
On the Tennessee side, the Applachian lifestyle is alive and well, with historic areas, trails and trail rides, incredible music and many places in the mountains to purchase arts and crafts from some of the best craftsmen and women alive today.
The Smoky Mountains is also home to Cades Cove, which is an open air museum that is open every day except for the winter months, when you can still view it on the weekends.
The Smokey Mountains also offer bike rentals for those of you who are die hard mountain bikers and you might also like to rent a horse, or bring your own, to trail ride through the mountains.
There are also multiple areas to ski the mountainside and cross country skiing is another of those great adventures that the Smokies offer you.
Home to several water parks, Dollys Splash country is also on the Tennessee side of the mountains, where you can spend a day wtih waterfalls, wading pools or wild river rides.
And speaking of wild river rides, nothing will beat the thrill you can get from rafting the Pigeon river. These are guided rafting trips, and they can include most of your family.
To check out the age requirements and other things you’re going to need to know, check out Rafting the Smokies
Whether you came to hunt, to fish, to take advantage of the many opportunities for hiking, trail riding, horseback, whitewater rafting or kayaking, or just to camp, you are going to be in for the experience of a lifetime.
There are multiple places to visit inside and outside. The only real activity I didn’t take part in was swimming. Mountain rivers aren’t the place for it. Gives a whole new meaning to frosty..
All in all every trip I’ve ever taken to the Smokies ranks with the most unique and amazing experience of my life.
When I left, I didn’t know what day it was. Up there folks, it didn’t seem to matter.
FYI, some of the cabin rentals in the Smokies are listed below for your convenience.
Pigeon Forge Luxury Cabin
Just $49 per bedroom per night weekdays through May 15!
Gatlinburg Scenic Cabins.
Beautiful cabins for rent with all the amenities close to the park.