REI

Monday, June 12, 2017

Gatlinburg, TN - Laurel Falls, Great Smokey Mountains Park - 6/12/2017

Gatlinburg, TN - Laurel Falls, Great Smokey Mountains Park - 6/12/2017



We are currently on vacation in The Great Smokey Mountains in TN for my birthday week. I'm calling it my Dirty 30 redo birthday, because last year when I actually turned 30 I was 3 weeks out of giving birth so I was in no shape or mood to do anything. But, this year, I'm turning 31 and decided to take my hiking with the family to the next level. 

Originally we were supposed to hike Ramsey Cascades today, but once we looked at the weather forecast for the afternoon we changed it to not get stuck in rain. So we decided to go back to a trail that we've done once before, Laurel Falls. The hike to the falls is about 2 miles round trip, but you can continue on the path past the falls to extend it for another 2 miles. 

The drive up was very easy, and not crowded at the time of the morning we went (approx 9am). However, when we left it was packed! The roads were covered in cars and people were having to park far away just to walk to the trailhead. SO my first piece of advice is to get there early!

Hiking up the trail, we immediately realized that this is not the same as hiking in Florida. It's all up hill, and even though it was steep, with weight on your back it's more challenging. The trail is about two person wide and paved. The paved parts are in rough condition, with lots of breaks in it. Be careful, on the return back from the hike I tripped in one of these missing paved areas and fell (thankfully not off the massive drop next to me). 

On the way up there are breaks in the trees where you can clearly see the mountain line. It's absolutely breathtaking to sit there and just see the vast forest in the distance. There are also some short and small streams and falls along the path. 

After about 30-35 minutes (at the pace we were going) you can start to hear the rushing of water. Then out of the corner of your eye you will see a HUGE waterfall! Well, it's huge by this Floridian's stand point, lol. We are going to see more waterfalls on this trip so this opinion may change. The temperautre in the air even changes becasue of all the cold mist in the air. There are a few small standing areas that are great for picures. After taking a mini break here, eating a sandwich, taking lots of pictures and videos, we then headed off up the more steep and rocky trail to the let of the falls. 

This path was very bumpy, steep, full of rocks adn stumps, and a little challenging for about 0.25 miles. After that it widens, adn smooths out to just a dirt path. There are a few roots here an there but nothing like before. We were walking for about 10 minutes and then we see it, a black bear. It was a juvenile so we knew the momma bear wasn't too far. We stoped, and slowly backed away while never taing our eye off of it. WIthin a few minutes it was running away from us down the hill. We then realized that we shouldve been more prepared to scare away bears. (Note - after this hike we went to Walmart and bought a small air horn. We were told it can help scare them off). 

We continued on the trail and came across a turkey. It was rather large adn just sitting ontop of a hill. It didn't move at all, just sat there, may have been a female nesting. After watching her for a few minutes we moved up along the trail, adn not even a half a mle later I look up and see yet another bear. This one was high up on the hill, all I could see was the face. it was watching us while we watched it. And before we could do or say anything it was taking off up higher into the hills. This was yet another juvenile sized bear. We never got to see the momma bear (thank goodness). 

At this point we were about 2 miles up when the trail ended and turned into a new trail, one that was only single person width. Jeff adn i both decided that with us not being as prepared as we'd like that we'd turn around. If we wee to continue it's be about another mile to the end of that trail. WHen we turned to walk abck down we passed a few other families of hikers. Got to talk to lots of different people and get advice on other trails we should go on while here this week. It's always interesting to run into other hikers, to see what they are carrying and see what advice we can share with one another. Both of these groups were families with children between 5-13yers old. It was refreshing to see other families putting away the technology adn getting outdoors. It's just something you don't see as much of anymore,a dn I am so ahppy to be one of thos parents showing our daghter this wonderful world of nature. 

The hike back down was very uneventful except when i was trying to compliemnt a lady on her camel pack (it was the same exact one I was wearing, color and all), and I managed to trip and fall. WHat an embarressing moment! Here I was trying to act all professional and cool, and what do I do? I fall on my face, well that made an ipression, lol. But I quickly picked myself up, dusted myself off and just ket walking down witha  smile on my face. EMbarressed, but happy to not be hurt. 

SO this was a summary of our hike up to Laurel Falls! We will be doing more hikes this week, some to waterfalls and some not.




























































For more information about this hike and The Great Smokey Mountains go to:

Until next time, Keep on Hiking!