Happy Friday! I am linking up with Erika and the girls for Friday Favorites this week.
Last week we went to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It was a different kind of vacation for us. We are most definitely beach people and this stretched us. Jack researched Great Smoky Mountain National Park in media this year and seemed really excited to see it. Our first National Park trip is definitely a favorite. Be ready for tons of photos…
After driving almost 8 hours to get to Tennessee, we went straight to Clingman’s Dome. It is the highest point in Tennessee and supposed to be beautiful at sunset. Let me tell you, it is beautiful!!
The sunset was INCREDIBLE!!!!!!Luke was pretty tired after a long day of traveling and hiking to the highest point in Tennessee.
On Tuesday morning, we got up and headed into the park. I signed the kids up for the Junior Ranger program and it was perfect. The program was for kids of all ages but this particular session had a bunch of kids around the boys’ ages so it was perfect. They learned about a bunch of different plants and animals in the park. Then the second half of the program focused on pollinators. It was very interesting!!
While talking with the ranger we learned that the trail we were going to hike was closed. Bummer! But the ranger helped us to find two different hikes to do that both led to waterfalls. They were beautiful!!
We found a log to cross a stream and I tried to get Jeff to reinact the Dirty Dancing scene. He was clearly not that into it. 🙂 Tuesday evening we had tickets to Dolly Parton’s Stampede show. The kids had never been to a dinner show and I was so excited to take them to this one. There was a bluegrass saloon show before the Stampede. The saloon show was so good!! And the Stampede was wonderful!! The horse riding was spectacular! The only thing that could improve it would be more Dolly music!!
Wednesday was a little up in the air when I realized our plans were going to include 5 hours in the car. It was 90 minutes each way to the Cades Cove loop and then about 2 hours to drive it. There are a bunch of hikes and places of interest on the 11 mile loop and it is supposed to be wonderful. However 5 hours in the car, the day before we were set to drive 8 hours home was not appealing.
We decided to go out to breakfast. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp came highly recommended and it did not disappoint! The kids had pancakes, enormous pancakes. I had a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and the biscuit was to die for. Jeff had a delicious omelet and tasty potatoes.
After breakfast, we bought our tickets to Ober Gatlinburg. It is an amusement park at the top of a mountain. I thought there was a cute German-themed town at the top, too, but it was a bit run down and not really up our alley. To get to the top, we rode an aerial tram. Jack and Jeff didn’t really love it because of the heights, but Luke was in heaven. He thought it was so cool.
When we got to the top it was empty! We rode the mountain coaster which was so fun! The kids rode the water slides for a bit before we headed over to the alpine slide.
Then the kids rode a few more water slides and we headed back down on the aerial tram. After that we headed into the National Park again. We decided to go up to the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and hike around there. We hopped on the Appalachian Trail and hike for a few miles. It was pretty cool because we saw some care packages that people left for hikers that must’ve been hiking the whole AT.
After we’d finished all of our hiking, the boys completed the Junior Ranger program and were officially sworn in by the park rangers.
The Smoky Mountain Brewing Company came very highly recommend so we went there for dinner. It was delicious and perfect for us that evening! After dinner, we headed back up to Ober Gatlinburg. It was empty again! We quickly realized why it was so empty, the rain was coming. So we headed back down the mountain to the hotel to get ready for bed.
On Thursday morning, we got up and hit the road. It was the Fourth of July and I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like. We had an easy ride home and were excited to be sleeping in our own beds that night.
It was a great trip! The Smoky Mountains were beautiful and I am so glad we went. I don’t think we’ll go back again because there are so many beautiful places to see in our country!
I packed a TON of food for those four days. We ended up packing lunches each day and it was perfect. I packed a heavy duty cooler and it kept all of our food and water cold enough to enjoy. It was also nice that we didn’t have to carry much with us besides water and a granola/protein bar with us while we were on each hike.
I did get some good reading done on the ride when I wasn’t driving, so it was definitely a trip full of sunshine and books!