Last week, I shared my Fall Bucket List and I am happy to report we crossed a good bit off the list this weekend. We spent the weekend camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a much needed getaway and my husband and I had such a wonderful, relaxing time. What better way to celebrate the first day of fall?
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, close to Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. The landscape is full of beautiful mountains, trees, rivers, waterfalls, mushrooms, wildflowers, and amazing animals. We saw elk taking a little dip in a creek within minutes of entering the park, it was absolutely magical.
We decided to camp at the Elkmont Campground, though Smokemont was a close second. We really like to have privacy when we camp somewhere, and although the camp was busy, it never felt busy. And it was SO QUIET, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s inexpensive to reserve a campsite and it was a lovely experience. There is a concessions-style store located at the campground that is stocked with camping essentials in case you forget anything. They also sell the heat-treated firewood you have to have in the park, which was so convenient. As an added bonus, there were folks playing guitar and singing at the little store when we got there and the man working the register was so nice! It’s the little things, ya’ll.
I should also mention there is no cellphone service at the campground, which is actually a huge blessing. We played cards, cooked food, talked about life, snuggled, and made s’mores together all weekend long. It was blissful. There was a patch of service available at one of the overlooks nearby, so fear not phone addicts (guilty).
Once we set up camp on Friday, we had a little daylight left to burn. We decided to explore a nature trail near the campsite. It was a beautiful one mile loop and was such a joy to walk as the sun was setting. The colors were so moody and rich, the air was perfectly balmy, and we saw so many beautiful plants, mushrooms, and moths.
The next day, we headed out to Newfound Gap to hike to Charlies Bunion. I will be the first to admit, I was not physically prepared for such a hike with a backpack, but it was worth it. Plus, the hike back down was a breeze compared the hike up! Charlies Bunion is considered strenuous, and they were not kidding about that. It is also part of the Appalachian Trail. There are lots of hiking options in the park in a variety of lengths and difficulties. There’s something for everyone!
Side note: We didn’t plan to twin, it just kind of worked out that way so we embraced it.
Since we got an early start, we still had some daylight left to burn. So, we decided to make the 11 mile loop through Cades Cove. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was so beautiful! The visitors center is free and has the coolest grist mill, which an adorable guy in overalls was working when we visited! How cool is that? We were really blown away by the preservation of history and the Appalachia vibes. Plus, the drive is full of breathtakingly gorgeous views and plenty of places to pull off and explore.
Once we made the loop through Cades Cove, we returned to camp to chill and make dinner. Even though it was a Saturday and the camp was pretty full, it was so peaceful and quiet. We made dinner, relaxed in the hammock, played Phase 10 (I won), and talked all evening. Nothing beats sitting around a campfire with the person you love the most, for me anyway. After the big day we had, I slept like a baby in the tent. We woke up early the next morning so we could get home with plenty of time to ease back into reality.
This was such an inexpensive, relaxing weekend trip. Driving there and back was a breeze from Atlanta. If you’re looking to get away this fall, use a weekend to camp in Great Smoky Mountain National Park! The views are incredible, the nature is amazing, and your soul will be renewed!