A Family Affair: Vacationing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Family-friendly biking, horseback riding, and fishing in the Smokies
By Deborah R. Huso
  |  Gorp.com
Page 3 of 6   |  
Horses roam Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Horses roam Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Cades Cove is the best place to bike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park because, unlike many other roads in the park, Cades Cove Loop Road is not steep and winding or occupied with heavy motor vehicle traffic. You can bike the 11-mile route without the inconvenience of motor traffic on both Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m., May through September. During those times, the cove is closed to automobiles. Bike rentals are available at the Cades Cove Store for $4 to $6 per hour.

Horseback Riding
There are a number of opportunities for horseback riding at various locations in the national park. Riders do not have to have any experience, as instruction precedes all trail rides. On the North Carolina side of the park, Smokemont Riding Stable offers guided trail rides of one to 2.5 hours. The 2.5-hour ride departs at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. and takes you along Chastain Creek to Chastain Creek Falls. Wagon rides along the Oconaluftee River to the old Beck farmstead and back are also available.

On the Tennessee side of the park, Sugarlands Riding Stables also offers guided horseback rides of one, 1.5, or two hours. Loop trails will take you up through mountain terrain and then back down. Smoky Mountain Riding Stables, just east of Gatlinburg, offers one- and two-hour trail rides into the national park around Greenbrier Cove. Cades Cove Riding Stables offers half- and one-hour rides along a nature trail within the cove. It also offers half-hour horse-drawn carriage rides through Cades Cove daily. Another option is to take a hayride.

Horseback riding is a seasonal activity, generally only available from early spring through fall.

Fishing and Boating
The Smoky Mountains are loaded with streams that sport stocked and wild trout, musky and smallmouth bass, bream, and blue gill. Many local outfitters offer guide service on foot or by boat and will supply you with equipment.

What you might catch depends on the location and altitude of where you fish. If you’re interested exclusively in brook trout, then it’s best to seek out the headwaters of streams above 3,000 feet, as brook trout prefer cold waters. Farther downstream, you’ll find rainbow trout and perhaps a few brook. Where streams are wide, you can fish for rainbow and brown trout; if you fish in wide rivers or lakes, you’re more likely to reel in smallmouth bass and rock bass.

Some of the best spots to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are along Abrams Creek in Cades Cove, Big Creek at the Big Creek park entrance at I-40 on the park’s northeastern corner, and Little River near the Elkmont Campground. Before you head off into the woods with your rod and reel, request a copy of the Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Regulations brochure at one of the park visitor centers. It’s an excellent resource, with information on where to fish, what you’ll catch, and the regulations you need to follow.

If you have your own boat, you can launch it into Fontana Lake at the Fontana Marina, which is located on Highway 28 two miles south of Fontana Village. The marina also rents pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes, and johnboats. Guided boat tours to historic areas across the lake are available, too. The tours go to the Eagle Creek and Hazel Creek areas, where you’ll see old copper mines, roads, and other remnants of lost communities that existed before Fontana Dam was built. Fontana Lake is 29 miles long with 238 miles of shoreline.

Published: 16 Mar 2012 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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