Elk in Cataloochee

The Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to one species you won’t see on the Tennessee side – Elk.

If one of your reasons for coming to Gatlinburg and the national park is the chance to get a glimpse at some of the amazing wildlife that call the Smokies home, I’d suggest taking the 65 mile trip from Gatlinburg to Cataloochee in North Carolina. The Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to one species you won’t see on the Tennessee side – Elk.

The Smokies has seen the elk population continue to grow ever since they were reintroduced to the area in early 2001. Cataloochee’s elk began to roam the forests in 2002. At one time, elk were as prevalent in Smokies as the black bear and were one of the dominant herd animals in the area. If you haven’t seen an elk up close, they’re much bigger than the white tail deer that are commonly seen on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains. Outside of Cataloochee, your best chance to see elk, especially a herd of them, is near the Cherokee entrance to the park, but there is always a really good chance of seeing them in Cataloochee.

Cataloochee compares favorably to Cades Cove, only it’s on the northern end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Whether you are staying in Tennessee or North Carolina, Cataloochee is only 10 miles from Interstate 40.  In comparison to Cades Cove’s historical buildings, Cataloochee is much more secluded, thus less population, which equals fewer homes/buildings. It also has fewer visitors then Cades Cove.  Moreover, Cades Cove does not have elk. Cataloochee is also a great place to take a lunch or even camp out for a night, the elk will find you. It’s hard to miss them.

Since elk were introduced in Cataloochee, it’s hard to go to that side of the GSMNP without seeing an elk.  They’re literally everywhere. So amazing! The size of the elk is almost unrivaled in the national park. Their trophy racks are unparalleled by most deer and cause most wildlife to approach with hesitancy.  Their racks tower above them and make the elk itself seem even more imposing.  Some racks seem almost as tall as the animal itself. Nevertheless, elk are very docile and, though you don’t want them to get as close as the deer do in Cades Cove, it’s their nature to get close.

On at least one trip to Cataloochee, a tagged female was so close that you could have reached out and touched her.  Meanwhile, the bulls were all in a field together, grazing. There were also about a dozen lying in a field – herd mentality.  In Cataloochee these normally aggressive animals have found a stress-free location to graze and raise their young. Let your family experience the beauty of an animal that has been reintroduced to their rightful home.  Head to Cataloochee on your next trip to the Smokies and experience the elk.

Carver’s Orchard – Off the Beaten Path

Outside the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg, you’ll find this quaint locale specializing in some of the area’s best fried apple pies.

In Cosby, Tennessee there is a little slice of heaven called Carvers Orchard. Carver’s is a full service orchard but it is also a farmer’s market, a restaurant and boasts the best fried apple pies in east Tennessee. Surrounded by apple trees, well marked and easy to locate Carver’s is a roadside wonder. The easy way to find them is by following Hwy 321 out of Gatlinburg. The intersection of the 321 and the parkway is at traffic light 3 and it will take you out of town and past the Great Smoky Mountain Arts and Crafts Community. The route from traffic light 3 in Gatlinburg to the orchard is a little over 22 miles and takes you through some beautiful locations. On the way to the orchard you will pass the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the turn off to the Cosby Campground area of the Smokies and eventually you will arrive at Cosby itself. The Cosby area is not as visited an area as Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in beauty.

At Carver’s Orchard Cosby beauty certainly shines through. The orchard processes apples that grow on the trees in the orchard and they have more than 40,000 trees to pick from. Those 40,000 trees include 126 varieties of apple, from standard fare to heirlooms. During harvest you can watch as thousands of apples are processed. The bright, shiny, red orbs roll down the conveyor belts to be sorted by hand into bushels. The bushels then go to the farmer’s market or to the trucks to be shipped out. The apples that make it to the floor of the farmer’s market are then picked over by cooks and apple coinsurers alike. Like any good farmer’s market they will even let you sample the apple before you buy. Each type is also marked as to what it is best used for, whether that be in a pie or just eaten as is.

Some of the apples end up being used in the orchard’s restaurant. Home-style food with an Appalachian twist abounds at Carver’s. At the beginning of each meal you get a basket of apple fritters and a glass of cider. Really at this point you could almost stop. The fritters are perfect and cider is so fresh that you start looking for pulp. But if you chose to stop you wouldn’t be able to experience the rest of the food they have to offer. From pot roast to catfish they carry all your family’s favorites. Their sandwiches are tremendous and if you get there early you can even have breakfast. Of course the only way to end a meal at Carver’s is with a fried apple pie.

Their fried apple pies are amazing. People in the area know where to get good food and if you are looking for a fried apple pie there is no other place to go. They are sold in the pastry shop and in the restaurant. You can get them with ice cream or by themselves. Either way you experience a Carver’s Orchard fried apple pie will leave you full and dream of a lazy summer watching the bees flit from apple tree to apple tree. Fried apple pies are a bit of southern nostalgia and if your kids haven’t gotten to taste one, you need to beat a hasty path to Carver’s Orchard in Cosby, Tennessee.

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.

The BEST Way to get to Gatlinburg

Want to know the best way to get to Gatlinburg, plus a few lesser-known routes? Continue reading and find out.

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You’ve probably been asked it a thousand times if you’ve lived in the Smoky Mountains, or if you spend a lot of time in the area: “What’s the best way to get to Gatlinburg?” For us locals, it seems like a fairly easy answer – “Just take 40 to the exit for the Smoky Mountains and go south till you get to Gatlinburg.” Although, while that seems like the easy answer, when you actually sit back and think about it, there are a few different ways you could get to Gatlinburg.

As mentioned, we’ll start with the one route most people use who would be coming from Nashville, Knoxville, Lexington, Asheville, and the tri-cities of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City, as well as Virginia – Interstate 40 traveling either east or west. You’ll take exit 407 in Kodak which notes Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Traveling south down Winfield Dunn Pkwy./Hwy. 66 into Sevierville and continuing onto Pigeon Forge as the road turns into U.S. 441 Scenic Parkway, you’ll reach Gatlinburg by this route. It’s also the most popular due to the straight shot from the interstate as well as the number of two-lane roads.

Another popular route is the one leading north to Gatlinburg from Cherokee, Waynesville, or Asheville, NC via Newfound Gap Road. It’s popular because it leads the driver straight through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a number of picturesque landscapes on their way to Gatlinburg.  From Cherokee, it’s U.S. 441/Hwy. 71 north through the park until you reach downtown Gatlinburg.

A scenic route that many talk about but fewer travel starts in Newport, TN. You might try this route if you’re ever coming or going to Bristol, Johnson City, or Kingsport, TN or the Virginias. Traveling south on Interstate 81, take Interstate 40 east to Asheville when it splits. Once you reach Newport, TN, you’ll take exit 435 south – Cosby Hwy/Hwy. 32. Continue on this route as it turns into U.S. 321/Hwy. 73 East Parkway which will take you west into downtown Gatlinburg.

There a number of other ways to reach Gatlinburg, but these three should have you there in the most timely manner. If you’re traveling to Pigeon Forge, you can just as easily get to Gatlinburg whatever way you reach Pigeon Forge by just continuing south on the Parkway.

9 Best Places to Shop in Gatlinburg

Downtown Gatlinburg features numerous shops and artist galleries full of local wares perfect for any occasion, holiday, birthday, whatever.


The Village Shops in downtown Gatlinburg.

The words “shopping” and “Gatlinburg” make most people think of outlet malls, but for every brand name store, there are just as many local shops selling rare, one-of-a-kind Smoky Mountain items you just don’t find anywhere else. It’s for that exact reason that we run down our 9 best places to shop in Gatlinburg. With so many shops aligning the Parkway, the choices were many, but only a select few made our list. Think we might have missed something? Send us comment and we’ll compare with our list.

This evolving list features stores ranging from local arts and crafts to kitchen aids and ingredients. Most are within walking distance from one another so if one doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they probably know their neighbor well enough to point you in the right direction or tell you where you can find it. Now, let’s get on with the list.

Our 9 best places to shop in Gatlinburg:

  1. The Village Shops – This cozy little shopping district just off the parkway features 27 specialty boutiques and eateries. Some of the stores include The Day Hiker where you can stock up on the latest hiking equipment before going into the park, the Silver Tree for all you fine silver jewelry lovers, and Tervis, which carry their special indestructible double-walled cups.
  2. The Mountain Mall – The Mountain Mall shopping center in the heart of downtown is a great place to stop for a bite to eat, or just shop around. If it were up to us, a daily stop at the Funnel Cake Factory would be in order. Alas, we’ll keep going with this list.
  3. Wood Signs of Gatlinburg – The store, like its name, is a “what you see is what you get” type of thing. Their beautifully hand-crafted wood signs are perfect for just about any occasion and can be used to note just about anything. Whether you’re thinking an indoor, or an outdoor mount these signs hold up for years and are the perfect wedding, Christmas, or birthday gift.
  4. Covered Bridge – As a part of the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community, this newly constructed retail development features a number of galleries, local jewelry stores, as well as a few studio specializing in pottery and glassware.
  5. Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community – Located 3 miles from downtown Gatlinburg, this 8-mile trail loop features stores ranging from pubs, eateries, and local ice cream shops to galleries and studios found only in Gatlinburg, TN.
  6. Sugarland Cellars – One of the finest wine markets in the Smoky Mountains. If you’re a wine connoisseur, stop by and take home some locally-made wine. Their extensive collection will impress even the heartiest of wone snobs.
  7. All Sauced Up – The place to shop if you’re into gourmet foods and kitchen gadgets. Daily samples range from barbeque sauces, salsa’s, jams and jellies, salad dressings, gourmet peanut butter and much more. With over 150 samples daily, try it before you buy it.
  8. Shops at Carousel Gardens – This multi-artist gallery in downtown Gatlinburg features the work of over 45 local artisans from a broad spectrum of talent. Artists include local painters, potters, textile artists, crafters, glass-workers, photographers, and sculptors.
  9. Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Mall – No shopping list would be complete without even a mention of one of the area’s outlet malls and Tanger happens to be the biggest and best. Located just outside Gatlinburg in Pigeon Forge, they have all the brand name stores you could want.

Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight

The 4th of July Midnight Parade in Gatlinburg, TN is held every year as the “first 4th of July Parade” in the nation. Get the details on when it happens and where to before the Fourth of July in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!

Come see the first 4th of July parade of the year in Gatlinburg, TN! Every year, the parade starts at midnight, and it’s the first 4th of July parade to kick off in the entire country!

The parade starts at midnight on the evening of July 3rd. The annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight is expected to bring over 100,000 spectators! The the city of Gatlinburg expects that it will continue to grow each year, too!

The streets will be closed to vehicles at approximately 11 p.m. on July 3rd so plan to get there early. You will want to pack a chair for your evening, so you can relax and wait on the parade to pass! You can see the parade anywhere from downtown on the main strip, so don’t sweat it too much if you have trouble finding a spot in the middle of downtown! You’ll see the same parade at the beginning and end of the route, so just find a place where you can be comfortable!

During the parade, there will be a tribute to the 5 military branches – a major highlight of the parade and rightfully so.

Also, Gatlinburg will be having a fireworks show around the same time as the Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade, which will begin about an hour after sundown. The display can be seen along most of the Parkway. The fireworks show is supposed to last around 20 minutes, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Tips for Visiting the Gatlinburg 4th of July ParadeFireworks to celebrate the 4th of July

  • Arrive early to get the best spot!
  • Pack snack and drinks so you don’t have to leave your spot!
  • If you spend the day in Gatlinburg, stop by one of the amazing restaurants in the area to grab an early dinner before the parade begins.
  • Take a few folding chairs and blankets to make you comfortably while you wait.
  • Don’t forget your camera!

If you won’t be in Gatlinburg, you can check out the 4th of July fireworks in Pigeon Forge. The Pigeon Forge event will have free concerts on July 4th. The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge events are both free and will be a great time for the entire family! We can’t wait to see you soon!

Elkmont – Ghost Town in the Smokies?

Elkmont, situated in the upper Little River Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, is but a shell of what it once was – an early 20th Century social getaway to Knoxville’s elite. Today, a literal ghost town is all that remains.

At times in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park it is hard to imagine what the area was like before it became one of our national treasures. Truth be told, the land that is now in the National Park contained industry, business and homes before it became part of the National park Service 80 years ago. One of the places in the Park that makes it easy to see what life was like ‘before the Park’ is Elkmont. Currently Elkmont is home to a campground, fishing areas and hiking trails, but its history goes back much further. Starting as a small settlement in a valley, and changing with the times, it became a center for the logging industry, finally to become a resort town nestled in the Smoky Mountains. With the National Park movement in the 30s, Elkmont was purchased and became part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With the leases in Elkmont expiring, the buildings were left where they stand to this day; a monument to the past and a ghost town in the Smokies.

The Elkmont area was originally settled by two Smokies families in the 1840s, at least one of which came to the area to look for gold. Like most small mountain communities they were subsistence farmers that produced everything from corn to honey to make ends meet and put food on the table. The creek that runs along the Elkmont Trail is Jake’s Creek, named for Jacob Hauser, probably the first settler to this area. From this time period, the only existing structure is the Avent Cabin which was built around 1845 by the Ownby family.

John English, a Knoxville, Tennessee businessman, began a small-scale logging project in the Elkmont area along Jake’s Creek. This business venture started the logging period for the Elkmont area but it was a Pennsylvania native, Colonel Wilson Townsend (after whom Townsend TN is named) that established the Little River Lumber Company. Townsend setup a railroad that went from his saw mills to the logging camp in what became known as Elkmont to the loggers. The Elkmont area was used as the base of operation for the lumber company through the 20s and 30s. By this time Townsend had sold most of the land to the newly formed national Park. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Townsend noticed that as the forest was being mined for its valuable resources that he could use the train to bring hunters and fishermen to the area. The railroad reached Maryville and Knoxville by 1909 and they began offering the “Elkmont Special.” This special was train service from Knoxville to Elkmont. Tickets on the Elkmont special became a hot commodity. Soon a bigger engine was added and in 1912 Charles Carter built the Wonderland Hotel – a 50 room resort lodge overlooking Elkmont. In 1914 a group of citizens from Knoxville formed the Appalachian Club. This ‘club’ built 40 or more rustic cabins and a lodge. The Elkmont area became the place for Knoxville’s elite to go. Membership into the Appalachian Club was hard to acquire. Even the removal of the railroad to another logging area did not deter the members, who, along with the help of Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, put in a road connecting Townsend and the Elkmont area.

By this point in history, National Parks like Wyoming’s Yellowstone started opening across the country. The idea to open a National Park in the Smokies may have even started with one of the members of the Appalachian Club. Whoever originally came up with the idea, in 1926 Colonel Townsend sold the initial 76,000 acres to start the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Park. Even though the national park would be a great addition to their community, the cottage owners and members of he Appalachian Club were losing their summer homes, their vacation spot. With the help of an attorney from the Little River Lumber Company they were allowed to sell their property at half price and get a lifetime lease. Most of the lifetime leases expired in 1992 with the last two expiring in 2001. The 1982 General Management Plan of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park called for the structures to be removed and the land would be allowed to revert to its natural state. In 1994, just a mere two years after most of the leases had expired, this plan was overridden when Elkmont was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, saving the cottages from destruction. Unfortunately, though they were saved from removal, they were left to deteriorate. The Park Service did not have the means or extra funding to preserve those buildings. The Wonderland Hotel collapsed in 2005 and has since been removed, though some of the historical fixtures and items from the hotel have been preserved. The homes along Little River and Jake’s Creek were also left to the elements, without upkeep.

At the time of this writing, there is sign of reconstruction going on in Elkmont. Some new porches and construction tape now adorn some of the cabins and cottages. According to a brief sent out from the Park Service in the fall of 2007, they are proposing that 19 of the remaining buildings be preserved. This preservation effort would include the Appalachian Clubhouse and other buildings of historic significance. This move is still waiting for approval but it is certainly a positive step to preserve some of the pre-park history.

Since then, the National Park Service in 2009 announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and 18 cottages and outbuildings in the Appalachian Club area (which were older and more historically significant) and remove all other structures, including the Wonderland Annex which had collapsed in 2005.

Maybe this ghost town in the Smokies will receive some tender loving care, bringing back that Smoky Mountain vacation spot atmosphere that it had so many years ago.

7 of the Most Popular Local Gatlinburg Restaurants

When it comes to good food and fun times, there is no better place to visit than one of the many popular local Gatlinburg restaurants. From traditional burgers to authentic British food, there is something for everyone found among our favorite places to eat in the area. Continue reading “7 of the Most Popular Local Gatlinburg Restaurants”

Gatlinburg Pet Friendly Cabins

A guide of the best pet friendly cabin rentals in Gatlinburg, TN. If you’re looking for Gatlinburg pet friendly cabins or chalets to bring your dog, cat, or other pet to then this is your guide to the best pet friendly cabins in Gatlinburg, TN!

If you have a puppy, dog, cat, kitten, or other pet then you most likely treat them like a regular part of the family. If you’re looking to bring your pet(s) with you on your next Tennessee vacation to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge then I highly suggest looking into Gatlinburg pet friendly cabins. Whether you have a kitten or a 150lb Old English Mastiff, there is bound to be a Smoky Mountain cabin rental in Gatlinburg that will accommodate your pet.

The list below contains only the highest rated pet friendly cabin rentals in Gatlinburg, TN. The first set are the cabin and chalet rentals that consistently get good reviews and remain highly recommended. The others that follow are also recommended, but aren’t discussed as widely…it’s not that their bad…they just don’t get as much word-of-mouth as the first few. If you have comments on any of the following cabins (or if you know of other pet-friendly cabins around Gatlinburg, TN) please share your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this page!

The Best Pet Friendly Cabins in Gatlinburg, TN:

Sugar Maple Cabin Rentals
Sugar Maple offers pet friendly cabins.

Gatlinburg Cabins Online
Accepts large pets in some cabins.

Majestic Mountain Vacations

Other Pet Friendly Cabin Rentals in the area:

Sherwood Forest Resort

If you have stayed at any of the Gatlinburg, TN cabin rentals listed above during your Gatlinburg Tennessee vacation, please share your experience with others in the comment section below! Also, if we have missed a great cabin rental in Gatlinburg that is pet-friendly, please mention them below and we’ll get them added to the list. Be sure to check out information on Pigeon Forge cabins as well.