A Weekend in Gatlinburg, TN – Day 2

Hey Guys!

This post continues our time in Gatlinburg, TN.

Read Day 1 here

Today, we had decided to drive to Cades Cove.

Tip: A $5 parking tag is required for Smoky Mountains National Park beginning March 1, 2023….read about it here.

Cades Cove is an 11-mile, one-way loop road that circles the cove, offering motorists the opportunity to sight see at a leisurely pace.

Read reviews here

I would allow at least two to four hours to tour Cades Cove, longer if you walk some of the area’s trails.

The road is opened year round from 8 am to sunset.

You can pick up an inexpensive self-guiding tour booklet at the entrance to the road that provides a map and information about the cove.

Cades Cove is one of the most popular drives that you can do in this area and it is usually bumper to bumper traffic with no escape since it’s a one way road!

Tip: Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to motor vehicles every Wednesday for Vehicle-Free Day from May 3 through September 27, 2023, so pedestrians and cyclists can experience Cades Cove without motor vehicles.

Heading to Cades Cove…it was approx 1 hr 15 mins from our hotel.

We arrived to Cades Cove around 9;30 am expecting huge crowds!

I had driven this road once before and did not enjoy it due to bumper to bumper traffic the entire drive!

Choking on exhaust fumes is not my idea of a fun vacation!

I was shocked to see that very few people were here when we showed up…it was great!!

We stopped at the parking lot right before the Cades Cove entrance so we could purchase our $5 parking pass.

We then headed to the loop road and started our drive.

We had beautiful weather the whole time we were in Gatlinburg which made our experience even better.

The views on this drive are beautiful!

Shortly after entering the loop road, you have a choice to either drive Sparks Lane, which is 2 miles to the exit, or to drive the Scenic Loop which is 9 miles to the exit.

Click here to see a map of the Cades Cove Loop Rd

Everything was so green!

Our first stop was the Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church.

The church, which was originally established in 1827, can be found by turning left off of Cades Cove Loop Road on the next road after the Oliver Cabin.

This is the first of three churches in Cades Cove and was the second church that was built in the cove. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The church’s congregation halted worship in the church during the Civil War when their minister was forced to flee the area. They resumed service right after the war ceased.

There is a small cemetery located behind the church.

After this stop, we continued our drive and passed the Methodist Church.

The church, which was initially established in the 1820s, initially met in a simple log structure with a small fire pit and dirt floor.

In 1902, the current building was constructed in 115 days at a cost of $115 by the carpenter and pastor John D. Campbell. The cemetery behind the church has over 100 graves and is the second oldest in the Cove.

We just snapped a quick picture while we were driving past the church.

Next we passed the Missionary Baptist Church.

Due to a conflict and resulting division at the Primitive Baptist Church, the Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1841.

In 1894, over 50 years after being established, the church was finally able to construct its own building however, due to overcrowding, this bigger church was built in 1915.

We didn’t stop at this church either but snapped a picture from the car.

The drive was so peaceful! It was so much more enjoyable this time since there was hardly any cars driving it!

The park had just had controlled burns one month before we arrived.

The views were so serene!

Our next stop was the Cades Cove Visitor Center.

The visitor center is located about halfway through the Cades Cove Loop Rd.

Tip: Approx. 5 mins from the Visitor Center is the very popular trail to Abrams Falls – Please use caution here ..Since 1971, there have been a total of 29 deaths on this trail that were water-related.

At this stop,  you can learn about Southern Mountain life and culture, and see a gristmill (operates spring through fall), the Becky Cable house, and other historic structures.

You can also enjoy seasonal ranger-led programs and peruse the park bookstore and shop. Public restrooms available at this stop.

We spent about 30-45 mins here just walking around checking out the historical buildings and the park’s gift shop.

A shot of some of the buildings located at this stop.

The Cable Mill which was built by John Cable in 1867, is one of the most popular landmarks in Cades Cove. In the late 1800s, this mill provided homesteads with a place to turn corn or wheat into flour for making bread.

After leaving here, we continued our drive along the loop road.

We spotted several deer out in the field during our drive.

Next we stopped at the Dan Lawson Cabin.

The Dan Lawson Place, which was originally constructed in 1856, is a transitional piece of architecture – the home features both sawn lumber and hewn logs. In addition, the pioneer cabin featured a modern chimney made out of bricks.

The porch would be used for the post office that was ran from his home. The Dan Lawson Place property was also home to a corn crib and smokehouse.

As we were leaving the cabin, we spotted a huge black bear out in the field across the road from the house!

Unfortunately, it was too far away to get a good picture of it!

Cades Cove is one of the best places to spot bears in the park!

After watching the bear for a while, we continued our drive.

We passed the Tipton Place Historical Structures along the way.

The Tipton Place homestead was initially settled by Revolutionary War Veteran William “Fighting Billy” Tipton in the 1820s.

The two-story cabin that remains on the property was initially constructed by Fighting Billy’s relative and Civil War Veteran Colonel Hamp Tipton. He built the large cabin in the early 1870s.

The homestead was complete with a large, two-story cabin, double-pen corn crib, old-fashioned bee gums, blacksmith shop, and a cantilever barn.

At times, we felt like we were driving through a painting!

As we continued our drive, we spotted several deer on the side of the road.

A few minutes after passing the Tipton Place, we exited the Cades Cove Loop Road and headed into the nearby town of Townsend to have lunch.

After arriving to Townsend, we spotted a sign for the Tuckaleechee Caverns.

Read reviews here

Known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies”, the caverns are the highest rating Cave or Cavern of the Eastern United States.

On the cavern tour, you will get to view “SilverFalls”. It falls 210 feet from top to bottom and the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern US . Millions of formations are viewed along the 1.25 mile round trip adventure.

We decided to skip it and head back into Gatlinburg to have lunch instead.

We stopped on the way back and took pictures of the flowers that were blooming all alongside the road!

After arriving back to Gatlinburg, we parked our car at the hotel and walked 3 mins to Big Daddy’s Pizzeria to have lunch,

The place was empty! That’s usually a bad sign to me!

However, the pizza was very good!

Read reviews here

I ordered the buffalo chicken and my sister ordered the supreme.

After lunch, we decided to once again drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail!

And, once again, we spotted bears!

After leaving here, we decided to hike, or should I say stroll, to Cataract Falls.

The trail, which is less than ten minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, is only 3/4 mile roundtrip and is a very easy walk!

The falls was barely a trickle when we arrived so I felt it was a waste of our time.

However, the butterflies made up for it!

Near the falls, we walked part of a nearby trail called Cove Mountain Trail.

It was a nice, relaxing walk with very few people around.

Tip: 5 mins by car from the Cove Mountain Trail is the 1.9 mile Gatlinburg Trail where you can see the remnants of several old homesites along the trail.

After leaving here, we drove to a nearby park that had a memorial for the victims of the 2016 fires.

The memorial paid tribute to every emergency personnel that assisted that day but the tribute to the victims themselves had just been erected and their names were still covered in blue tape!

I felt that was a bit of disgrace to the victims and their families!

After leaving here, yes, once again, we decided to drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail!

We fell in love with this beautiful, peaceful drive!

This time we decided to do the longer route again!

The views are simply breathtaking!

Once again, we saw bears & some deer!

A couple of pics along the way.

This time we stopped off at the Ely Mill’s gift shop.

Tip: There are a few cabins that you can rent here as well

After leaving the gift shop, we continued the drive and headed back to our hotel.

Before arriving to Gatlinburg, we had purchased tickets to Anakeesta and their light show encounter called Astra Lumina.

So, after getting back to the hotel and changing, we walked the 15 mins from our hotel to Anakeesta.

Read reviews here

Since we had pre purchased our tickets, we were able to go straight to the gondola/ski lift that takes you to the top!

If you are afraid of heights, you can take the shuttle!

The ride up is terrifying! You are so high up!!

It seemed to take forever to get to the top!

Some people said they saw a momma bear and her three cubs during the ride!

Apparently, it’s not that uncommon to spot bears in this area!

Once we reached the top, the views were awesome!

Anakeesta is a big outdoor adventure hub offering zip lining, gondola rides, a treetop play area & more.

There’s several restaurants to choose from and lots of gift shops.

The had flowers everywhere….it was so beautiful and colorful!

I walked to the top of the Anavista Tower!

The tower has 86 steps to the top and gives you 360 degree views of the Smokies and is the only one of its kind in the world!

From the top deck scenic views as far as Kentucky will surround you.

There are two glass panel floors that allow guests to peer down into the garden 60 feet below!

After walking back down the tower, we continued our walk throughout the park admiring all of the beautiful flowers!

We spotted the 20 ft tall  “Willow Man” sculpture!

Of course, we had to have our picture taken under the Anakeesta heart shaped sign!

We decided it was time to eat so we ate at the Cliff Top Restaurant.

See Menu here

We both ordered the burger and it was pretty good…I’ve had better.

After dinner, we sat in the nearby rocking chairs and just relaxed while taking in the beautiful views!

Later, we walked over to a nearby sign to take our picture!

We then decided to do the Treetop Skywalk.

The skywalk bridge is the longest tree-based skywalk in North America with 880′ of spectacular hanging bridges suspended 50-60′ in the air!

We found the skywalk a bit scary as it would bounce and sway when you walked on it! I guess we are just big scaredy cats!

It was cool though and the views were very pretty!

Shortly after we finished the skywalk, it was time for the Astra Lumina tour!

Note: You have to buy a separate ticket for this feature – it’s not included in your Anakeesta admission ticket. It’s $16 pp.

Astra Lumina at Anakeesta is the 15th experience in the Lumina Enchanted Night Walk series and the very first in the United States.

The experience allows you to immerse yourself in illuminating encounters of lighting, projection and sound, and connect with the stars before they “return to the sky above”.

On this walk, you will discover 8 unique zones of astral energy through the woods.

Beginning our walk

We spotted this new exhibit that hasn’t opened yet – it has since caught fire and burned down.

What we thought was the beginning of the walk, turns out to be where they let you in and then you have to wait until your timed entrance.

We stood in line for at least 30 mins before they let us in. You are near a gift shop and bathrooms so that helped!

A map of all the light exhibits along the path.

Finally, starting our walk!

Some of the exhibits along the way!

The walk ended at a sign where you could take your picture.

After the light show, we walked back to our hotel and called it a night!

Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for Day three!

Read Day 1 here














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