The sun is warming and waking the earth. Light new greens are giving way to tiny explosions of color. Wildflowers are now dotting the sides of hiking trails and scenic roadways. The purples of periwinkles and violets, and the yellow of trout lilies are make it worth coming out of winter’s long hibernation. With the warm spring rains that we had all last week, now is the perfect time to plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. See the most visited national park in all its springtime glory.
Friends of the Smokies host a series of guided hiking trips. Called Classic Hikes, these trips aid hikers in getting the most out of a day hike. This month’s hike is to Smokemont in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, three miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. At 6.2 miles round trip, this hike is rated moderate in difficulty and has a total elevation gain of 1,400 feet. These hikes are both entertaining and informative. A $10 donation for Friends members and $35 for non-members is requested to benefit the Smokies Trails Forever fund.
On the first and third Saturdays of each month, all year, you are welcome to bring an acoustic instrument and join in on this old-time jam. Not a picker? We’ll grinners are needed too! Come kick back and enjoy the sights and sounds as others play traditional Appalachian Music. The jam takes place on the covered porch at the Oconaluftee visitor center, located at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on Hwy 441 in Cherokee.
Hiking Trails of the Smokies is a book that was originally published in 1994 by the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association. Filled with maps and detailed trail descriptions written by 15 different hikers, this is one of the most popular hiking guides for this area. This book aims to help you plan your hiking and backpacking trips, as well as guide you along the trails. The book provides such information as trail mileage to elevation gain, trail difficulty to trail cautions and highlights. Find trails that are great for viewing wildflowers, or maybe it’s a mountain top view you’re after. Find waterfalls and venture to spots you never knew existed. New editions of this book have been released so trail info is accurate and up-to-date. The Great Smokies Mountain Association is a nonprofit and operates several bookstores within the park at various visitor centers and park ranger stations. You can also shop their online bookstore from home.
Just a little winter left! Plan your spring hikes and backpacking trips. Not a camper? Plan a day hike then find a cozy little mountain cabin to stay in close by. There’s something for everyone in western North Carolina.
On December 20th from 10am-2pm the visitor’s center is hosting live, traditional Appalachian music for their old-fashioned Christmas celebration. Come by to listen, dance, and enjoy hot cider and cookies! You can also pick up last minute Christmas gifts in the gift shop of the visitors center. Choose from local handmade crafts and park souvenirs. They also have an amazing selection of books and maps!
Spreading holiday cheer throughout the Great Smoky Mtn National Park!
As we browsed social media sights this morning we couldn’t help but notice how many pictures there were of smiling, happy, fly fishin’ people. That’s right it isn’t too cold yet! Lots of brave outdoorsmen, and women, are suiting up and heading to the creek.
During December in the Smokies the water tends to fluctuate between 40-55 degrees. Trout are cold-blooded creatures and are still moving and feeding during these temperatures. While temps below 40 can make the catch harder, it is still possible.
So don’t let the cold keep you from having a little fun. The mountain streams of the Smokies are full of trout and they’re waiting for you.
Not a fisherman? Maybe this winter should be a time to learn a new skill. There are lots of fly fishing guides available for hire in and around the Smokies. Take a trip with one of our company partners like Nantahala On The Fly or Endless River Adventures. Right here in Bryson City, new this year, is the Tuck Fly Shop. They offer guided trips, lessons, and have everything you need to get off the couch and take to the wilderness!
Take to the outdoors!
Whether it’s lakes, rivers, or cold mountain streams you’re after, Swain County has it all. You can find natural populations of brookies, brown, and rainbow trout in the waters of the Smokies. The area also has plenty of frequently stocked bodies of water with trophy-sized trout waiting for your hook. Not interested in fly fishing? Lake Fontana is said to be one of the best smallmouth bass fishing holes in the area.
Not sure where to start? For fishing locations, tips, local fly shops and guides, and license information visit Swain County’s new website dedicated to fishing in the smokies:
It’s that time of year again, the Polar Express is back! Join the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad as they take you and your family on a memorable journey to the North Pole. The storybook really comes to life as the train pulls out of Bryson City and winds through the quiet wilderness while you enjoy Christmas songs, hot cocoa, and good cheer!Upon your arrival in the North Pole you will be greeted by Santa himself. Santa will take the time to board the train and give a special gift to each child. The Polar Express starts this weekend, Nov 7 & 8 and continues on through January 4th, 2015.
The 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.
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.