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.

5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

FL
2 posts
Save Topic
5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

Im visiting the GSMNP for the first time with my wife and two children (twins 10 years old). We are traveling from FL and prior to the park we would like to stop in Ashville to see the Biltmore Mansion. After that stop could you give us an idea of what to visit. We have a 18' travel trailer. We like hiking, swimming pools, white water rafting, rivers, falls, site seeing. Could you give us an idea of the "most visit places and if I could stay with my trailer. Perhaps we may need to make some adjustments. Thanks,

Edited: 19 May 2010, 03:25
florida
Level Contributor
1,458 posts
1 review
Save Reply
1. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

I would use this campground in Cherokee North Carolina.

http://www.cherokeekoa.com/

It is 4 miles from the GSMNP. Check out Mingo Falls 2 miles down the road. It is awesome.

White water rafting is 30 minutes away on the beautiful Nantahala River near Bryson City.

Any questions ask away.

Have a great vacation.

Boston...
Level Contributor
5,524 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

You can stay in any national park campground other than Abrams Creek (the maximum length there is twelve feet), but that's not a likely choice anyway. Campgrounds outside of the national park have advantages of showers, electrical hookups, swimming pools, and the like. Staying in the park is cool because you're falling asleep and waking up in the park, which makes me feel like I'm part of the action instead of a day time visitor.

The Pigeon, Nantahala, and Ocoee Rivers are best for rating. The Pigeon is up by Cosby, Tennessee (northeast of the park), closest to Cosby Campground and offers several sets of class III and IV rapids. The Nantahala is southwest of Bryson City (south of the park), closest to Deep Creek Campground offering continuous class II and some class III rapids. The Ocoee is halfway between the Smokies and Chattanooga, was the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics' whitewater activities, and has the whole gamut of whitewater. If you want to raft that one you'd probably do that on the way back looping through Chattanooga.

Most of the waterfalls in the Smokies are on the Tennessee side, but in North Carolina you do have the waterfalls at Deep Creek and Mingo Falls just outside of the park near Oconaluftee, which, if it were inside the national park, would be the tallest in the park. Most of the North Carolina falls you hear about are down in the Franklin/Highlands area.

As to what portion of the park, what trails to hike, and what sites to see, that's up to you. I recommend getting a guidebook and surfing the the park website and these boards to get an idea of what the different regions offer.

FL
2 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

I would like to visit the Biltmore museum, Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail, Clingmans Dome, Chimney tops, Cades Cove, Mount Leconte, Grotto and Laurel Falls, in 5 days... is that too much, would I be pushing it? If this is possible what woud be the best itinerary as far as order of visits. Thanks for your replies.

Pembroke Pines...
Level Contributor
73 posts
1 review
Save Reply
4. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

Mayolg,

You need the better part of a day to see the Biltmore estate. It's not just the large mansion, there are also extensive gardens, a winery tour, and the grounds. Then it's approximately 2.5 hours drive from the estate over to Gatlinburg. So that's one day right there. You can plan your visit and buy tickets in advance (this summer, kids get in for free) http://www.biltmore.com/visit/

I'm not sure what you mean by seeing Mt. Leconte, but the only way to physically get there is by hiking one of 5 trails, the shortest being Alum Cave Trail, a 5.5 mile strenuous hike. I love it up there, it's a great hike and ACT is a wonderful trail, but unless you are in good hiking condition, it's a pretty rigorous day hike. If you are up for that, plan the whole day. Mt. Leconte lodge is at the top, a great spot to visit. They have a blog this year that is fun to follow: http://www.highonleconte.com/

You can combine Roaring Fork Motor trail with Grotto falls, as the trail head for the hike is off of the Motor trail. The hike is not difficult, and the falls are nice. That would be about a half day excursion, and it is right outside of Gatlinburg. One bit of trivia -- Mt LeConte lodge is resupplied by llama who use that same trail (Trillium gap) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to get up to the lodge. If you go early enough on one of those days, you may catch the llama pack train. They are so cute, and very tame.

Cades Cove can take from half a day to the better part of a whole day, depending on where you are coming from, how often you stop, and the traffic. I advise going as early as you possibly can -- better chance of seeing neat wildlife and less busy. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the cove is closed to vehicle traffic until 10 am to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the road without cars. Riding bikes around the cove early in the day is GREAT fun, you can rent bikes at the Cades cove campground if you didn't bring your own. We've done the ride with our boys, I think the youngest was around 8 or 9 the first time, and he did just fine. Either way, if you've never been there, you'll want to take your time as there are lots of interesting things to see.

You can do Newfound gap, Clingman's Dome, and Chimney tops in one day, easy. Chimney tops trail is only 1.1 mile, but it is steep. You could pick up Laurel falls trail either on your Cades Cove day or on the Clingman's dome day. But, I'm not a big fan of Laurel falls -- too crowded and I'm a bit of a trail snob -- any "trail" that's paved isn't a real trail in my book. :-) But a lot of people do it, and enjoy it, so YMMV. If you had to pick one or the other, I'd vote for Grotto falls over Laurel Falls. (If you are up for a bit longer and more difficult hike, Rainbow Falls is a great hike - 5 miles round trip - trailhead off of Roaring Fork Motor trail, in the 2-way traffic section.)

Another suggestion is to keep on going South past Newfound gap down to the Oconoluftee visitor's center at the south end of the park and spend some time there. There is a farm museum and exhibits, and a great junior ranger program with organized (free) activities. The ranger programs are really awesome. www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/events.htm

You may also want to spend some time meandering around Gatlinburg, it's fun to walk around and there are the touristy things like miniature golf to do. Depending on your trip timing, Gatlinburg has summer time "tunes and tales" with free entertainment (music, dancers, etc) from 5 to 10 pm nightly Also, the Arts and crafts loop just outside of town is a beautiful place to explore and see craft demonstrations: pottery, woodworking, painting, weaving, etc. http://www.gatlinburgcrafts.com/

I hope that gives you a few ideas! There is definitely more than enough possibilities to fill up your 5 days and more.

nashville
Level Contributor
994 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

>>the only way to physically get there is by hiking one of 5 trails,

>>the shortest being Alum Cave Trail, a 5.5 mile strenuous hike.

just to clarify... it's a little over 5 miles one-way. for a day hike you're looking at 10+ miles, so at least a 5-hour hike. it's totally worth it, though. and the Alum Cave Trail that MBN has recommended is the easiest, and fantastic... there's no other trail in the park like it.

Boston...
Level Contributor
5,524 posts
47 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

Chimney Tops Trail is 1.1 miles long, but you have to go up nine tenths of a mile of the Road Prong Trail to get up to it from Newfound Gap Road. So it's four miles roundtrip with 1,400 feet of elevation gain. Not a full day hike by any means but no tea party either.

Keep in mind that the national park is not so much like a theme park or large city where the best known attractions are probably the ones you want to visit. The spots you listed are all worth visiting, but most are crowded with tourists streaming in from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. There are many other sites in the park that are just as wonderful but have fewer people around. I don't in any way mean to recommend that you don't visit the sites you mentioned (Cades Cove and Cataloochee one or the other should definitely be on your itinerary).

Here's a run down of the areas of the park. The Tennessee side is much more crowded than the North Carolina side (the park straddles the state line, half on one side and half on the other). It's also much easier to get from place to place on the TN side; you have Little River Road west of Gatlinburg and Highway 321 east of it to take you directly to the site or trail or area you want to visit. In North Carolina there are several discrete entrances (Big Creek, Cataloochee, Balsam Mountain, Oconaluftee, Deep Creek, Road to Nowhere, Lake Fontana) that are each well worth visiting, but it takes much longer to get from one to the other. For example, it's a twenty minute drive from Tremont to Elkmont on the Tennessee side, but over an hour to get from Cataloochee to Balsam Mountain on the North Carolina side.

Here's a map to look at: nps.gov/grsm/…20Map.pdf

All the sites you listed other than Cades Cove are in Roaring Fork or on the Tennessee side of Newfound Gap Road. These sites are popular (and crowded) because this is the area closest to Gatlinburg, but there are other entrances on the Tennessee side (Cosby and Greenbrier) as well as a host of activities along Little River Road that are really cool. And on the North Carolina side there are entrances like Big Creek, Cataloochee, Balsam Mountain, Oconaluftee, and Deep Creek that each are worth a half or full day of explorations.

7. Re: 5 day Itinerary help (ideas)

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 17 November 2010, 05:17