Little River Road

Little River Road just outside of Gatlinburg offers some of the area’s best natural attractions. If you’re going to be in the Smoky Mountains, or if you’ve lived here your entire life, Little River Road offers people a way to really immerse themselves in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers a glimpse at why millions flock to the area every year.

Here are just a few of the more popular destinations located along Little River Road. Take a day and pull the car over, explore the area. This is the Smokies at its best.

Laurel Falls

The moderate 2.6 mile trail to Laurel Falls is one of the Park’s most traveled. The trail divides the waterfall in two. At the top, Laurel Branch bursts from a grove of rhododendron, or “laurel” as it was called by early settlers, and falls nearly 50 feet to collect in a pool perfect for soaking tired feet. The falls continues on from that pool for about 35 feet before reaching the bottom.

Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area

Once a family farm, Metcalf Bottoms is now a large picnic area with plenty of space along the river. As Little River Road was being built, the Metcalf family often brought fresh spring water to the many workers. The National Park Service remembered the favor by naming the picnic area for them.

Little Greenbrier School

Just a mile through the forest from Metcalf Bottoms lies the Little Greenbrier School. This charming 19th Century schoolhouse evokes the simpler education of years gone by. Built from logs split up to two feet wide, the school also served as a church from 1882 until the Park’s creation. The original benches and desks still line the room, along with a lectern and a painted blackboard.

The Sinks

Located just 1.5 miles east of Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, The Sinks are a combination of hydraulic rapids and deep pools. Folklore tells of how a logging train once derailed and plunged into the Little River at this spot. It was never found as the bottom could not be reached. Thereafter, this spot was always referred to as “The Sinks.”

Townsend “Wye”

A local favorite for years, the Townsend “Wye” is the meeting point of the middle and west prongs of the Little Pigeon River. This broad, peaceful curve is ideal for swimming and the smooth, grassy banks are a perfect spot for spreading a blanket. Over the years, this has become a popular site due to its accessibility — one mile south of Townsend and seven miles east of Cades Cove.

Tremont

Once known as Tarpaper Camp (for the covering used on buildings), Tremont was one of three towns built by the Little River Lumber Company. Tremont became a logging boom town in the Southern Appalachians during the 1920s. The company town once consisted of a store, post office, hotel, doctor’s office and a church/school/theater building. Today, the area is primarily used for ranger facilities and educational research.

Free Trolley Rides Along the Parkway

The city of Gatlinburg will offer a free trolley ride throughout the summer for anyone in town from June 15 to August 18.

Information on this page refers to 2017:

For anyone wanting to come take a tour of downtown Gatlinburg, now would be as good of a time as any to do it. Right now, the city of Gatlinburg is offering free trolley rides to summer visitors along the length of the Parkway running from June 17 through August 12.

The free Parkway Trolley has been a program that has garnered huge returns in years past. Basically anyone who wants can catch a ride on one of three specially designated trolleys at numerous stops along the Parkway for FREE. The shuttle service route extends from Traffic Light No. 1 at the north end of town to Light No. 10 at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“We are pleased to once again offer this free trolley service during our peak season,” said Cindy Cameron Ogle, city manager. “It will provide our visitors, residents and business community more accessibility to sections of our downtown business district.”

Nearly 1,300 patrons took advantage of the service during its trial run two years ago.

The free open-air shuttles is operating from 10 am to 10 pm daily through August 17. All Gatlinburg trolleys are handicap accessible. Extra stops have been established along the special route to bring the number to 40 along Parkway.

As a part of the Gatlinburg Mass Transit System, the system provides service for 50 cents or $1 per rider along a half-dozen routes. Approximately 800,000 patrons use Gatlinburg’s trolleys annually, making it the fifth-largest mass transit system in the state of Tennessee. Started in 1980 with only six trolleys, Gatlinburg’s fleet has grown to 20-plus trolleys servicing approximately 50 miles of trolley routes.

Gatlinburg Trolleys run all day long throughout the year for just $2 a day with unlimited access to the Red, Blue, Purple, Yellow and Green Trolley routes. The $2 Pass is sold at Gatlinburg welcome centers as well as at Gatlinburg City Hall and the mass transit center, plus at numerous Gatlinburg hotels and other local attractions .

For more information, visit any Gatlinburg City Welcome Center or call (865) 436-0535.

Backroad to the Arts and Crafts Community


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How do I get there from here?

I cannot tell you the number of times I have had visitors to this area ask if there is ‘another‘ way to get to the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community without having to get on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.  Well, there is an if you have a little bit of time and don’t mind getting off the beaten path, it is actually a very pretty drive.

dollywood laneFirst you want to get off the Parkway in Pigeon Forge.  Head to traffic light 8 and turn, as if you are heading to Dollywood.  Once you make the turn off of the Parkway you will be on Dollywood Lane.  Follow Dollywood Lane to the first traffic light that you come to and turn right.  Those of you that have been coming to this area for a long time will recognize this as the ‘old’ entrance to Dollywood.  Follow Dollywood Lane past the employee entrance only to Dollwywood – Dollywood Lane now becomes Upper Middle Creek Road.

Follow Upper Middle Creek Road until it ends at Birds Creek road and take a right onto Birds Creek Road.  You will turn beside a gas station called Dunn’s Market (a place that might have the best greasy-spoon hamburger in the county).  Stay on Birds Creek Road for 4.5 miles.  You are going to pass some beautiful areas along this twisty little mountain road.  You will pass the Caton’s Chapel area and you will be very close to Pittman Center (both of these areas are certainly worth exploring at some point in your travels in the Smokies.  At around 4.5 miles you are going to arrive at a traffic light.  You have now reached the Arts and Crafts Community.

You will be at the juncture of three roads:  Birds Creek, Glades Road and Buckhorn Road.  If you go straight you will be on Buckhorn Rd which is the’other’ road in the Arts and Crafts Community and has a lot of galleries (you can see G Webb’s gallery in front of you from the intersection) and craft shops.  If you take a right you will be on Glades Road which of course is home to the majority of the arts and crafts shops of the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community.  Following this road you will pass small individual craft shops and craft malls that house more then a dozen artists under one roof.  Stop into these shops along Glades Road or Buckhorn Road, do some window shopping, start your Christmas shopping and enjoy the fact that you have not had to deal with the traffic of the Parkway in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

In addition, if you continue down either Buckhorn or Glades Road, you will end up on Hwy 321 which, if you take a right where either road ends you will end up in Gatlinburg at traffic light 3.  This backroad will require more driving and if the traffic is light it is not as fast but if you are visiting during the height of the summer tourist season, this will be a much more enjoyable drive.

Why Not Bypass Gatlinburg?

Obviously, if you are in the Smokies you are going to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at some point. If you are looking to go straight to the National Park then the Bypass allows you to get there without the stop and go traffic of Gatlinburg.

Driving Tip – You and your family are sitting in your car headed to Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, or I-40. Like most, you decide to take the “Spur” past traffic light No. 10 in Pigeon Forge. As soon as you pass the Gatlinburg Welcome Center you come to a complete stop. Two lanes heading into Gatlinburg, full of cars and families anticipating the fun they are about to have. You can expect a wait just to get to the city limits. Little do you know that a half-mile from the Welcome Center is your escape route: The Gatlinburg Bypass. This Bypass allows you to go directly to the National Park or the other end of Gatlinburg, while providing some of the best views of Gatlinburg that you can find in the area.

 

Spectacular views of Gatlinburg and Mount LeConte are primarily what the Gatlinburg Bypass is known for.

Obviously, if you are in the Smokies you are going to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at some point, or pass close by it at least. If you are looking to go straight to the National Park then the Bypass allows you to get there without having to deal with the stop and go traffic of Gatlinburg. The other end of the bypass drops you off a mere two miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center. At Sugarlands Visitor Center you can reserve campsites, get trail information, buy souvenirs and take in the exhibits – all giving you great Park information. Besides all that, it is also a good place to stop before you head into the mountains for a day hike or just a drive to places like Cherokee, NC. Either way, back to the car…

So you’re stopped in traffic waiting for the guy in front of you to move five inches so that you can move four.  If you take the bypass and follow the signs to Gatlinburg, you will find yourself at traffic light No. 10, near the Park Grill and Ober Gatlinburg going against the traffic. You might now realize it, but you have saved yourself some time and your family can get to enjoying Gatlinburg much quicker. You’ll still have to find a place to park but you will be on the same side of the road as some of the larger parking lots up Historic Nature Trail Road. Also, if your destination in Gatlinburg is closer to traffic light No. 10 then you are almost there.

Another suggestion, if it’s dark when you’re leaving Gatlinburg, take the bypass. There is a scenic overlook that gives you an incredible view of the old town in all it’s glowing splendor. At night, with the lights on and the Space Needle shining like a beacon you get a glimpse of what brings people back to Gatlinburg year after year. So, the next time you are headed to Gatlinburg or when you are headed to the National Park remember the Gatlinburg Bypass and you will be the hero of your vacation.

So we’ve gone over all the ways to cut around traffic and make the trip in and around Gatlinburg an easier one. What about getting there? While we can’t possibly notify you of every highway that’s under construction, or every traffic pileup along the way, here’s a chart (below) with mileage and corresponding drive time from major cities to Gatlinburg. Plan your trip accordingly and be ready to enjoy Gatlinburg to its fullest when you arrive.

Departing City Time Miles
Asheville, NC 1 Hour – 54 min 90
Atlanta, GA 3 Hours – 53 min 197
Baton Rouge, LA 10 Hours – 41 min 699
Birmingham, AL 4 Hours – 49 min 298
Bristol, TN 1 Hour – 39 min 102
Charlotte, NC 3 Hours – 57 min 219
Chattanooga, TN 2 Hours – 41 min 153
Cherokee, NC 1 Hour 35
Chicago, IL 9 Hours – 23 min 581
Cincinnati, OH 4 Hours – 59 min 297
Columbus, OH 6 Hours – 32 min 397
Dayton, OH 5 Hours – 42 min 344
Greenville, SC 2 Hours – 53 min 143
Huntsville, AL 4 Hours – 20 min 253
Indianapolis, IN 6 Hours – 29 min 398
Jackson, MS 8 Hours – 18 min 537
Johnson City, TN 1 hour – 31 min 94
Knoxville, TN 1 Hour 42
Lexington, KY 3 Hour – 38 min 212
Louisville, KY 4 Hours – 45 min 286
Memphis, TN 6 Hours – 47 min 432
Montgomery, AL 6 Hours – 5 min 385
Nashville, TN 3 Hours – 41 min 222
New Orleans, LA 9 Hours – 54 min 642
Orlando, FL 10 Hours – 19 min 631
Roanoke, VA 4 Hours – 19 min 261
St. Louis, MO 8 Hours – 23 min 327
Tampa, FL 10 Hours – 39 min 698

The Ogle Family

To find the root of Gatlinburg, the true history, you really can point to one name in particular: Ogle. And it all began with a strong-willed lady named Martha Ogle.

Martha Jane Huskey Ogle to be exact. Along with her children and other family members settled a place called White Oak Flats in 1807. At the time, it was a fairly remote place in the Smoky Mountains. This land, to her recently deceased husband William, was a paradise, and in honor of him they decided to make it their own. Today, that land is prominently Gatlinburg. The Ogle cabin that they build when they first arrived still stands and people can visit it while in town.

The Gatlinburg area was known as White Oak Flats during those early years due to the abundant native white oak trees found everywhere. It was the Ogle family who first settled it followed by familiar family names like McCarter, Reagan, Whaley, and Trentham.

As for the town of Gatlinburg itself and how it got its name, many believe Radford C. Gatlin, who opened the town’s second general store, would be the most likely choice. Gatlin was a flamboyant preacher, establishing his own “Gatlinite” Baptist Church as well as a democrat in a republican community. For unknown reasons, he was eventually banished from the area. Still, the town bears his name.

Martha Ogle

The Ogles first became aware of the area around 1802 when William Ogle selected a site here. He cut the logs for the cabin, returned to South Carolina and told his family that they were moving. He had found “The Land of Paradise” in the mountains of East Tennessee. William fell ill, malaria most likely, while preparing for the big move and passed away before he could ever return in 1803.

It was after his death that Martha, around age 46 or 47, brought her five sons and two daughters, her brother, Peter Huskey, and his family to White Oak Flats. Her husband’s hewed logs still lay where he had left them. They eventually finished the cabin and settled the land around it.

Pi Beta Phi eventually bought the Ogle farm when the settlement school expanded in 1921 and used it as a hospital. A museum of mountain artifacts used the cabin from 1922-26. Today it’s located a short distance away from its original site at the former site of the community’s first church building.

Other prominent Ogles of note included Noah Ogle – Gatlinburg’s first merchant of record, who established a store in 1850 where the Riverside Hotel is located. Until 1925, the E. E. Ogle and Company store housed the Gatlinburg Post Office. Grandson Charlie A. Ogle and great grandson Charles Earl Ogle continue the family tradition to this day. Over the years, the store has moved and expanded in numerous directions. They’ve sold everything from hairpins to threshing machines, “if they could find it.” The Mountain Mall now stands where the general store was after it was demolished in 1970.

The Ogles, descendants from the area’s first settlers, personify Gatlinburg history and the town’s ongoing development.

Gatlinburg Trolley Schedule

You’ve made it to Gatlinburg, found a place to park, and now you’re out and about touring the town. But say you want to tour town but don’t want to have to spend the day walking it. Simple, take the trolley.

Gatlinburg’s trolley is one of the nicest public transit systems in the state. There are numerous spots to hop on, and it’s a very easy way to get around town. And all for just $2 a day. That’s right, you can ride all day long in the downtown area for just two dollars a day.

Current Trolley Map

For everyone looking at a Gatlinburg trolley map, the day pass includes unlimited access to the all trolley routes but the Tan and Pink routes. Both Gatlinburg welcome centers offer the all day trolley pass, as well as city hall and the mass transit center near Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. There are also individual routes for purchase. Those run from 50 cents on up to $2 depending on distance. You must have exact change for each individual route.

There are over 17 parking lots conveniently located throughout the downtown Gatlinburg area. Just look for the blue parking labels. Parking fees vary based on locations. Call (865) 277-8222 with any questions.

Updated: Fall Foliage Report – Late October

How’s the fall color looking in Gatlinburg during the final weeks of October?

Just because it’s late October, doesn’t mean the fall color is rapidly disappearing in the Smokies. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Some places in the lower elevations are just beginning to see peak color.

Mid elevations, from 3,000-5,000 feet, are still impressive, but are at or slightly past peak. Expect to see your fair share of reds this year especially compared to years past. In the national park’s very highest elevations (above 5,500) fall color is now past peak and the best hiking – scenery wise, is also behind us.

Hiking and getting out into nature to see the fall colors is at a high point in the lower elevations of the Smoky Mountains right now. Fall foliage is quickly developing or has developed. With the first frost of the season already having come and gone, most of the trees should be in the process of changing color if they haven’t already. Dogwood and sourwood trees, among others are showing out right now in hot red. Hickories, beech, birch and black walnut are taking on a more golden look this fall. All of this is good news, because it means that fall could very likely spill into early November here in the Smokies and last a few days longer.

What everyone should be hoping for at the moment is that the weather keeps trending like it is. Mild days, cool, crisp nights are what makes for a long, vibrant fall.

As mentioned, tree species located in the middle elevations are still showing quite a bit of color and make for some great day hikes/adventures. Color is just beginning to show out in the oak trees. Maples, hickories, and other trees are still showing vibrant colors at mid level. Though there aren’t many, a few left over green trees can still be spotted in the middle to lower elevations. But, as the days peel off the calendar new color is going to appear few and far between, but isn’t unlikely due to the weather conditions.

A few places to view the fall foliage: Take a trip down Newfound Gap Road, or drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Foothills Parkway East & West going to or from Maryville and Townsend, TN. For all you avid hikers out there, the Rich Mountain Road Loop just outside of Cades Cove is a great little hike and you won’t see vistas, or views any better anywhere in the national park.

3 Things You Can See from a Gatlinburg Webcam

If you are anything like us, then you love seeing the scenic views that can be found in and around Gatlinburg, TN. That is why we have put together a list of all of our favorite Gatlinburg webcams so you can experience these scenic sights even when you aren’t able to be here yourself. Continue reading “3 Things You Can See from a Gatlinburg Webcam”

Two Years Later, Two Major Smoky Mountain Trails Open

While tornadoes are fairly rare in this part of the state, a few that sprang up two years caused quite a bit of damage in the park that was still being felt up until just a few days ago.

Due to the storm that produced those tornadoes, the national park service had to close two major trails in the area. Those two Smoky Mountain hiking trails have now reopened and are ready for heavy hiking boot traffic.

The National Park Service said the Beard Cane and Hatcher Mountain trails – both in the west end of the 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park – have been repaired and are again open. They were the last of 10 damaged trails to be reopened.

Thousands of trees were knocked down by an F-4 tornado that struck near Cades Cove in April 2011, forcing the closing of 50 miles of trails. One campsite, Backcountry Site 11, has been permanently closed because damage left it unsuitable for use.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/01/2862141/final-2-trails-reopen-after-2011.html#storylink=cpy