Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

With two locations in Gatlinburg, it is no wonder that people have been stopping for decades at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen to pick up their favorite candy or sweet treat while they walk the Parkway in Gatlinburg.

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen has locations in the middle of Gatlinburg and at the front entrance of The Village.  You will be able to smell the candy and chocolate from feet away before you enter the wonder that is a professional candy kitchen, complete with people making candy in the front window and a taffy puller and wrapping machine that will make you stand for hours watching the wrapped taffy fall into a wicker basket.  Homemade chocolate, taffy, brittle and much more cover every shelf and every side of the counter at both locations of the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen.  Let’s look at their chocolate first.

The counter itself is a mountain of chocolate.  Covering everything from cherries to peanuts, made into bark and flavored with mint and all manner of flavorings, the chocolate chefs at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen produce mouthwatering mounds of morsels just waiting to be purchased and eaten.  Fudge of every flavor and of course, chocolate in milk, dark and white varieties.  Chocolate, to be piled into bags and eaten as you roam further down the parkway looking in the windows of the shops.

And, if you are not a chocolate fan, then you can always jump on the brittle.  Peanut brittle of course but there is also something different:  cashew brittle.  A personal favorite of mine, the cashew brittle, is something unusual and though I have seen it in other places since first having it here, I still think the cashew brittle at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is the best.  You can buy it in small bags or if you are like me, you know that the bag is not going to satisfy your thirst for brittle so just buy a tub of it and much as you walk.

Half the fun though of coming to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is watching them make their mouthwatering fare.  The cooks, dressed in their whites are going to be in the window making fudge, candy apples and taffy.  You can watch them load the ropy mess of taffy onto the puller, see then add the flavorings and the colorings and then they will put it on the wrapping machine.  Everyone that visits this traditional stop in Gatlinburg has whiled away the hours watching the taffy get first stretched then cut and finally wrapped in simple wax paper and dropped into a basket.

If you have never been into the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen you are missing one of the most fun stops in town.  Stand right outside the door and take a deep whiff of the air.  Let the smell of freshly made candy invade your nose.  Step through the door and wait for the split second before your mouth starts to water.  Make the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen part of your Gatlinburg vacation tradition.

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
744 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

One of America’s largest aeriel tramways, Gatlinburg’s has been in operation since 1973. Take the Ober Gatlinburg Tram next time you’re in town.

There is nothing like soaring above a town in a tram car. Attached to a cable that runs from the middle of town up the mountain is the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, one of America’s largest aerial tramways. This landmark attraction has been part of the Gatlinburg skyline since August 5, 1973. Until that point skiers had to visit Ober Gatlinburg via twisting mountain roads, up and down the sides of Mt Harrison. With the addition of the Ober Gatlinburg Tram the cold mountain winters no longer deter skiers and Ober Gatlinburg has flourished ever since. A ride on the Aerial tramway is one of the best ways to see Gatlinburg and one of the most fun ways to get to Ober Gatlinburg itself.

The Ober Gatlinburg Tram’s downtown hub is located on Gatlinburg’s west end. The downtown hub is full of gift shops and information about both the ski resort and the other attractions at Ober Gatlinburg’s mountainside location. The booth for buying tickets is located towards the back of the building. After you get your ticket you walk up the ramp and join the queue that is waiting for the next tram to arrive. During the winter months the wait can be lengthy. Skiers in all of their gear are standing in line eager to pile onto the tram stack up in the queue. During the summer months those wishing to take in the best view of Gatlinburg are eager for that same ride.

And the view of Gatlinburg is spectacular. As you leave the tram hub in Gatlinburg and start ascending the mountain you are treated to the reason for Gatlinburg’s popularity. You get to take in the quaintness of the town. You get to peak at the small mountain town that now wears the trappings of the tourist city. You can see the tops of the buildings and the layout of the city itself. As you ride up the wire to the top of the mountain you are treated to the cabins and chalets that line the mountainside, some only viewable from the tramway or the street they reside on. Gatlinburg takes on a whole different perspective from the bottom of the mountain to your final destination: Ober Gatlinburg itself.

You sit or stand in a tramway gondola. These Ober Gatlinburg Tram cars were replaced in April of 2007. Each car can transport 120 people up the mountain but the new cars provide 15% more viewable glass area. Since the tramway opened the two tram cars have transported more than 18 million people. Many of those visitors have traveled back and forth year after year enjoying the gentle swaying of the gondolas as the climb the mountain. Skiers stay year after year ready to take the slopes after they have ascended the mountain and then looking forward to the light show that is Gatlinburg as they head back down after a full day. The Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is one of the greatest ways to see Gatlinburg and an experience in and off itself, make sure to make it part of your next trip to the Smokies.

The Village

The village is one of the premier shopping areas in Gatlinburg. Thousands of people each year come to walk through the shops and window shop at the windows that point out into the courtyards. From galleries to small boutique clothiers, The Village has a full selection of shopping opportunities. You can even grab something to eat or one of the best cups of coffee that you will ever find.

Shops in the Village

  • Best Gift Idea Ever: BGIE specializes in LETTER ART, photographing everyday objects to find natural “letters” within the image.
  • Cartoons and Toys: Largest selection of Hello Kitty, John Deere, Darda Race Sets, Groovy Girls, Care Bears, and much more.
  • Celtic Heritage: Fine gifts imported from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • Coffee & Company: Gatlinburg’s oldest roasting coffee shop. Serving handcrafted cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolates and more…
  • God’s Corner: A unique Christian shop with a wonderful selection of Christian music.
  • Life is Good: Life According to Jake is your source for “Life Is Good” products and apparel.
  • Master’s Editions: A fine art gallery dedicated to pairing clients with the perfect piece of artwork.
  • Pepper Palace: Pepper Palace carries everything for the spicy food lover. Hot Sauce, Salsa, BBQ Sauce, Marinades, spices, rubs…
  • Tervis at The Village: Lifetime Guaranteed insulated tumblers that keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.
  • The Candle Cottage: Downtown Gatlinburg’s largest and most complete candle shop.
  • The Cheese Cupboard: Gatlinburg’s premier cheese shopfeaturing a large array of imported and domestic cheese, unusual crackers and wonderful chocolates.
  • The Day Hiker: if your plans include day hiking, don’t hit the trails unprepared.
  • The Donut Friar: Open 5 a.m. daily. Experience the taste of freshly made donuts, cinnamon bread, and pastries.
  • The Hayloft Comfort Footwear: Step into some comfort. Make your feet happy with shoes from Born, Naot, MBT, Sanuk, Keen, Soft, and others.
  • The Hayloft: A Gatlinburg tradition with a large selection of Moccasins for men, women and children.
  • The Honey Pot: A delightful collection of hand thrown pottery, Russian dolls, flags, Fenton, and many other unique gift items
  • The Lamplight Gallery: Two-story art gallery that features the works of master artists as well as rare artwork.
  • The Lazy One: Comfy and funny pajamas and lounge wear.
  • The Silver Tree: A whole shop dedicated to the true silver lover! Affordable, contemporary sterling jewelry for all ages.
  • The Sock Shop: The Sock Shop has a huge variety of fun, crazy and cool socks.
  • The Spice & Exchange of Gatlinburg: Offering food lovers, chefs and tea enthusiasts a unique shopping experience filled with culinary delights.
  • The Village Cafe & Creamery: An old fashioned soda shop offering hand-dipped ice cream and gourmet coffee.
  • U Name It: A large selection of purses, duffle bags, diaper bags, baby blankets, baby bibs, and much more.
  • Verbenas at The Village: Family-owned specialty boutique specializing in products for the body, bath, home, and soul.
  • Zi Olive: Taste the finest gourmet extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.

What to Pack for a Hike in the Smokies

Information on what to pack for a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you plan to go hiking in Gatlinburg, TN on one of the numerous hiking trails, this is your guide to get prepared and have a great time!

what to pack for a hikeWith the weather getting better by the day in East Tennessee, one of the most popular activities to enjoy in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area is backpacking, or hiking. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is chock full of trails, ranging from short and long to easy and challenging. No matter which type of trail you decide to traverse, it is important that you hit the path prepared.

When you decide to take a hike, tie on your hiking shoes or boots, put on your comfiest hiking clothes, and choose your path! But don’t forget your other supplies! The easiest way to comfortably bring along the supplies you might need on a day hike is to have a good backpack. This will allow you to carry everything on your back, with the weight evenly distributed on your shoulders. This will maximize your comfort on the trail!

For short hiking trips that will last one day or less, consider packing your backpack with the following items:

  • Clothing. Depending on the time of year, you might need extra layers, especially up in the higher elevations. A lightweight jacket with a hood will help combat winds and chilly air. A hat (waterproof is ideal), gloves, and lightweight scarf can also come in handy, and they can be easily stored away in your pack without adding much extra weight.
  • Weather protection. Just because you’re not at the beach doesn’t mean you don’t need sun protection! Sunscreen is very important, especially if you are hiking a mountain trail! Chapstick is also a good thing to have along, to protect your lips from windburn and sunburn.
  • Hiking Safety. A first aid kit is an absolute must! You don’t need to spend a lot of money on one, though. You can create a small, portable first aid kit comprised of essential items. It should include band aids, blister pads, anti itch cream, tweezers, and antibacterial. Don’t forget bug repellant, either! This will ward off pesky insects on the trail, especially in the summer. And if you are on any medications, bring an extra dose or two, just in case you need to take them during the hike.Another important tool that you should bring is a pocket knife. There are great, lightweight pocket tools available that include various types of blades, along with other instruments that can help you if you get into trouble. Another essential: a compass (along with a trail map). It is vital that you stay on the marked trails, but if you should happen to get lost, a compass will help you get your bearings and hopefully find your way back to the hiking trail. As for hiking trail maps for Gatlinburg, TN you can pick some up at the Sugarlands Visitors Center just inside the National Park as you leave the north end of Gatlinburg. Be sure to put the map in a plastic bag in case you encounter wet weather…or terrain.
  • Snacks. Even if you are going on a shorter hike, you should always bring snacks and water with you. Hydration is extremely important. You might not feel like you are losing fluid, but you are, especially if you are hiking in the mountains! Bring a refillable water bottle that you can store in a side pocket of your backpack (one filled bottle per person). And pack lightweight snacks like granola bars or snack bags of GORP (raisins and peanuts), which will help you and your group refuel after a mile or two.
  • Fun stuff. The Smoky Mountains offer breathtaking vistas, so don’t forget your camera! You will want to photograph the views, flowers, wildlife, and document the fun times you are having on the trail! Another fun thing to take along is a small notebook and pen. Journaling can be a great way to remember your hike, the things you see, and even the conversations you have with your hiking party.

A day hike in the mountains and forests around Gatlinburg, TN is a fun and invigorating way to explore the area! You will see many beautiful and amazing sights! And if you plan ahead by packing your backpack with a few lightweight essentials, you can relax and enjoy your hike, no matter where the trail leads you!

Gatlinburg Sky Lift

One of the best views in Gatlinburg can be seen from the Gatlinburg Sky Lift!

There is one great way to take in the entire city of Gatlinburg from one attraction, and that attraction is the Gatlinburg Sky Lift.  You have seen it if you have driven through Gatlinburg.  About halfway through town, you will see rows of yellow chairlifts rising into the air on the righthand side and then descending down the mountain on the left.  Go find a place to park and get ready to see one of the best views of Gatlinburg, this side of the Space Needle.

When you get to its location on the Parkway, make sure everyone pairs up! The Sky Lift chairs hold two adults at a time or an adult and a couple of small kids.  The chairlift is a nice slow ride up the mountain.  The yellow chairs are as much a part of the skyline of Gatlinburg as the Aerial Tramway that is located right down the road. The chair comes around, you sit down as it continues to move and you start your ascent. On the way up the mountainside, you get to check out Gatlinburg, including the Christ in the Smokies Museum and Mysterious Mansion located on River Road. After you have been to the top of Crockett Mountain, you will get back on the chairlift and start your way back down. This is where you get the best view! You get to take in Gatlinburg from the air. You get to see all that Gatlinburg has to offer and the opportunities to snap as many pictures as possible while you are on the lift.

The Gatlinburg Sky Lift was established in the 50s. It is one of the oldest continuing attractions in the Smoky Mountains and has become a staple in Gatlinburg. While other attractions in Gatlinburg are constantly reinventing themselves, the chairlift remains a constant. They don’t have to try anything new as the scenery of the mountains and the beauty of Gatlinburg are the draw for this attraction. That being said, they have added things at the top of the mountain.

At the top of the mountain, you get to walk around and explore the top of the mountain. They have a gift shop and concession stand for refreshments, too. You can get a soft drink and a snack or some ice cream while you take in the views. You can also purchase your souvenir photo that was snapped of you while you traveled up the mountain!

Gatlinburg SkyLift
765 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Mysterious Mansion

Mysterious Mansion has been an attraction on River Road in Gatlinburg for years. Bring the family and have them properly scared.

A Haunting Experience… If You Dare!

Since 1980, the Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg has been properly scaring people.  Located on River Road in Gatlinburg it is off the beaten path but one of the cornerstones of the attraction industry in Gatlinburg.  This is a walk through attraction—you start out in one room of the mansion and you journey through the creepy, the dark and the spooky as you roam from room to room.  But don’t worry, even though you are going to get nervous, scared, maybe even terrified you are going to have a great time and be safe the whole way through.

The Mysterious Mansion is located on River Road.  This is the road that runs in front of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, parallel to the Parkway.  If you take the turn onto River Road in front of the aquarium, keep a look out for Edgewater Hotel.  Right past Edgewater, on the right is Mysterious Mansion.  You might be able to find a place to park in front of the attraction itself but if not find a parking lot or garage and walk to the mansion and get ready to be scared.

Part of the draw of the Mysterious Mansion is the exterior.  The design of the exterior of this attraction is perfect.  If you close your eyes and try to imagine a haunted house, you would picture something like the Mysterious Mansion.  Looking completely out of place between the hotels along the road, take the walk up to the front door and begin your journey – if you dare.  You will start your journey in one of the rooms on the main floor of the mansion.  From there, you start to wind your way through other dark rooms, down to the basement, up to the attic, around twisting, creaky staircases, looking for a way out.  As you walk, the tension will build.  You will break out in a cold sweat as you doubt your ability to get out of the mansion.  And along the way you might even might some of the darker denizens of the mansion.

Now, all of that being said, this is an attraction, a family attraction.  Nothing is going to happen to you at the Mysterious Mansion.  Their atmosphere is perfect and you will feel a definite sense of apprehension as you walk around in the dark.  The quality of the attraction will ‘suck’ you in.  You will start to believe that you are in a haunted house and that you might be in danger, but you aren’t – you are in an attraction in Gatlinburg, TN and the people that run the attraction are doing exactly what you asked them to do – scare you!

Visit the Mysterious Mansion on your next trip to Gatlinburg. Take your family and get them good and properly scared.  Everyone enjoys a good haunted house and the mansion is not only a great haunted house but it is a landmark in Gatlinburg.  Small haunted houses are disappearing around the country. Step into one that is done right, get your scare on and enjoy the fright of your life.

Mysterious Mansion
424 River Rd
Gatlinburg, TN
7 Days a Week 2pm – 10pm
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Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg

Get Gatlinburg aquarium coupons and read reviews and tips for Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee…voted the best aquarium in the United States!

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN has been voted the #1 aquarium in the entire United States by Trip Advisor! If you’re looking for the perfect thing to do with your family, friends, church group, business retreat, etc then look no further than this amazing Gatlinburg aquarium that literally takes you into the action. The Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg features an estimated 10,000 sea creatures with 350 different species ranging from tiny sea horses to enormous sharks! There’s definitely something for everyone as you make your way through the aquarium and realize why it is voted the best aquarium in the nation.

There are many attractions in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has been rated the best over all of them! You can easily spend a couple of hours in the aquarium, so they even have a restaurant inside in case you get an appetite looking at all the fish. If your children are begging to take a fish home, don’t worry they also have a gift shop where you can buy some stuffed versions on the sharks and other animals that you saw throughout the Gatlinburg aquarium. Seriously…they’ve thought of just about everything!

Here are some of the things that you’ll experience at the Gatlinburg Aquarium.

  • Species from the Tropical Rainforest: Discover four-eyed Fish, Oscars, Poison Dart Frogs, Piranhas, and more!
  • Ocean Realm: See fish of all sizes, color and shape in this area.
  • Systems Control: If you or anyone in your group is into levers, knobs, switches, lights, computers, etc then this is the place for you! Here you will see the inner-workings of how the millions of gallons of aquarium water stays fresh, temperature-regulated, etc and how all of the animals are monitored throughout the entire aquarium.
  • Coral Reef: The most colorful fish in the aquarium…and the world for that matter! Be sure to visit during the feeding times to see a great show.
  • Shark Lagoon: I think the name says it all! This may be the very thing you came to see! While you may stand motionless in awe, you’ll actually be moving along a gliding path through a glass tunnel…right underneath all of the action! You’ll see snappers, tarpon, a giant sea turtle, stingrays, and so much more…and sharks!
  • Discovery Center: This is THE place for the kids…or even the young at heart! The Discovery Center is the hands-on area of the aquarium where you get to touch, grab, twist, all sorts of things…you can even touch live horseshoe crabs! There are also special programs offered for teachers and social groups making this a perfect destination for a school field trip.
  • Gallery of the Seas: See some beautiful as well as scary looking creatures in this part of the aquarium! You’ll see an octopus, sea horses, jellyfish, corals, and so much more!
  • Stingray Bay: All sorts of species of stingrays glide through this part of the aquarium specifically devoted to them. Be sure to catch the dive show and see the stingrays eat right from the hands of the divers!
  • Touch a Ray Bay: Just as the name implies, you can actually touch a stingray here!
  • Babies in Incubators: Discover the miracle of life and the various stages of incubation for numerous types of creatures.

Tips for visiting the Gatlinburg Aquarium

  • Gatlinburg Aquarium Coupons – The Gatlinburg Aquarium is much like Dollywood and Dixie Stampede in that they do not offer coupons in coupon books and such around town. Most deals that you find are often linked to timeshare promotions. They do, however, offer discounts for the following: AAA Discount, AARP Discount, Group Discount, Local Resident Discount, Military Discount, Senior Citizen Discount, and Student Discount.
  • Photography Tips – One of the biggest “mistakes” that people make is to use their flash when taking pictures through the aquarium glass. What this typically does is cause a bright reflection on the glass and all you will see is a big, bright flash in the picture….and no fish! Try taking images without the flash. If you have the option on your camera, bump up the ISO to around 400. If that doesn’t work, go ahead and turn on the flash (if it’s allowed) and put the camera lens up against the glass. This usually produces the clearest images.
  • Go Early – The best time to go is in the morning since the aquarium gets busier as the day passes. Also, try to avoid Saturdays if at all possible.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg TN
88 River Rd
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(888) 240-1358?

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

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.