Smoky Mountains trail in the fall

Hike the Smoky Mountains

I live in South Central Kentucky, which is actually one of the greatest places to live if you love to travel, simply because you’re not a far drive from anything. You’re 45 minutes from the city lights of Nashville, TN, 7-10 hours from the beaches of Florida, and 4 and a half hours from the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN. For my 22nd birthday, I skipped my Thursday classes (priorities) and drove to Gatlinburg with my fiancé for a long weekend getaway.

When people say Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are cheesy, this is no lie. We arrived on November 2nd and I kid you not, more than half of the Christmas lights were shining bright by the end of the weekend. And by “Christmas lights”, I mean Christmas trees galore, giant blow-up Santa Clauses on lawns, and balconies of hotels lined with lights upon lights. Luckily for Curtis and I, the hotel we stayed in was basically in the ghetto. Therefore, our slumber wasn’t disturbed by lights. You can just call me the master of booking hotels. I can usually find a pretty sketch hotel (unbeknownst to me), pay a fabulously low price for it, and convince you 100% that all of the reviews read it was a lovely place to stay. Cozy and comfy and every other word you want to hear about a hotel you’ve never been to. And then when you show up at ten o’clock at night and google maps takes you away from the city on some weird back roads, there will probably be a scary man sitting two doors down from your room, smoking a cigarette and staring you down. Where’s the pepper spray? {Click HERE for your very own world map pillow to keep you comfy when your cabin really isn’t}

Grotto Falls and Brushy Mountain

First of all, let’s start by saying that the breakfast we ate the morning of this hike was the greatest in my tummy’s history of great. Cinnamon Rolls and Stuffed French Toast and Cathead Biscuits and everything else a fat kid dreams of. Go here.

In the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and off of Roaring Fork Trail, parking for the Brushy Mountain Trail is about 1.6 miles down the one way road. The speed limit is 10 mph and the beginning of the November month made this slow drive breathtaking. The leaves are changing to bright reds, yellows, oranges, deep purples and are flooding the ground with grace.

When hiking to Brushy Mountain, you will encounter Grotto Falls a little more than a mile up the trail. The trail up to this point isn’t difficult, either. It’s fairly smooth and wide. Grotto Falls is not that heavy of a waterfall, depending on the recent rainfall. But no matter what, there is enough room between the cliff and the water that you are able to walk behind it. It’s a good spot to stop and eat lunch if you plan on staying for a while.

As you cross the waterfall and continue on the trail, it gets steeper and the terrain gets rougher. It’s winding paths and struggling to keep up with your more-experienced hiker ahead of you, but its only a quarter of a mile more when you start to see the mountain and views ahead of you.

At just over two miles you are met with the Trillium Gap. Going left will lead you to Brushy Mountain, turning right will lead you to the summit of Mt. LeConte (which is strenuous and three miles more than Brushy Mountain AKA not for the amatuers like me). Once you pass this, the trail turns into a tunnel made of bushes, shrubs, and other towering plants surrounding you.

Not much further than this comes the summit of Brushy Mountain. It was fairly cloudy when we hiked this trail, so fog covered most of the view in the beginning. But thankfully, the fog began to clear once we reached the top. We’re so blessed to have the capacity to admire such beautiful creations that God has made.

Outlet Malls and Paula Deen Wishes

Day two was spent shopping until we dropped. The outlet mall in Pigeon Forge is not somewhere you should go if you’re short on time, because anything you may want will be here (even if that may be a caramel apple topped with m&m’s and drizzled with chocolate).

Eating a chocolate candied apple
My fiance making a goofy face for the camera

That evening, we planned to eat at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. When we turned into what we thought was the parking lot, the road took us to an area of Pigeon Forge called The Island. Hotels, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and so much more is in this little area. You park in a giant parking lot in the back, take a shuttle to the main area, and walk to any of the places you want to visit. Or, if you want to relax, there are lawn chairs lined around the dancing fountain – comparable to the Bellagio in Vegas, but smaller. Or take a ride on the 200 ft. ferris wheel that gives you views for miles!

Side note – It was an hour and 45 minute wait for 2 at Paula Deen’s Restaurant at 5:30pm. So if you’re set on eating delicious buttery foods, make sure you’re not that hungry at first so your stomach can handle waiting that long. I would give you food options Curtis and I tried and loved, but we caved to Margaritaville instead. If you’ve been to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, comment your favorite thing on the menu!

Since we couldn’t eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant, I bought her cookbook to try and cook her food myself! Click HERE for your own copy!


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10 thoughts on “Hike the Smoky Mountains

  1. I think you were absolutely right to skip class for that 😉
    Happy birthday !

  2. those pathways look so mysterious like walking into some mystery jungle! really gorgeous

  3. I want to take my kids here! Definitely pinning for later. I think we could drive it from St. Louis.

  4. Wow! It is beautiful with all the leaves changing colors! The Smokey Mountains have always been a bucket list of mine, and this makes me want to go even more!

  5. This sounds like a great day out! Sucks that you couldn’t get into Paula Deen’s restaurant – do they take bookings or is it just first in first served?

    • admin

      No bookings, first in first served! Definitely unfortunate we couldn’t go because it was such a long week!

    • admin

      And by “week” I meant “wait”!

  6. Laura

    Oh the views look gorgeous, I will have to add this to my list of places to visit!

    Laura ||

  7. The fall colors and trails are just stunning to look at for sure when going through them. Love the shots.

  8. What a beautiful place it is, I have not been there yet but on my list. I like the fall colors are captured so nicely in the pictures. Sounds like a great outing.

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