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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.