Oconaluftee Visitors Area Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall Foliage, Grazing Elk, and Mountain View’s, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Follow Our Adventures: https://brookandholler.com/ Follow Us On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brookandholler/ We spent the weekend visiting The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The foggy m...

There are places we've all traveled to before that after a while get old. You end up doing the same activities, eat at the same place, see the same stuff and you feel miserable doing it. I have been traveling to the Smokies since my late teens and its yet to get old. Driving up I-75 towards Sevierville seeing the mountains in the distance covered in a thick blanket of fog till this day fill me with the same boyish excitement and marvel of my youth. The Smokies are not the biggest or most stunning mountains at first glance. Heck they just look like overgrown hills to most people. What they contain is a palpable sense of mystery and wonder. This is mostly due to the naturally occurring thick fog that often takes on a blueish tint lurking throughout the entire mountain range. Due to the parks location between 4 states, there are plentiful entrances each with their own small town and visitors center to accommodate travelers.

fall in the great smoky mountains

On this trip we made our excursion through the town of Cherokee, North Carolina, located within the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Reservation. The weather was not on our side on the day we chose to hike. Thick fog and scattered showers kept our expectations for a solid days hike pretty low. Somehow, as if by some miraculous gesture of kindness, the skies began to clear while making the drive towards the Oconaluftee Visitors Center. 

fall in the great smoky mountains

After grabbing a map and checking our gear we began the leisurely stroll along the river trail towards the park boundary. Along the trail is the Mountain Farm Museum depicting a look into life in the Smokies during the 1800's. Vegetable gardens, dusty pole barns and roaming chickens nestled within this gorgeous valley gave me an idyllic daydream of settling down in the mountains someday. The abundance of streams here bring in fishermen from all over the country.

fall in the great smoky mountains

This day was no exception with fishermen staking out a spot every few hundred yards, casting and reeling their lines in almost complete harmony to one another. This region is famous for trout fishing. Note to self, I have to try fly fishing!

fall in the great smoky mountains

The mountains of Western North Carolina are a special place to come watch the seasons change, particularly fall. Although not at peak fall foliage, you could see the beginning of what will become an incredible show of colors. Greens were giving way to vibrant yellows, fiery reds, and deep maroons. A subtle hint of smoke in the air, from nearby campgrounds, raised my experience from great to magical. All of my favorite things in one place; mountains, campfires, and hiking! Upon returning to the visitors center we packed things up and headed north for Newfound Gap. Located midpoint between Cherokee and Gatlinburg, Newfound Gap offers mountain vistas as far as the eyes can see. This was the valley used by early pioneers to traverse west over the Appalachians and had been used for thousands of years before that by native peoples. One thing Ive learned from years of visiting National Parks is this; traffic = wildlife!

fall in the great smoky mountains

It didn't take long for us to hit some traffic and having done this numerous times, we knew to pullover, grab our cameras, and prepare to see some wildlife. Ive never been particularly fond of elk, viewing them with contempt as the introverted middle child stuck between the ubiquitous deer and majestic moose. Seeing a 5x4 elk the size of a pickup truck from 20 ft away made me change my mind! A group of 7 elk had decided to come out of the woodland and graze near the road, blocking traffic for a 1/4 mile in each direction.

fall in the great smoky mountains

Wild turkey followed behind, picking at the ground disturbed by the giant beasts. Our whole drive turned into a game of red light/green light. The "rut" was in full swing and elk were coming out of the literal wood work to mate with harems of up to 20 cows. After several scenic photo ops next to elk and pulling over to soak in the views we finally made it to Newfound Gap.

fall in the great smoky mountains


To say the view was gorgeous would not be doing it justice. This is the classic Smoky Mountain scene. Mountain hollers as far as the eye can see, all draped in a purple-ish light fog. One could get lost starring at it for hours. If you haven't visited the Smokies, then what are you waiting for? Come enjoy this iconic slice of America!

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