Where We Be
Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Did you know that this is America's most visited
national park? And that entry is free? (Maybe
these two factoids are related!)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles
the border between Tennessee and North
Carolina and encompasses some 800 square
miles of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Yes, the Appalachian Trail runs right through it.
We walked a stretch of it just to say we did. We
also hiked half a mile up a paved trail to the
park's highest point, Clingman's Dome, which
isn't very high at 6,643 ft (2,024 m), but still, the
views are good from the observation tower.
Recent rain meant lots of “smoke” (mist) rising,
just what you'd expect of a park with this name.
We drove Newfound Gap Road for 13 twisty
miles, stopping at plenty of pulloffs to enjoy the
autumn foliage. Once again we felt lucky with
our timing. We even got stuck in a bear traffic
jam on the way back down (more on that below).
You'd think we planned carefully to time our drive to coincide
with the lovely fall colors, but the truth is we were just lucky
Returning back the way we came, the colors turned
more vibrant again as we moved lower in elevation
The road follows along a delightful stream, and we paused
more than once to enjoy the sound of rushing water
We hiked the first half mile of Chimney
Tops Trail just to enjoy the water views
When you get a day like this you give
thanks and enjoy every minute of it
As we headed towards the park exit we got stuck in a bear traffic jam! For the longest time we
didn't know what was going on -- only that we barely moved for 40 minutes. It would have been
frustrating except the foliage was so brilliant we took pictures like this one right from the car window.
This forest draped in yellow and bathed in afternoon sunlight
was just across the road from the bears. What a pretty sight!
It’s certainly the prettiest traffic jam we've ever been stuck in
View from the top. Muted colors
still hold fast to some of the hillsides.
At the top of Clingman's Dome is an unusual observation tower,
but without it the views would be mostly obscured by trees
We hiked up a paved trail for half a mile to Clingman's
Dome, enjoying panoramic views along the way
The Smoky Mountains divide Tennessee and North Carolina,
and the Appalachian Trail essentially follows the dividing line
We continued on a side road for 7 more miles to Clingman's Dome. Here the
"smoke" was even thicker and the distant mountains took on a bluish cast.
After 13 miles we reached the top of Newfound Gap Road. From here
we could see "smoke" rising out of the forest -- mist from the recent rains.
Nevertheless, spots of color remained
As we climbed higher up Newfound Gap Road, the trees
turned bare and you could feel winter approaching
The colors were vibrant at lower elevations
This was our first time visiting Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. I'd say we picked a good time to come.
We finally came to the cause of all the commotion: a mama black bear with two cubs ambling
through the forest. The picture's blurry but at least we got to see some bear after the long wait.
The Smoky Mountains have hundreds of square miles of deciduous
forest -- and that means lots of happy leaf peepers each autumn
"No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park's amazing diversity of plants and
animals. Over 17,000 species have been documented in the park." -- National Park Service
Only 1,972 more miles to Mt. Katahdin in Maine!