Great Smoky Mountains

With over 500,000 acres of cascading waterfalls, lush forests and plenty of wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a nature lover’s paradise.  With over 150 trails covering 800 miles, It is the country’s most visited national park for good reason.  We experienced the area in our RV and can’t wait to return.

Stonewall Creek Vineyards

One of my favorite ways to travel in an RV is to spend the night at a Harvest Host. Harvest Host is a membership program that provides access to a network of wineries, farms, breweries, museums, golf courses and other unique attractions.  There are only a couple rules, the RV must be self contained and a small purchase is required.  We spent a night at Stonewall Creek Vineyards in Tiger Georgia.  This family run winery, overlooking the majestic N. Georgia Mountains opened in 2011 and makes its wines from their own Georgia estate-grown grapes.  We enjoyed appetizers and a wine flight at the outdoor patio of the tasting room overlooking the vineyard.  The Winery hosts local musicians as well as chefs on a regular basis.

Twin Creek RV Resort

While visiting the Great Smokies, we stayed a couple miles outside of Gatlinburg at Twin Creek RV Resort.  Family owned and operated by a family from MN, it was a quiet and peaceful place to unwind after a day of hiking or the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg.  Our site was on a rippling creek with plenty of space to spread out.  The RV resort had a trolley stop at the entrance. The trolley is free and a great way to visit Gatlinburg without dealing with parking.  They also have on-site car rental which I took advantage of to explore the area.


  Gatlinburg, a mountain town in East Tennessee, is known as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. It is a bustling tourist town with many of the attractions offering panoramic views of the mountains.   The main strip features attractions such as Ripley’s Believe or Not,  Escape Rooms, The Aquarium, Sky Needle, whisky tasting, and a large variety of restaurants and shopping.  There is definitely something for the entire family.  Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring your money.

 Gatlinburg Skylift Park is 1800 ft above sea level and offers amazing views of the Smoky Mountains.  Ride The iconic yellow Sky lift chairs to the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America, stretching almost 700 ft across the valley.  The middle of the bridge has 30 ft of see-through glass with a great view below.   Probably not for those with the fear of heights.


Located 600 ft above the city of Gatlinburg, Anakeesta is an award winning theme park with activities for all ages. The journey to the park begins with a chondola ride up the 70 acre mountain with scenic views of Gatlinburg below.   Once you arrive, take some time to enjoy the breathtaking views of Mt. Leconte from one of the many restaurants or a rocking chair overlooking the mountain. Some of the activities at Anakeesta include the Treetop Skywalk with hanging bridges spanning more than 880ft, Ana Vista Tower, Dueling ziplines and the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster.  During the cooler months, gather around the firepit and take in a Smoky Mountains sunset.

River Rat Tubing

Located about 45 minutes from Gatlinburg in Townsend Tennessee is a cool escape from the heat. River Rat Tubing offers two experience levels for the entire family.

Outpost A is the family and dog friendly tubing route with slow rapids and swimming holes in the Little River, a natural, rain fed river in the Smokies.  This route is suitable for ages 3 and up.

Outpost B steps up the action with more heart pumping rapids. It is suitable for ages 6 and up.   Be prepared to get wet! 

We rented a private Riverside Cabana which is just feet from the river. The cabanas are a great way to spend the day enjoying the river with the opportunity to take breaks and relax. The cabanas are stocked with water, snacks and towel service.


The highlight of the Great Smoky Mountains for me is the hiking!  I would have liked another couple days just to explore the trails.

Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte

The Alum Cave trail is a challenging 11 mile in and out trail with an elevation gain of over 3,000 ft.  The pinnacle is Mt Leconte Lodge where hard core hikers often spend the night before heading back down off the mountain.  The majority of hikers, including us, take a shorter version of the hike which is 5 miles in and out.  The parking lots on Newfound Gap Road fill up quickly so plan to get an early start. The trail passes through “Arch Rock”  a cold, moist archway which is navigated using stairs and steel cables which act as a handrail.  The hike ended for us at Alum Cave Bluff, an orange clay bluff with breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains.  This is the halfway point to Mt Leconte Lodge and where most hikers turn around.   The hike is moderately challenging but one of my favorites!

Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 ft, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The temperature change from the city of Gatlinburg and Clingmans Dome can be 15-20 degrees.  Plan to wear layers as you will be chilly as you begin the hike but will warm up quickly.  The trail is only .5 miles and paved but very steep. I found it interesting that the Appalachian Trail crosses Clingman’s Dome trail.  The observation tower at the summit offers amazing 360-degree views of the smokies. On clear days views expand over 100 miles.    Unfortunately, clouds and precipitation can limit the view.  This is a relatively easy hike for the entire family, and I highly recommend it.  

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

This winding, narrow driving trail is an opportunity to slow down and take in the forest and the historic buildings of the area.  It is a 5.5 mile one-way loop with scenic views of mountain streams, dense forests and preserved log cabins.  There are multiple places to pull of the road and explore by foot.  The black bear sightings are a highlight and will often stop traffic as motorists attempt to get a picture of the bears climbing trees along the trail.  It is estimated that there are around 1500 black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   It is illegal to approach the bears by foot.

From historic landmarks, incredible hiking and outdoor activities, to restaurants and activities galore in Gatlinburg, a visit to the Smokies has something for everyone.  If you’ve never experienced it, you are missing out on one of the most beautiful places in America!

I’m a freelance writer and photographer living in SW Florida. I have a love of travel and photography. Living in Florida, my backyard is a travel destination with crystal clear water, beautiful beaches, quaint towns, and amazing wildlife. Wander with me…

Stephanie Karasek, 239-292-0237

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