Great Smoky Mountains National Park
|Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Adam Jones/Photodisc/Getty)|
The view from "good ol' Rocky Top" is as good as they get. Leave the lowlands via Lead Cove and make the continuous climb to Bote Mountain. Reach Spence Field and the Appalachian Trail where the open meadows of Spence Field beg exploration. Then, head north on the AT and climb more to the 5,441-foot outcrop, where the vista of the western crest of the Smokies inspired the fight song for the University of Tennessee athletic teams.
Gregory Bald via Gregory Ridge
Leave Cades Cove and enter an old growth forest along Forge Creek. Ascend to a dry ridge and keep ascending to the large Gregory Bald, a high meadow with 360-degree views. In June, the world's finest display of flame azaleas color the clearing and blueberries ripen after that. Bears like the blueberries, too.
Rich Mountain Loop
Visit the pioneer cabin of John Oliver, built in the 1820s, at the edge of Cades Cove. Then wind up the slopes of Rich Mountain to Indian Grave Gap. Nearby is a vista of Cades Cove and the crest of the Smokies beyond. Continue to the site of a fire tower atop Rich Mountain, which now makes for an ideal picnic spot. Cruise the ridgeline to descend along Crooked Arm Ridge and return to Cades Cove.
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Start along noisy Jakes Creek and head up a lush mountain valley to pass a backcountry campsite. Once at Jakes Gap, ascend the slope of Blanket Mountain to reach the peak at 4,600 feet. Nearby are viewing outcrops, an open glade and pink bloomed Catawba rhododendron in June.
Buckhorn Gap via Meigs Creek
Once you leave the busy Sinks swimming hole, you'll probably have enjoy this lush valley alone. Cross Meigs Creek numerous times and pass many small cascades and a singularly noticeable waterfall that spills 20 feet over mossy rocks to a plunge pool. Keep up the wildflower laden valley to end at Buckhorn Gap, where old growth hemlock trees add a majestic air to landscape.
Start high and stay high as you traverse the very rooftop of the Smokies. Leave Clingmans Dome in a Canadian type spruce-fir forest and undulate west for 5 miles on the Appalachian Trail, where the overlooks are numerous from the highest spine of the entire Appalachian chain. End the hike at Silers Bald, a knob where the views of the highest of the high country warrant a backtrack to Clingmans Dome.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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