The Great Smoky Mountains were a priority on our travel list. We knew we would need a respite after the hustle and bustle of NYC, Philly, and Washington DC. We expected to drive into a quaint, slow paced, small town in the mountains.
We were wrong.
The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is anything but quaint. It’s flashy. It’s touristy. It’s crowded. We did, thankfully, pick a campground outside the main area. In fact, our campground was just a few miles from the entrance to Cade’s Cove, one of the main areas of The Great Smoky Mountains.
Our first full day in the area was rainy and slightly chilly. We didn’t really want to go out and explore that day so we opted to spend time inside playing games and making our annual ginger bread
houses travel trailers.
The girls built one…
Complete with bumper stickers on the trailer and flamingos to decorate the outside…
And yes, those are wheels and slide outs!
The boys started out making a travel trailer, but it got big. And very decorated.
These two got a little candy crazy…
When the weather cleared and the temps rose we decided to head out for a walk.
Big Meadows campground is located in the Towndsend Tennessee next to a river. The small town doesn’t have much, thankfully, it was the perfect location to walk and explore.
While we were out we couldn’t resist the chance to find a geocache. This one was located next door to the campground at a wood carving shop along the river.
Some of the carvings were not appropriate, so we did not photograph them. Others were photo worthy. Like this bear butt.
The next day we headed to the national park to check out Cade’s Cove.
It was a beautiful drive into the park. We drove along a creek.
Through the iconic Cade’s Cove tunnel…
And into the mountains.
We learned about some of the families that lived in these mountains. We got to look into their home from the 1800’s.
We got to check out an early church in the area.
We hiked. A lot.
And we took a break and ate our pic-nic lunch in the mountains.
And then the kids enjoyed rolling down the green hills. It was a gorgeous cool afternoon. A haze started to settle over the mountains.
We decided to head to the park headquarters so the kids could receive their Jr Ranger badges they had worked on during our time in the area.
The park ranger loved the kids’ hats. She asked to take pictures of them so she could suggest that they carry them in their shop.
We had an hour or so to explore the rest of the area before leaving the park. The park rangers in this park were amazing. They created an activity booklet in addition to the junior ranger program. This activity booklet included a scavenger hunt for animal tracks, information about the local animals, and other great activities in the area. The kids had the chance to complete almost all activities before we headed out of the park.
This park had plenty to explore. We could have easily spent 2 or 3 days in Cade’s Cove alone.