One of my favorite relaxing sounds to enjoy is rushing river water. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a must-do auto tour in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a simple, inexpensive way to truly experience the unique joys of the Smoky Mountains. Take a winding journey of 6 miles (one-way road) through forest, along rushing streams, past historic buildings. Cabin homesteads, overlooks, and waterfall hiking trailheads all are available at numerous stops along this picturesque drive.
Make sure to stop and purchase the Nature Trail self-guide booklet ($1 donation), located in an honor box at the trail entrance. Notable stops are:
-the Noah Bud Ogle homestead, the Bales family farm, and the Reagan properties
-trailheads for Rainbow Falls (5.4 miles roundtrip moderate to difficult hike), Grotto Falls (3 miles roundtrip moderate hike), and Place of a Thousand Drips, a wet-weather waterfall at stop #15.
But there are so many moments to savor and explore to make this trip your own. The key is to take it slow, as much is missed with a hurried pace. Make a special effort to notice and absorb the details.
Stop to inspect a hardscrabble, former way of early living in these rugged mountains. Go for a cardio hike to one of the falls. Capture photographs of wildlife and play in the icy cold streams. Inhale the history and allure of the breathtaking nature around you. When you complete this tour, I promise you will feel you have “been on vacation”, if even for only a few moments.
Go early to be ahead of the high season summer crowd. Spend a good part of the day here: for family photo ops, for historical education, for romantic lingering, for explorer exercise, but seriously, just go! Later on, as you relax in your Gatlinburg luxury cabin rental, be thankful for all the modern conveniences surrounding you. Click back through those digital pictures to recall the rugged way of life that this area’s early settlers bravely endured to be surrounded by such beauty. My best suggestion? Visit again in another season; it’s also lovely in colorful autumn and blooming spring.
To access the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, turn at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg and follow the Historic Nature Trail Road straight past Park Vista Hotel and Mynatt Park to the National Park entrance. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/roaringfork.htm