Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Trip Start Nov 15, 2011
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Trip End Nov 14, 2012


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Flag of United States  , North Carolina
Saturday, September 1, 2012

The campground we are on is much larger than we would normally choose, but it was the only one in the area with space.  It is Labour Day weekend here in the US; everyone has an extra day off on Monday, so the campground is packed.  They have various events going on throughout the weekend, including today a Fire Truck, EMT Truck, Police Car, Dump Truck and a Hearse.  Therefore we decided this was the ideal day to take a long drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Our first stop was at Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest mountain in the park, and one of the highest peaks in the eastern United States.  The parking lot is at 6,352 feet, then you have to walk another half mile to the summit - the trail was very steep!  At the top you climb the ramp to the observation tower for a spectacular 360 degree view.  We were way above the trees and the clouds, it was amazing.

We carried on to Cades Cove where there is a one-way scenic loop.  Unfortunately by now lots more people were about so we were in a long line of vehicles going round the loop.  When we reached Forge Creek Road we decided to go offroad; after a couple of miles, we took the Parsons Branch Road.

It is estimated that there are 1500 bears in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park; more bears per square mile than anywhere else in the US.  After 8 miles of absolutely hair-raising off-roading, where 4WD was essential, did we see a bear?  No!   The track crossed and re-crossed the river continuously, with the river running over the road.  Its was very, very, pretty.

We joined the main road mid way through 'The Dragon', and then went into 'Hellbender', as this twisty section of the US 28 is known to motorcycle enthusiasts. The road runs alongside Fontana Lake and there are great views - but nowhere to stop of course.

We turned off to visit Fontana Dam.  The dam is 480 feet high and stretches 2,385 feet across the Little Tennessee River. 
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