Travel Review: The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

May 18, 2010
Aaman Lamba

There are many ways to get closer to nature. You would be best advised to look for routes that do not pass through congested tourist traps filled with tawdry roadside attractions like a life-size replica of the Titanic, looming iceberg included. In such towns, Japanese buffets are more likely to be classic American Chinese than bento boxes and shabu-shabu. As the family shops in the interminable outlet malls, remind yourself these have stripped away verdant groves of trees that bordered the awe-inspiring Great Smoky Mountains.

To put it another way, if you're going to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Nashville towards Knoxville, take the exit to Townsend rather than the more common one via the touristy blights of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge, TN

Pigeon Forge, TN

Even so, there is a bypass on the road to Sevierville that is a good idea and will bring you to the Sugarlands visitor center in the park. This is the starting point for a scenic drive past winding rivers and creeks.


On the Road in the Great Smoky Mountains





You will occasionally come on a secret waterfall or the like in the Smokies

Secret Waterfall in the Smokies

The traffic is quite diverse, and with numerous pull-offs on the highway, one can stop and take in the views or watch the world go by.

Biking in the Smokies

Tunnel in the Smokies

Fishing is a favored option, and one hears that North Carolina fishing licenses are valid (and cheaper than the Tennessee ones).

Fishing in the Smokies

Some of the views are truly picture postcard material so you can take a pass on buying them from the park store, and look to take them yourself on the drive.


At the Townsend turn-off, taking the other fork is quite rewarding. It is a scenic 11-mile loop drive through Cades Cove - meadows at the base of the hills bordering the forest line.


While driving along the Cades Cove Loop, one often gets stuck behind slow-moving traffic. On one such instance, the cars were mostly stationary and I could see people pointing, getting out of their cars and peering through binoculars at the forest line. I learned that a family of black bears could be seen on one of the trees. I parked by the side of the road and traipsed through the meadows, coming up close to the tree line until I could see Mama Bear and Baby Bear taking a nap on one of the trees. I might have gone closer if not for the park ranger who appeared as if from nowhere advising me to stay where I was.

Mama bear and Baby Bear in a Tree

Mama bear and Baby Bear in a Tree

After this beautiful sight, I drove on to see another gaggle of cars, but this time no one was going into the meadow to the clump of trees that reportedly had some bears. A baby bear came forward into the meadow. I once again went closer and perhaps a little too close, coming up against a female bear barely ten feet away. She reared up and clambered a tree, as I took to my heels.

Black bear cub runs out into the meadow

Black Bear 10 Feet Away

The rest of the drive was relaxing, with the occasional deer and creek.

The Bend of the creek

Deer in the Smokies

I'll be heading back to the Smokies this weekend to take the higher ground and drive up to the peaks.

Aaman Lamba is the Publisher of, a Blogcritics network site. He also blogs, more infrequently nowadays, at Audit Trails Of Self
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Travel Review: The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee


Author: Aaman Lamba


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