We ended our trip at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It had been over 20 years since we’d been here, and it seemed like the right place to end our southern journey and head north.
We spent most of a day driving from Cherokee to Gatlinburg and back. (This was before the Gatlinburg fires a few weeks later.) Despite it being a fall weekday, we found the park quite busy. Parking at the visitor center was on the grass since the parking lot was full. Parking areas at other popular spots were also full, and required circling for a while if you wanted a spot.
Despite the crowds, we enjoyed our drive. Although the colors were not yet peak, there were still bits of orange and yellow to enjoy. Elk were hanging out at the visitor center. We had to pass on doing any trails because of both me and that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not dog friendly (no dogs on trails).
We also ended up passing up the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail. Access is from Gatlinburg and was not signed well, so by the time we figured out where the entrance was (it’s one-way), it was late afternoon and we needed to head back home to Cherokee. We also did not make it to the Cades Cove area, which was just too far away from Cherokee for a reasonable day trip. (On the plus side, Cherokee has convenient access to several sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which we took full advantage of.)