We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

Dallas, Texas
Level Contributor
52 posts
15 reviews
Save Topic
Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

I will be spending one full day in the Smokies next month and just wondering what are the best spots to see if you only have 24 hours...

Also can you drive your car around the park?

We are staying in Pigeon Forge.

Thanks in advance, any suggestions are welcome.

Cullowhee, North...
Level Contributor
1,077 posts
1 review
Save Reply
1. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

Do you hike at all? When exactly in the month will you arrive?

You could spend the day in your car just driving if you like. You got Cades Cove ( avoid on weekends), Raoring Fork Motor Nature Trail near Gburg, US 441 gives you panoramic views of the mountains and Sugarlands and Oconoluftnee visitor centers are nice.

Cataloochee on the northern end the park where you can see elk is wonderful too.

My vote for just one day would be to take a day trip over the park and if the Blue Ridge Parkway is open start in Cherokee and head north to perhaps Mount Pisgah and then come back. If you spent just one day this excursion would offer you grand vista along a great road.

If you wanted to drive around the park, head over 321 to Townsend and pick up the Foothills Parkway take it south to US 129 ( Tail of the Dragon) take that toward Robinsville, pick up NC 28 near Fontana Village, stop off at the Fontana Dam- Highest Dam in the east, head back on NC 28 to US 74 to Bryson City/Cherokee, pick up US 441 and head through the park to Sugarlands visitor center. turn left and take the Little River Road back to Townsend Y and then take TN 73 back to US 321. This route covers the southern half of the park per se.

The northern loop is a bit more wild as you will be on gravel park service roads most of the time.

I vote high country experiences and views.

Enjoy your trip

Bob

Boston...
Level Contributor
5,524 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

There are loads of best spots to see if you only have twenty four hours; I can't say that any few of them are better than the rest. I would recommend browsing through previous topics on this forum to see the major point of interest, and to figure out where they are on a map to get orientated. Here's a good map: http://tinyurl.com/62g9yu

"Also can you drive your car around the park?"

Yes, if you look at a map there are a good number of roads through the park. The majority of park visitors don't even step out of their vehicles, which is really a shame since one can only get one viewpoint of the park from behind a windshield. Make sure to get out often to visit a historic or natural site of interest, walk a nature trail, or take a hike.

To offer specific suggestions it would be helpful if you would (a) get a general understanding on your own via other web sites and previous forum topics (all the information we might give you has already been given many times over on previous topics) and (b) let us know of your particular interests and walking/hiking ability. It's hard for us to recommend activities appropriate for your group if we know nothing about you.

Kristian

Dallas, Texas
Level Contributor
52 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

Thanks for the input!

We will be there March 18-20. The 19th we will be out and about to explore the whole day.

My husband and I are very active and do enjoy hiking and photography. We want to get some great photos while we are there.

Boston...
Level Contributor
5,524 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

In that case I recommend throwing in at least one scenic drive as well as a good day hike. There are loads of different options, but since you have one day I think I would go with Newfound Gap Road. It gives you an overview of all the different ecosystems at different elevations as well as a variety of sites along the way. Here's what the day might look like:

Get up early in the morning and head into the park right away to avoid crowds. Stop by Sugarlands Visitor Center to ask any questions you might have to the super helpful rangers and also watch the twenty minute introductory video to the national park. Then start driving up the Tennessee side of Newfound Gap Road. Stop at Chimneys Picnic Area to walk Cove Forest Nature Trail, one of the top five best places in the park to see old growth forest (and by far the easiest). Continue on to the highest heights, noting the change in ecosystems and eventually getting out for a quick look at Newfound Gap (obligatory). Then head up Clingman's Dome Road and walk up to the observation tower. It's not the best view in the park even though it's the highest, but it is well worth the trip and of course one really does have to "conquer" the mountains. Then drive down the North Carolina side of the road; if you're not "viewed-out" then you can stop at one of the three overlooks after the state line. I think all three of these are better than Newfound Gap, chiefly because of the lack of crowds. At the bottom there are sites like Mingus Mill, the church at Smokemont, the Mountain Farm Museum, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, possible elk sighting in the fields around Oconaluftee, Mingo Falls, and attractions of Cherokee.

Possible hikes along this route include Alum Cave up Mount LeConte (the "greatest" mountain; highest vertical drop), Chimney Tops (fun to climb around on), the Jumpoff and Charlie's Bunion along the AT, and Andrew's Bald from Clingman's Dome.

^ Just a snapshot. ^

leftcoast
Level Contributor
280 posts
29 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

If I had just one day in the Smokies, the first thing I'd do is sit down and cry.

The other posters have given you a lot of ideas, so I won't add to that list. There is way too much to do in GSMNP to be able to do much justice to it in a single day, so you will have to pick and choose carefully.

I'll respond to the comments about photography. The best times for photography in the Smokies are early mornings and evenings. I'd suggest that you start your day early at Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome and try to catch the sunrise. End it in Cades Cove - you won't get good sunset pictures here, but good wildlife ones. Or reverse and get to Cades Cove when the gates open at sunrise and finish your day at the Clingman's Dome parking lot for sunset. In between, you might visit some of the waterfalls for some good shots.

There is a great book about photographing the Smokies available from www.smokiesstore.org

I predict that only one day in GSMNP will only leave you wanting for more....

Lafayette, LA
Level Contributor
180 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

I've only been there once, but if i had only one day, it would be spent on Newfound Gap road. I would plan hikes along this road, and there are Mingus and Meigs falls just a short ways off of this road.

Canada, Kentucky
Level Contributor
778 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

I agree with Bluecuzco's plan.....but you have to work in Cades Cove! It is a must for us every time we go.....Have a great trip!

Boston...
Level Contributor
5,524 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

Meigs Falls is actually around thirty minutes west on Little River Road.

I'd would hardly call it "working" Cades Cove in; the loop itself takes several hours and it's an hour drive there and back not counting the numerous stops along the way. The only people who might attempt Newfound Gap, Oconaluftee, Clingman's Dome, Little River, and Cades Cove in one day are those who get out of their car seldom or none, otherwise there simply isn't time to fit it all in. With a hike doing both would be impossible. Since you only have a day I would do a nice tour of the park that is appropriate for the amount of time you have and save the rest for another trip. Or, if you really want to see these wonders, fit in more days.

Canada, Kentucky
Level Contributor
778 posts
2 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

The drive to Cades Cove from Sugarlands Visitor Center is approximately 26-28 miles. Didn't take an hour for us. When we go we usually get there about 8:30-9:00 in the morning and we leave about 12:00. We don't stop at e-v-e-r-y single site.....but we DO get out of the car at several of them and walk around and sometimes we just sit and take in the views and peacefulness. We have plenty of time the rest of our day to take in as much as we want.

Boston...
Level Contributor
5,524 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Smoky Mountains for just one day....suggestions please

Oh, I forgot that the extra driving time would be from the Sugarlands intersection, not from Pigeon Forge. But still, in my experience that's a close to an hour drive, and that's without stopping to see things on the way. Most estimates for a first visit to Cades Cove are about four hours, though I can't say exactly since I haven't been in so long. But let's say the whole detour can be "done" in five hours. That leaves only half a day for the whole Newfound Gap Road shabang, which is in fact a full day activity. So in essence kristen would just cover more ground but see less of the ground she covers.

I personally would opt out of the extra driving time and see Newfound Gap properly at a somewhat relaxed pace (the pace I gave was pretty fast besides), but it's my travel preference to really experience the places I do go to instead of just seeing them. Why bother throwing in a load of place when just a few could easily fill up a day's worth of time? (see end of Good Friday): tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60842-i150-k18579…

Let alone personal preferences, it really would be impossible to see Cades Cove, Little River, Newfound Gap Road, Clingman's Dome, and Oconaluftee/Cherokee -and- do a hike all at any reasonable pace just speaking in terms of time.