View Full Version : Great Smoky Mountain recommendations?
Hello again all. Thanks to all of you for the recent Big Island suggestions. They were a lot of help. If I had to do one thing over again it would be to take faster film. I normally shoot Tmax 100 but the Big Island is awfully windy a lot of the time....no use sitting around waiting for something to stop moving as it won't. ;-)
I was wondering if anyone had any good suggestions for the Great Smoky Mountains Nat. Park? I have to go to Oak Ridge for two weeks at the beginning of December to work with a customer and am interested in getting out on the weekends to do some photography.
Take the Interstate from Oak Ridge to Maryville, then on to Townsend. Enter the National Park, and turn right to CADES COVE (about 9 miles of beautiful twisting roads through the hardwood forest). It is about a 2 hour drive around the COVE loop, (single file traffic which will drive you crazy). It has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the USA. You'll need a long lens and either fast film or a tripod. Then take the river road towards Gatlinberg (which avoid like the plague), and at the Park Headquarters turn right across the mountains to NewFound Gap, Clingman's Dome, and down the other side to Cherokee, NC. Return to Oak Ridge through Knoxville on the Interstate. If it is snowing stay home.
Robert A. Zeichner
You might try the Roaring Fork self-guided auto loop. If memory serves me, you access by turning east at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg.
I live 40 minutes from the Smokies and work in Oak Ridge. Since it's that gray time between seasons, I'd suggest shooting the river rocks in Greenbriar on Hwy 73 east of Gatlinburg, the cabins and farm building detail in Cades Cove, and if possible a sunrise or sunset. The two common sites are Morton's overlook near Newfound Gap just "downhill" on the Tennessee side for sunsets and the first overlook on Carolina side (a large overlook on a curve with grassy spaces) for sunrises. Warning: the sunrise and sunset spots are in the middle of the Park and you're looking at a 2 hour drive from Knoxville and a 2.5 hour drive from Oak Ridge.
If it's cold enough to get ice formations on the rocks on the Tennessee side near Newfound gap, that can be productive but the weather's been unusually warm so far this year.
Now, since you're going to Oak Ridge, take your camera in the morning if you can and have time. The Clinch River lakes are easily accessed and a sunrise or sunset near Bull Run steam plant, at Clark Park (a small park built for the atomic workers at the 3 Oak Ridge nuclear sites), or near Melton Hill Dam on highway 95 may be worthwhile. I'd try Clark Park first and Melton Hill second.
There are also some nice waterfalls on the Cumberland Plateau west of Oak Ridge, but it's really not the best time to shoot them. E-mail me if you are interested or need more info.
The Cligman's Dome parking area at sunrise. If there happens to be a thermal inversion (?)(where the mist is in the valley and the mountaintops are clear) then you will have a blanket of mist below you with the mountain peaks sticking up through them. I think someone already mentioned Roaring Fork. There are also two trails off from the Roaring Fork loop. One leads to Grotto Falls and I believe the other one leads to Rainbow Falls. Both are very nice hikes.
One other suggestion for visiting the Smokies. Don't try to rush from one spot to another to try to get everything. Pick one spot and work it for a couple of hours. When I visit the Smokies I normally spend most of the day wandering around in one relatively small area. Then the next day (or the next trip) I will move on to another area. I've been visiting the Smokies for the last 30 years. You could spend a lifetime there with a camera and never run out of subject matter.
Check with the park service, most of the roads like Clingmans Dome, Roaring Fork, etc. are closed as of December 1st. It sucks when the weather permits passage but they do the same on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once the snow starts flying more roads are closed! Cades Cove, Newfound Gap (441), Tremont, Elkmont and Greenbrier are open most all the time unless it really snows hard.
I like Gatlinburg. You just have to understand that it is a tourist center (Ripley's Believe It Or Not etc.)for the park. It is a clean town with lots of nice places to stay. You are only a stones throw away from many of the trails in GSMNP. The last time that I was on the Cades Cove road, it was very crowded. Don't go to Cades Cove on a nice weekend. Take your snow shoes in the winter. Sometimes the road over the mountain to NC is closed to all except cars with tire chains. Hike the remote trails to stay away from most people. I hope that you have a good time.
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