Sort of last minute, we decided to go to The Smokies and take the grown-up kids with us in early June.  We were there for 3 days starting June 1st and were pleasantly surprised at the low number of visitors to The Park and to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  We really didn’t wait for anymore than a few minutes to get into any restaurants and took two trips to Cades Cove, which also wasn’t busy at all.  It was a nice change from our last trip over New Year’s and last October 2015 when it was ridiculously busy.  We did go to Cades Cove to try to get sunset pics for the first time ever.  Usually we go to Newfound Gap to get sunset pics but decided to try something different.  We weren’t disappointed.  It rained almost all of the way to Cades Cove but as we arrived, the rain stopped, the skies cleared a bit and then the fog rolled in.  As you can see from the pic above and below, it was perfect for some really cool pics.



We were able to spend New Year’s 2016 in The Smokies for the second year in a row.  It has definitely become a winter time destination as more people want to spend New Year’s away from home.  We went to The Island’s fireworks to ring in the New Year and then spent the next couple of days in the park, visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, all the usual things.  What we did notice is how busy it has become, even in the winter.  Traffic was as bad, maybe worse, than during the summer, and many restaurants were so busy we couldn’t get in to eat, even if we went at 5:00 in the evening.  The Christmas decorations are still up so it is neat to see the area decorated but be aware that if you plan a New Year’s trip to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, it will be busy.  The photo above was the sunset on New Year’s Day night.  It was cloudy all the way to Newfound Gap but just as we arrived, we were above the clouds.  The pic below was fireworks from The Island at midnight, New Year’s Eve.


We will be visiting the Smokies in the near future so we are hoping for lots of fall leaf color and maybe we will see a black bear?  Here is one of our photos from our October 2013 visit.



We were fortunate enough to get to go to The Smokies for a long weekend over the July 4th holiday.  After visiting Cades Cove on July 3rd Friday morning, we decided to hike to Spruce Flats Falls at Tremont.  Spruce Flats Falls isn’t publicized in any of the National Park Service literature so if you want more details, be sure to search on the Internet.  When you get to Tremont, you won’t even see a sign telling you how to get to the falls but the nice people in the gift shop can explain how to get there.

I had read several blogs and articles that said Spruce Flats Falls was a relatively easy 1-mile hike except for the last 2/10 of a mile or so.  Let me say in no minced words, they lied.  This hike is definitely more intense than some of the moderate trails like Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls but off and on rain made this hike even that much more difficult.  But as you can see from the photo, if you don’t mind a short but difficult hike and some mud and slippery surfaces, then go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

DSC04782 Stay tuned for our first update in several months.  We have a short summer trip planned to The Smoky Mountains.  We plan to visit Cades Coves and hopefully see some bears and we will be trying at least one new restaurant on this trip so watch for that review as well.  In the meantime, here is a photo from summer 2010 of The Sinks.

IMG_1492We ended up having a four-day weekend over New Year’s so what to do?  Go to The Smoky Mountains, that’s what!  We didn’t do a lot of new stuff that we haven’t done in the past but we did hang out at The Island one night and took a number of very cool pics and we also visited Cades Cove, twice.  While we didn’t see any bear on the two visits we took to Cades Cove (there was a bear spotted on the one day we did not go), we did get some great pics of a frosty Cades Cove on New Year’s Day.


If you have never been to The Smokies during the winter months, you should go at least once.  It is quite different than the summer or fall months when most people visit – it has a different vibe during winter.  For New Year’s, the Winterfest lights were still up so there was definitely the feel of Christmas in the air.  We decided to take the Tour of Lights around Pigeon Forge one evening and it was not only fun but also interesting to hear some history of Pigeon Forge a.k.a. String Town back in the day.  So if you get a chance to visit during the Christmas or New Year’s holidays, I don’t think you will be disappointed.


According to National Park officials, 2014 was a record year for visitation to the GSMNP.  It seems others are figuring out what we have known for many years, the park and local towns are great places to visit on vacation.  Read more here about the record number of visitors and activities in the park.

Also stay tuned for our recent New Year’s visit to the park, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.