Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Autumn Solstice

1453352_10151934561347107_318920789_nThe end of September marks the official end of summer. The kids have all gone back to school. Tourists end their summer vacations. Things start to quiet down just a little, but this is only the calm before a storm of beautiful fall colors.

Every year western North Carolina sees a large influx in tourists we like to refer to as “leaf-lookers”.  Taking a drive for the weekend or using their fall breaks  to view the changing of the leaves. As nights chill and days cool to a comfortable temperature, autumn settles in. The trees begin a wonderful display that brings people from all over the country to drive through the Smoky Mountain National Park and up the Blue Ridge Parkway. The bright yellows of the tulip polar and daring reds of the sugar maple amid sunburst oranges of the oak  brighten the tree lines and mountain ridges.

Mid-October marks the peak of the color, so start planning your fall trip now. There’s no better way to enjoy a wonderful autumn morning than to wake up in a western North Carolina mountain cabin.

Mountain Life Festival

2014-06-091The Great Smoky Mountain National Park puts on many special events each year.  These events allow you to explore the area and learn the history of the park. The Mountain Farm Museum located behind the Oconaluftee Visitors Center is hosting the Mountain Life Festival. Celebrating the fall harvest with  live demonstrations of days gone by, from soap and cider making to good old live mountain music. Hope y’all will join us as we travel back in time. The festival takes place Saturday, September 20th.

Among the Wildflowers

Picture 1059Tom Petty’s song Wildflowers comes to mind every time I see the colorful weed-like blooms along trails and roadsides. “You belong among the wildflowers. . .” What a beautiful image. Summer is slowly coming to an end. Autumn is trying to creep in, but the wildflowers of North Carolina aren’t quite finished doing their thing. Before the fall colors sink in there’s once last burst of purples and yellow, whites and reds. A sort of grand finale of summer’s beauty, going out in a colorful bang. The bouquet pictured is made of roadside wildflowers along Alarka Creek. They are all flowers currently in bloom such as, Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), Golden Rods (Solidago), Summer Lilac (Hesperis matronalis), and more.  Unfortunately, some wildflowers are potent allergens, so be aware of flowers you  may be sensitive to before bringing them in the house.  A handful of these and couple of river stones in an old mason jar make the perfect centerpiece for a mountain cabin or just the feel of one.

The wildflowers of North Carolina flowers are currently feeding summer’s last butterflies and humming birds. Wildflowers are also important to our honey bee population. More than just beautiful, these flowers are full of purpose in the ecosystem of the Appalachian Mountains.

The Road to Nowhere


It’s the story of a road that was going to be built so you could drive from Bryson City straight through to Tennessee. But more than that, it was going to be a way for families to get to their property and family cemeteries made inaccessible by the flooding and creation of Lake Fontana. The road was started in the 1940’s to replace the flooded Highway 288 that passed through the towns of Proctor and Hazel Creek, which were also flooded. Only eight miles in, construction was stopped due to environmental issues. The road is now a scenic drive into the Smokies with views of Fontana. That road ends at a parking lot and a tunnel you can walk through before opening up to hiking trails that follow the north shore of Fontana Lake. This also makes a really great place for spooky evening hikes. The tunnel carries echoes and cool breezes though the mountain. Test your courage and try it without a flash light.

To read more about the story of Lakeview Drive, or The Road To Nowhere, click here.

Historic Buildings in the Smokies


The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the home of over 90 historic log homes, schools, mills, barns, churches, and outbuildings. These buildings are being preserved within the park. The best place in the park to see a good variety of these buildings is Cades Cove which has three churches, a mill, and various log homes and barns in one loop. A great hike for history buffs and nature lovers alike. The Oconaluftee Visitors Center offers a large collection of historic buildings that have been gathered from several places in the park and brought together to make  the Mountain Farm Museum. Just up the road from there, you’ll find Mingus Mill. Though it is no longer surrounded by corn fields, the mill is still in working order. You can even purchase cornmeal ground there! Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail offers views of historic buildings as well as waterfalls without having to get out of the car. A beautiful way to make yourself slow down and enjoy the ride.

Hike with Friends of the Smokies


Friends of the Smokies is a not-for-profit organization in partnership with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  They have helped the park not only maintain the trails and recreational areas, but they help foot the bill as well.  Friends of the Smokies has raised over $34 million through individual, corporate and foundation contributions, special events, and sales of specialty license plates in Tennessee and North Carolina.  The team works to preserve, protect, and provide for this national treasure.

The group also leads hikes through the park. Full day hikes are the 2nd Tuesday of every month. The next one is August 12th. This hike will highlight the Appalachian Trail. Join Friends as they journey to Charlies Bunion. Round trip the hike is 8 miles and ascends 1,800ft in elevation. What better way to see the park than with a knowledgeable guide who shares a love for the outdoors?

To join this Classic Hike of the Smokies a $10 donation for Friends members and $35 for non-members is requested to benefit the Trails Forever Fund.

To register for any of this year’s hikes, contact Brent McDaniel at or call (828) 452-0720.

2014 Classic Hikes of the Smokies

August 12: Charlies Bunion
via Appalachian Trail
8 miles, 1,800 ft ascent
Featuring support for Appalachian Trail
Highlights: Spectacular views
September 9: Clingmans Dome
via Mountains-to-Sea Trail
7.2 miles, 1,600 ft ascent
Featuring support for the Trails Forever Fund
Highlights: Panoramic vistas
October 14: Pretty Hollow Gap
8 miles, 1,500 ft ascent
Featuring support for wildlife management
Highlights: Elk rut and stunning fall color
November 11: Deep Creek Circular
9 miles, 1,600 ft ascent
Featuring support for trout management
Highlights: Beautiful waterfalls
December 9: Kephart Prong
4 miles, 300 ft ascent
Featuring support for environmental education
Highlights: Historic CCC camp structures

Birds and the Bees

the grove

Summer is in full swing here in western North Carolina. With the hot days come flocks of song birds and swarms of insects. Many of these insects play an important role in our ecosystem. While bees may be something you think of more as a nuisance than a benefit, without them we wouldn’t have plants like beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, or hundreds of other vegetables and fruits that depend on bees for pollination. Not to mention the tasty honey and royal jelly.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a prime location for bird watching. Within the park there are about 240 species of birds. At least 60 of those call the area home year round. The rest are migratory birds that use the park to forage, nest, or breed. This high number is due to the diversity of habitats. The park offers everything from evergreen forests to hardwood coves and even some open grassy balds, perfect for hawks and other large birds of prey to hunt. The large bird with babies in the picture is a turkey. It is very common to see them around the park, crossing roads or in open fields. The blue bird pictured here is a male Indigo Bunting. A small seed-eating, migratory bird seen here on a bird feeder at a cabin in Bryson City, NC. Listening to the beautiful bird songs can be therapeutic and relaxing. A simple bird identification book can turn a Smoky Mountain vacation into a fun learning experience for the kids.


Three Leaf Danger

poison ivy

While hiking this summer in the Smokies it is important to know your vegetation. This three leaf danger is poison ivy, or Toxicodendron radicans. A very common sight, poison ivy can be found along trails in bushy form or climbing trees like a vine. It is a flowering vine, though not a true ivy,  whose oils can cause itching and sometimes create an irritating rash. That oil is called urushiol, a clear oil in the sap of the plant. Luckily, often times in nature when dangers are presented, cures are close by. In the case of poison ivy, look around for Jewelweed or Impatiens capensis. About 20% of people have no reaction at all to the plants poisonous properties. However, your chances of rash are higher the more you are exposed to it. But why find out? Knowing how to recognize this plant can save the day. . . .and a lot of scratching.

Happy Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains

2014-06-16Horseback Riding Stables in Bryson City, Smokemont, Nantahala and Fontana

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains is exhilarating, with the expansive panoramic views, native plant and wildlife, spectacular creeks, rivers and ridgelines. However,  you haven’t lived until you’ve ridden horseback through the lush forests of Western North Carolina.


Just past Bryson City and Cherokee, North Carolina, two horse stables offer this unique adventure with guided horse rides on the trails of the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With their well-trained mounts and experienced guides, even the most inexperienced riders can enjoy themselves with confidence. Before long, any fears will subside as the majesty of the mountains becomes apparent.


At some point, most of the trails lead past fiddle-head fern groves and natural trout-laden rivers to points where riders can disembark for a short walk to view gently flowing waterfalls. Rides are available between one and four hours each day, while the more adventurous rider can enjoy an overnight camping trip that lasts between two to four days and explores deeper into the network of forest trails.


Located just off US 441 North within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, five minutes north of Cherokee, North Carolina, Smokemont Riding Stable offers a safe, fun, family friendly, horseback riding experience within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Elizabeth Burns Cook, Manager for more than 17 years, says her experienced mountain trail horses and friendly, knowledgeable guides help make Smokemont Stables a destination for truly enjoyable horseback riding. Groups are welcome, but please call for reservation or advance notice. Hourly rides feature wooded scenery and crossing the Oconaluftee River starting at $30 per rider.


The friendly, knowledgeable guides at Nantahala Village Riding Stables offer adventures into the Nantahala National Forest, which the Cherokee called “the Land of the Noonday Sun” for its abundant ridges and shadowy canopy covering. Owned and operated by the Loftis family for over thirty years, the stables is open from 9 am to 6 pm every day from March 15 50 November 1. Rides are scheduled at $22.00 per hour, per person and range from one hour to overnight camping trips.


If you have your own horses, the Great Smoky Mountains National park and Nantahala have enough trails that you can ride a different major trail nearly every day.


For more information about the trails in the area you can contact the Nantahala National Forest at 828-479-6431 or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 865-436-1231.



Smokemont Riding Stable

135 Smokemont Riding Stable Rd

Cherokee, NC 28719



Enjoy scenic guided horseback riding within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Rides available for the beginner or experienced rider featuring wooded forests, wildflowers, river and waterfalls. An authorized concessioner of the National Park Service.


Nantahala Village Riding Stables

9400 Highway 19/74 West

Bryson City, NC 28713




Visit Bryson City, Despite The Shut Down

BRYSON CITY, NC – This small town is not going to let the government spoil their fall season if they can help it. The town has launched a social and video campaign (#shutdownshutup) letting people know that there is way more to do in Bryson City than just hike the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding closed federal lands. Shut Down, Shut Up is now spreading across the internet and making its way in to the homes of thousands of potential visitors. I am currently sitting outside right at this moment enjoying the amazing fall air and watching the leaves fall all around, these mountains and this community are still an amazing place no matter what the government tries to do.

Watch Bryson City’s Video here:

Here is a short list of places to visit that have not been affected by the government shut down:

-Go Zip-lining
-Ride the train
-Drive across 441 through the GSM National Park
-Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and visit unique small towns along the way
-Drive the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway
-Drive the Cherohala Skyway
-Rent Stand-Up Paddleboards and head to the lake
-Go on a guided fishing trip, or just go fishing
-Visit Fontana Dam
-Take a Jetboat ride
-Enjoy a local fall festival/fair
-Visit a state park, they are not affected by the shutdown
-Visit the Biltmore House
-Take a Brewery Tour
-Take a Kayak Tour
-Play Disc Golf
-Visit the Cherokee Indian Museum
-Ride the Tail of the Dragon (318 curves in 11 miles)
-Visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village
-Go rafting
-Enjoy local restaurants, coffee houses, ice cream parlors, and specialty and gift shops

We here at Yellow Rose Realty hope this shows you many things that you and your family can enjoy during your stay here despite the government raining on our fall parade! If you are still looking for a place to stay this October we still have a few cabins left if you are interested! Give us a call at 800-528-0760