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.


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.

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.

Third Distillery to Call Gatlinburg Home

The moonshine business is booming in Gatlinburg…. Legally, that is. And there looks to be some additional competition on the horizon.

Plans are in place to open a third moonshine distillery in Gatlinburg by year end.

Despite a few snags, the Sugarlands Distilling Company project is moving right along despite there being two distilleries already taking up residence downtown.

“It’s difficult to get a distillery licensed, and so we’ve encountered some issues with the city and hopefully we’ve overcome all of those issues right now and now we’re on to getting our state licensing and federal licensing,” said Ned Vickers, developer for the Sugarlands Distilling Company.

As alluded to, the crux of the issue is Sugarland’s close vicinity to Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery downtown. Distilleries are required be at least 1,000 feet apart according to city ordinances. There are also limits in place as to the number of distilleries that can operate in a city, which currently reads “4”.

According to officials with the city of Gatlinburg, new state law overrides any ordinances that were previously set making it fair game for anyone who wishes to open a distillery no matter how many were established beforehand.

For a number of people, these new measures could be a good thing for Gatlinburg. Two moonshine distilleries less than a block apart could even bring in more tourists to a town that heavily relies on its tourist dollars.

Over the years, many visitors have come to the area solely to purchase moonshine and other regionally-related gifts.

As for the Sugarlands Distilling Company, they’ve got a plan to market its brand of moonshine that will set itself apart from other distilleries. They even hope to break ground within the coming weeks.

“We’re going to have different recipes. We’re going to have a little bit different focus than Ole Smoky does, and we’re also going to plan to start barreling and selling Tennessee Whiskey,” Vickers said.

National Park Asking for Volunteer Guides

If you’ve ever wanted to give back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for all that it has given to its millions of visitors over the years, now could just be the perfect time. And no, they aren’t asking for money or anything like that. Just time and a helping hand. Plus, you get a chance to get up close to some of the park’s magnificent wildlife.

To be more specific, the national park needs volunteers to assist in guiding visitors who come into the park to view Elk on the North Carolina side. Elk are located in the Cataloochee area, which can basically be classified as a remote mountain valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Volunteers will aid park rangers in directing traffic and instructing visitors on responsible elk viewing in the park.

Elk were reintroduced in Cataloochee in 2001 as part of an experimental release to determine if an elk herd could sustain itself in the park after a 200-year absence. Approximately 140 elk now live in the self-sustaining herd. The Cataloochee elk herd can be seen regularly in the fields of the valley, especially in the early morning and evening hours. Other wildlife commonly spotted include bear, deer, and turkeys.

As for the volunteer program, those selected are asked to work at least two scheduled, four-hour shifts per month starting the second week in May and continuing through November. For more information, call Park Ranger Pete Walker at (828) 506-1739.

The River Walk and Downtown

So you thought the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the only place to take a memorable hike in the area? Think again. Gatlinburg, which is literally right outside the national park, is a wonderful place to take a hike, or a short walk, especially around downtown and in the scenic Riverwalk area.

The Smoky Mountains are filled with great opportunities for for getting out and exploring. For many, it’s a must they they stay closer to town for a number of reasons. That doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the natural beauty of the area. Gatlinburg is known as an easily walkable town. So if you get tired or need a break, just stop in one of the many shops and restaurants you pass by. Apart from the downtown Parkway and connecting side streets, the East Parkway at Traffic Light No. 3 is dotted with shops and restaurants for about three miles. As mentioned, the Riverwalk downtown is the perfect place for those looking for picturesque shots of Gatlinburg. It can also be used as a point of emphasis for people coming into town, pointing out attractions, destinations, etc.

The Parkway downtown runs from one end of town to the other and most of it is home to restaurants, local shops, and attractions that stimulate the mind and other senses. Hey, and the Riverwalk is FREE. You don’t need a pass and it doesn’t require an entrance fee, or ask you to purchase something. It’s simply one of the best free things to do in Gatlinburg. The Riverwalk follows the Little Pigeon River as it snakes its way through Gatlinburg, with gazebos and benches found at various points along the way.

Rocky Top Sports World to Target Sports Tourism in Gatlinburg

Around this time next year Sevier County will be planning a summer grand opening for a brand new sports complex.

Titled Rocky Top Sports World, the facility is currently under construction in Gatlinburg and will be open by next June. In all, it will be home to 80 acres of sports fields including a football field for Gatlinburg Pittman High School, as well as for a host of tournaments.

Upon completion of Rocky Top Sports World, seven state-of-the-art synthetic turf fields, six basketball and 12 volleyball courts, plus several championship fields and courts will adorn an 80-acre area

Tuesday morning, leaders from Sevier County and the City of Gatlinburg came together to announce the project and talk about long term economic goals.

Within the first five years of being open, the total economic impact on the area is expected to be $100 million dollars, with more than 400,000 visitors.

Gatlinburg is excited about the added bonus of sports tourism.

“It’s the only industry that actually grew during the recession, so when we began to learn and realize this, we knew it was an opportunity for us to bring in new folks to the area and again not just about Gatlinburg, but the whole of the county,” said Cindy Cameron Ogle, Gatlinburg City Manager

The target date for the grand opening is in June 2014.


Newfound Gap Road Re-Opens a Month Ahead of Schedule

Following a landslide which closed the road for almost three months, Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which runs from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, NC reopened Monday, April 15 at 10 a.m.

The landslide that occurred during January storms took out a 200-foot section of pavement six miles south of Newfound Gap. The North Carolina section of the road had been closed since January 16.

As a reward for finishing the job a month ahead of a May 15 deadline, Phillips and Jordan Inc. contractors received a $500,000 bonus, funded by the National Park Service and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

“We recognize the economic importance of the road to our neighboring communities and are grateful that our partners at Federal Highways Administration and were able to respond efficiently to our need and work with the contractors to make the necessary repairs in less than 90 days,” said Smokies Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.

The contract awarded to Phillips & Jordan, Inc., totaled nearly $4 million. Included in the contract were incentives of $8,000 per day for early completion.

The final design includes pipes to allow for the drainage of subsurface water flow along with side drainage leading to a culvert at the end of the slope.

In January, heavy rainfall and an underground stream combined to loosen thousands of tons of rock, soil and trees, which slid the length a football field down a slope. Officials said an estimated 9,000 dump truck-loads of dirt, rock and roadway crashed 45-50 feet down the side of the mountain.

Engineers believe a subsurface spring underneath the area was a large factor in causing the landslide. It’s unknown how long the spring had been there. That, combined with the heavy rain that week, caused the collapse. In all, 8 inches of rain fell in the area between Monday and Wednesday the week of January 14.

At the time, it was considered an active landslide because of the continuously flowing springs underneath the road’s surface.