When I moved from Florida back to Pennsylvania, one of the stops I made was in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I only had about a day in the area, so I picked the top things to do in a short period of time which I will share more on below.
#1 – Cades Cove Scenic Drive
The Cades Cove Loop is about 11 miles and is one way. It winds in between the mountain sides overlooking the cove. Because there are so many sights to see, the driving speed is about 5-10 miles per hour. It took me about 60-90 minutes to get through the cove. There’s a few hiking spots you can park at as well as old churches and cabins. If you have the time, you can look into horseback riding, biking, or picnicking in the cove.
#2 – Clingman’s Dome
This point stands at 6,643 feet tall and is the highest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is an overlook sitting at the top of the mountain and on a clear day you can see about 100 miles from the top of it. The road leading up to the parking lot for the hike to the dome overlook is normally closed from December through March but can be accessed from hiking various trails. If you park at the parking lot at the top, get there early before it fills up. From the parking lot, it’s about a half mile to the stop of an incredibly steep trail to get to the dome overlook. While the hike is steep, you get rewarded with an incredible view at the top.
#3 -Roaring Fork Motor Trail
This motor trail is about 6 miles long and runs along a mountain stream in the park. It is pretty narrow up and down the mountains and is one way almost the entire time. There are quite a few pull offs for pictures or for hikes. The first half is pretty, but the second half of the trail runs closer along the creek and just reminds me of some type of enchanted forest you hear about in a fairytale. There are grist mills and other historic buildings along the way.
Bonus: Newfound Gap
This is a gap at the top of the mountains which has one of the best overlooks in the park. The Appalachian Trail goes through this pass so if you’d like to hike a few miles of it, park in the lot at the top of the mountain and fine the trail to the left past the restrooms.