1. Lonesome Pine Overlook
This 6.7-mile (round-trip) hike is on the more strenuous side, but you’ll be rewarded with almost complete solitude once you reach the summit. You can grab a trail map from the Visitors’ Center or just download one on your phone — but don’t expect your phone to work here.
2. Deep Creek
Deep Creek is a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in Bryson City, NC. This section of the park is known for its waterfalls, streams, hiking, fly fishing and tubing.
You can make a day out of it by renting a tube for as little as $4. I recommend JJ’s Tubes on your way into the park.
Hike as far as they’ll let you with your tube — it’s about a 1 or 1.5 miles — and then enjoy the ride. The “creek” — usually more of a river, especially if you go after a storm — is a nice mix of relaxation and rapids.
After lunch, you can hike some of the other trails, check out Juneywhank Falls, which isn’t along the part that you’ll tube. Definitely wear water shoes and remember to keep your feet up if you fall out of your tube.
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum is at the entrance to the park in Cherokee, NC.
The Farm Museum is a collection of farm buildings assembled throughout the park that demonstrate what life was like in the area 100 years ago. Visitors can explore a blacksmith’s shed (and sometimes assist). Plus they can go into some barns, apple houses, a log home, a spring house and through some gardens.
There are also some easy hiking trails on the property that run along the river. And if you visit in the early morning or at dusk, you can expect to see herds of beautiful elk in the fields surrounding the farm museum.
4. Clingman’s Dome
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers 360-degree views of the park from the observation deck. It’s easily accessible from both Cherokee/Bryson City, NC and Pigeon Forge, TN and the journey there takes you all through the park. Remember to dress in layers because the elevation really cools things off up there.
5. The Road to Nowhere
In the 1930s and 1940s, Swain County surrendered the majority of their land to the government for the creation of Lake Fontana and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The old road that connected the communities was buried by the new lake and there was no longer access to the old family cemeteries. The government agreed to build a new road (in exchange for the land) but for one reason or another, construction halted and never resumed. The road ends at a tunnel that is barricaded off from cars but is pedestrian-friendly.
If you want to go for the views of the lake and some hiking, head up during the day. But if you want a late night spooky adventure head up to the tunnel at night with some friends. Bring a flashlight and see how far you can get through the 1,200-foot tunnel without turning it on.
Also, unfortunately, there might be some nasty graffiti so be aware before you go with kids.