Smoky Mountains VIP highlight tour. The tour goes to the roaring fork motor nature trail, Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome, Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill, Ocanaluftee Indian Village, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Minho Falls and Soco Falls. It’s a 8-9 hr all day tour including lunch and tickets to the museum.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a nearly 6-mile-long, one-way loop road, offers spectacular mountain scenery and access to two of the region’s most popular waterfalls: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. You can actually walk behind the 25-foot high falls at the Grotto via the Trillium Gap Trail. You’ll also see historic log cabins and the remains of a mountain village, the Roaring Fork Cemetery and an array of wildlife from birds and deer to black bears.
Recent visitors who raved about the beautiful waterfalls and mountain scenery on this motor trail said this is a must-see and a great place to spot bears in the wild. However, some summer tourists bemoaned the fact that the trail was crowded and offered limited parking areas. To avoid the midday rush of visitors, plan your drive in the morning to beat the crowds.
Newfound Gap – Also known as notches or passes, gaps are the low points in a mountain ridge. Newfound Gap, which sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet, is the lowest drivable pass in the park. Scenic, 31-mile Newfound Gap – U.S. Route 441 – runs through the center of the park from the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, over the mountains and into Cherokee, North Carolina. Mile markers denote several interesting attractions along the way, including Newfound Gap, Mingus Mill, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum, and the Smokemont Campground and Nature Trail.
Recent travelers who drove along this route raved about the mountain views and photo ops, although some called the twisting mountain road “an automotive roller coaster.” Many recommended the Newfound Gap visitor area for its quality facilities and access to trailheads, noting that the Appalachian Trail also crosses here. If you’re visiting on a holiday weekend, prepare for crowds: some travelers said they were unable to find parking at many of the stops.
Clingmans Dome – Clingmans Dome is not only the highest point in Tennessee, but also in the park itself. On a clear day, you may be able to see more than 100 miles. Take a jacket along – even in the summer – as temperatures at the 6,643-foot peak will be much colder than those in the lower elevations. There are several scenic pullouts along Clingmans Dome Road, which ends in a parking area at the trailhead. The trail is paved, but very steep, and leads to an observation tower at the summit. There are also several other trails that start at Clingmans Dome Road and its parking area, including the Appalachian Trail, which crosses Clingmans Dome and is the highest point along its route from Georgia to Maine.
Recent travelers called this the most amazing sight in the mountains, despite the steep trail. Many advised visiting on a sunny day, as clouds and fog can obscure the stunning views from the dome. Some noted that parking is limited and especially hard to snag at peak times during the summer and on weekends. Most also advised bringing warm clothing, and some said the bathroom facilities were less than ideal.
Cherokee, NC – Oconaluftee Indian Village.
As you enter the soft trails of the village, it’s no longer the 21st century: you’re immediately transported to the 1760s. You won’t need your robotic-voiced GPS here. The faint tang of wood smoke wafts by as you are led by a Cherokee cultural expert on an interactive journey through Cherokee lifestyle and history. Your guide will show you the way through the winding paths, flanked with traditional Cherokee dwellings, work areas, and sacred ritual sites. Delight in cultural dances amid the swaying oaks and sycamores. As you wander, interact with villagers as they hull canoes, sculpt pottery and masks, weave baskets, and fashion beadwork. Watch as a village prepares for war. Be amazed by a blowgun demonstration. Oconaluftee Indian Village is much more than just a place; it’s living history.
Mingo Falls, called Big Bear Falls in the Cherokee language, cascades nearly 200 ft. down granite boulders. It’s located just five miles from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Big Cove Road (past several big campgrounds) near the town of Cherokee. The beautiful 1/4-mile hike to the waterfall along the rushing stream is short, but you must climb 161 steps. At the top of the stairway, a short path past impressive rock outcroppings leads to a viewing bridge at the base of the falls. The waterfall is especially impressive after some big rains.
Oconaluftee offers both a visitor center and the Mountain Farm Museum-a collection of historic log buildings gathered from throughout the Smoky Mountains and preserved on a single site. Buildings include a house, barn, applehouse, springhouse, and smokehouse.At the visitor center, rangers can answer your questions about the park and there is a bookstore with a broad selection of guides, maps, and other products.
The Mountain Farm Museum is a unique collection of farm buildings assembled from locations throughout the park. Visitors can explore a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop to get a sense of how families may have lived 100 years ago. Most of the structures were built in the late 19th century and were moved here in the 1950s. The Davis House offers a rare chance to view a log house built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight decimated the American Chestnut in our forests during the 1930s and early 1940s. The museum is adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The site also demonstrates historic gardening and agricultural practices, including livestock. An inexpensive, self-guiding tour booklet is available.
$297 Per Person