Great Smoky Mountains

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The Great Smoky Mountains, among the oldest mountains on the planet, are part of the Appalachian Mountain range in the eastern United States.  These mountains straddle the North Carolina and Tennessee boarders, along the Blue Ridge


February 13, 2017 by Rick Morris

Having been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Smoky Mountains are included with the International Biosphere Reserve.  They are often called the "Smokies" or "Smoky Mountains".  The Cherokee called them the "shaconage", or blue and like smoke.

The peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains are some of the tallest in the Appalachian Mountain chain. 

The Smokies get their name from the moisture/fog that drifts casually along the mountains.  The moisture comes from the organic compounds being expelled by the trees and plants.  Speaking of moisture, the mountain range receives four to eight feet of rain annually!

Great Smoky Mountains Map

White settlers started appearing in the area of the Great Smokies in the 1750s, rapidly creating problems for the Cherokee who owned the land.  They had just come off the French and Indian War. The Cherokee sided with Britain's forces during the Revolutionary War, but gave up control of the land in the early 1800s to the United States.  In 1838, most of the Cherokee were forced along the Trail of Tears, towards Oklahoma and other westward locales.  Some were able to remain and are now part of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

With nearly 190,000 acres of old growth forest, the Great Smoky Mountains are the largest of the kind within the eastern part of America.  Much of the virgin timber was taken during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  There are three zones of forest in the Smokies: Look for spruce and fir trees (boreal forest) in the Southern Appalachians, cove hardwood in the valleys and coves, and the northern hardwood found in the higher elevations of the Smokies

As for critters, the black bear abounds in the Great Smoky Mountains, while the creeks, streams, and rivers hold an assortment of salamanders.  Also look for reintroduced elk near the Cataloochee area, white-tailed deer, and even the bobcat and coyote.  There are red and gray foxes, boars, bats, otters, and even flying squirrels!  As for birds of true flight, expect to see an occasional Peregrine Falcon, red-tailed hawks, and several types of owls, along with your pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, etc.  There are two deadly snakes in the Smokies - the timber rattler and the copperhead. The non-venomous, but more common black rat snake is often found crawling along the grass of the typical yard or in a barn or shed.  Harmless, the black rat snake is often unfortunately dispatched with a shovel, pitch fork, stick, or gun.  If you don't care for rattlesnakes and copperheads in the immediate vicinity of your home and garden, leave the black rat snake be, as it kills/eats the them.  In the waters of the Smokies you'll find trout, bass, "hog" suckers", "horned heads", shiners, etc. 

The Great Smoky Mountains extend between the Little Tennessee River and Pigeon River, and are surrounded by English and Chilhowee mountain peaks and several small streams.  Visit Haywood or Swain Counties in North Carolina or Sevier, Blount, and Cocke Counties in Tennessee and you'll get a first-hand viewing of these majestic mountains.  A number of rivers and creeks produce thrilling white water, empting into Lakes Fontana, Cheoah, Tellico, Calderwood, and Chilhowee.  The brown and rainbow trout were first stocked here about 100 years ago, while the brook is the sole native trout of the Smokies.

The Cherokee Nation

The native Americans were the first ones to walk these grounds.  They were a clan of Cherokee that arrived from the Iroquois nation of New England thousands of years ago.  As a child growing up here, I often would search for arrowheads and pottery pieces in the fields following a plowing and quick rain storm.  Much of these artifacts come from the great Cherokee that lived and hunted along the Pigeon River near Canton, NC.  Probably the only village located within the Great Smoky Mountains is the Oconaluftee, in modern Cherokee, NC.

White settlers arrived in large numbers during the 1780s and 1790s and became friends with the Cherokee.  But friendship quickly ceased as disagreements occurred.  Soon, the Cherokee moved into the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They tried to negotiate with the settlers of their lands, making treaties and agreements, and even learning/living European customs.  The Cherokee created a legal code in 1808 and a supreme court system shortly thereafter.  Even an official language appeared after a Cherokee silversmith named Sequoyah developed an alphabet.

The discovery of gold in northern Georgia in 1828 led to the Removal Act (signed by President Andrew Jackson).  This was a forced removal of the Cherokee westward to Indian Territory (Oklahoma).  An appeal to the Supreme Court garnered a favorable ruling by Chief Justice Marshall, but Jackson defied it.  This was the only time in U.S. history that a president has ignored the Supreme Court. 

13,000 Cherokee were forced to walk the grueling distance to Oklahoma in 1838.  More than 4,000 didn't make it, dying along the way from starvation and disease.  This has become known as the Trail of Tears.  Eventually, 100,000 Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole arrived in Oklahoma courtesy the force removal from their lands.  This represents one of humanity's greatest failures.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, created in 1934, makes up a large portion and provides protection to much of the range.  About 10 million visitors arrive at this national park each year, making it the most visited one in the country.  There are more than 17,000 species of creatures - both animals and plants - and 100,000 different types in the park.  Also look for one of dozens of historic log buildings, which have been preserved since pioneering days (see Cradle of Forestry)

The park was created to preserve a portion of the forest in the Southern Appalachians.  Much of the funds for purchasing the land the park now entails came from donations from citizens, $2 million from the federal government, and a whopping $5 million from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.!

There previously were more than 4,000,000 acres in the Southern Appalachians.  Fire and over-logging destroyed much of this virgin forest.  Today, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entails a mere half-million acres (521,895 to be exact).  Entrance to the park is free.

A visit to Clingmans Dome in eastern Tennessee, the tallest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains (6,643 feet) will leave you with breath-taking views.  Or head over to Gatlinburg, also in Tennessee, and view Mount Le Conte, which stands at almost 6,600 feet in elevation.  Other peaks include Mount Guyot (6,621 feet), Mount Chapman (6,431 feet), Old Black (6,360 feet), Mount Kephart (6,218 feet), Mount Collings (6,197 feet), Marks Knob (6,162 feet), and Tricorner Knob (6,145 feet).  You can also check out Chimney Tops (sheer rock cliffs), Ramsey Cascades (a 100-foot waterfall), Oconaluftee Indian Village, Cades Cove, and Cataloochee Valley.

Walking and Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains

If hiking is your thing, then you'll no doubt want to enjoy one of the 150 official hiking trails in the park.  They extend more than 800 miles, and include 70 miles of the famous Appalachian Trail!  You can also camp at one of the 100 primitive and 1,008 developed camp sites. 

The hiking trails of the Great Smoky Mountains were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt's plan to get Americans back to work during the Great Depression.  Much of the trails run along ancient Cherokee as part of their larger territory.  Today, several hiking clubs help keep the trails clear and maintained, including the Appalachian Trail.  Some of the hiking trails are paved.  Several will take you to spectacular waterfalls and overlooks. 

Chimney Tops Trail - This hike up Chimney Tops Mountain takes you to 4,724 feet above the Smokies.  Located in Sevier County, Tennessee at 35.630653, -83.478226 you'll stand upon bare rock at the summit and enjoy a 360 degree view.  The Cherokee called it "forked antler" (Duniskwalgunyi) - from the antlers of a deer.  Access Chimney Tops Trail from Newfound Gap Road/US Highway 441.  You can also take the Road Prong Trail along the river from the famous Appalachian Trail, doubling the distance of your hike.

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail - In Sevier County, Tennessee this moderate to strenuous trail ascends Sugarland Mountain's knobs and peaks.  The northern 4,833-foot peak is adjacent to 5,494 feet summit.  Take the 4.8 mile Rough Creek Trial junction to the Appalachian Trail, 4.2 mile Huskey Gap to Rough Creek Trail junction, or the shorter 3.1 mile Fighting Creek Gap to Huskey Gap trail.  Watch out of steep ledges - some just a few feet wide - and icy conditions in the winter months.  You'll get views of Gatlnburg, TN and Mount Le Conte, as well as the Upper Little River Valley.

Ramsey Cascades Trail - This trail takes you to the Great Smoky Mountain's highest waterfall, the 100-foot Ramsey Cascades.  You'll climb more than 2,000 feet in 4 miles on this strenuous hike, all while walking along streams and rivers.  Access the Ramsey Cascades Trail at Greenbrier, which is located 5 miles off Highway 321 about 6 miles east of Gatlinburg.  If you decide you want to climb the rocks surrounding the waterfall, just know the locals will view you as stupid tourist while the high-angle rescue teams from the local fire department pluck your body from the falls.

Laurel Falls Trail

Indian Creek Falls Trail

Hen Wallow Falls Trail

Abrams Falls Trail

Alum Cave Trail

Appalachian Trail

Boulevard Trail

Gregory Bald Trail

Rich Mountain Loop Trail

Crooked Arm Ridge Trail

Grave Gap Trail

Scott Mountain Trail

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trial

Bullhead Trail

Baskins Creek Trail

Rainbow Falls Trail

Trillium Gap Trail

Grapeyard Ridge Trail

Old Sugarlands Trail

Lower Mount Cammerer Trail

Ramsey Cascades Trail

Old Settlers Trail

Gabes Mountain Trail

Brush Mountain Trail

Maddron Bald Trail

Low Gap Trail

Snake Den Ridge Trail

Porters Creek Trail

Clingmans Dome Trails

Forney Ridge Trail

Road Prong Trail

Laurel Falls Trail

Gatlinburg Trail

Spruce Flats Falls Trail

Meigs Mountain Trail

Roundtop Trail

Cove Mountain Trail

Old Sugarlands Trail

Jakes Creek Trail

What to See and Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains

Clingmans Dome

Mount LeConte

Andrews Bald

Alum Cave Bluffs

Charlies Bunion

Chimney Tops

Mingus Mill

Cherokee Orchard Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Mountain Farm Museum

Newfound Gap

Cataloochee Valley

Cades Cove and Cades Cove Loop Road

Cherokee, NC

Gatlinburg, TN

Pigeon Forge, TN

Townsend, TN

Bryson City, NC

Fontana Dam, NC

Maggie Valley, NC

Sevierville, TN

Jefferson County, TN

Cosby, TN

Asheville, NC

Waynesville, NC

Waynesville NC Weather
The weather in Waynesville is mild, with warm summers, cool autumns, cold winters, and warming springs.

Restaurants in Waynesville NC
When it comes to finding good food, there are several quality restaurants, bar and grills, and eateries.

Waynesville NC Hotels
So, you need a place to stay?  No worries.  Try one of our cozy Bed and Breakfast's, motels, or cabins.

Bogarts Restaurant
One of the town's most regarded restaurants.  If you are looking for good food prices, this is for you.

Ingles Grocery
Head over to Ingles for all your grocery needs.  One of about 200 Ingles chain groceries in the area.

Wells Funeral Home
A respected funeral home in Waynesville for more than 100 years.

Urgent Care
This is where you go when you are sick, but not enough to warrant a visit to the ER. Two locations in Waynesville.

Downtown Waynesville
Where its happening! Walk the cozy sidewalks and take in the shops, street art, and culture.

Mountain Projects
A community action agency, serving Haywood County since 1965.

Old Stone Inn
This mountain lodge and restaurant is currently for sale (February 11, 2017).  Seven buildings. 18 guest rooms.  Price: $900k.

The Lodge
The Lodge is a hotel in Waynesville offering complimentary coffee and doughnuts in the lobby.  Queen-sized beds, no-smoking in all rooms. All rooms are poolside.

Movie Theater
If you are looking for a regular movie theater in Waynesville NC, you're out of luck.

Cabin Rentals
Nothing says living rustic like a night in a 19th century cabin.

Barbers Orchard
Barbers Orchard is a produce market/fruit stand that is open Monday - Sunday from 9am until 6pm.

Things to Do
There are plenty of things to do in Waynesville NC.  From browsing shops on Main Street in this Historic town to visiting the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway

Music Box
The Music Box is a DVD and video store in Waynesville, NC.

Dentist
Here is a selection of dentists in Waynesville.

Shopping
Shopping is a fun part of any visit to Waynesville NC.

Go Grocery
Go Grocery provides surplus grocery products which they purchase from producers at discount.

Hair Salons
Time to get that hair done?  Here is a small listing of hair salons in Waynesville NC where you can do it.

Herren House
A Bed and Breakfast in Waynesville, NC.

Pisgah Inn
Situated at about 5,000 feet in elevation on Mt. Pisgah, the Inn offers basic rooms at a reasonable price.

Garrett Funeral Home
Garrett's present building, built in 1968 features a chapel for 250 guests, cushioned seats, a piano...

Cold Mountain
Take a hike up the famous Cold Mountain, from the movie.

Mast General Store
Quality goods for the living, coffins & caskets for the dead.

Churches
A listing of churches in Waynesville, NC.

Waynesville Inn
The Waynesville Inn is a golf resort and spa located in Waynesville, NC.

Frog Level
Visit the historic "Frog Level" district just below the Waynesville courthouse area.

Carolina West Dental
With a staff of about 20 people, 8,000 square feet, and 8 chairs.

Homes for Sale
Buying or selling a home or land in Waynesville area.

Waynesville NC Newspaper
There are a couple newspapers that service Waynesville NC.

The Swag
The Swag features an award-winning restaurant, awesome accommodations, and world-class hiking trails.

Oak Park Inn
Old-fashioned lodging for visitors to Waynesville, North Carolina.  Nice place!

Tractor Supply
Located just outside of town off Highway 19.

Haywood County
One of the 100 counties in the state of North Carolina, Haywood is located in the western part of the state.

Bed and Breakfast
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience Waynesville NC is by staying at a bed and breakfast.

Sweet Onion Restaurant
Without question the best restaurant in Waynesville NC!

Parkway Inn
The Parkway Inn motel offers rooms for smokers or non-smokers, honeymoon suites, and double-wide hot tubs.

Main Street Realty
Main Street Realty has a number of real estate agents/brokers to serve you.

Waynesville NC Map
Here is a large map of Waynesville, NC.

Hart Theatre
The HART Theater, or Haywood Arts Regional Theatre, is a community theatre showcasing regional talent.  Plenty of plays and musicals are performed in the 255-seat James Auditorium.

Population & Elevation
What is the elevation of the town of Waynesville?  How about it's population.  Here are some basic facts.

Autumn Care
Autumn Care in Waynesville opened in 1985 and provides 24-hour nursing care.

HVO
Producer of medical products and employer of local people with disabilities and disadvantages.

Pasquales
This is an Italian style restaurant serving authentic Italian or Mediterranean dishes.

Hospital
The primary hospital serving Waynesville NC and the rest of Haywood County is Haywood Regional Medical Center.

Tuscola High School
Tuscola is one of two high schools in Haywood County.  The other is Pisgah High School in Canton.

Sunburst Realty
A real estate agency/broker in business since 1974. 

Massie Furniture
A place to buy solid wood furniture in Waynesville, NC.

High Country Furniture
Furniture store in Waynesville NC.

Windover Inn
Windover Inn...

Star Ranch
This is an animal rescue location for abused and neglected horses.