North Carolina's Smoky Mountains Blog
Open for Thanksgiving
The following locations still have some openings for Thanksgiving Dinner:
Please call the Smoky Mountain Host of North Carolina Visitor Center at 828-369-9606 for lodging vacancies and activities during Thanksgiving week.
THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride
All Aboard THE POLAR EXPRESS! This memorable journey will take you on an incredible journey! Believe the magic this Holiday season!
Over 70,000 passengers rode THE POLAR EXPRESS with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in 2014 and we hope to see you in 2015! The 1¼ hour round-trip excursion comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train arrives at the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa will board THE POLAR EXPRESS, greeting each child and presenting them with a special gift as in the story, their own silver sleigh bell. Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Bryson City Depot.
THE POLAR EXPRESS begins November 13 and operates through January 3, 2016.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
225 Everett Street, Suites G & H
Bryson City, NC 28713
Park Encourages Visitors to View Bears Responsibly
Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife biologists remind the public to allow bears to forage undisturbed on natural foods during this critical feeding period before winter hibernation. Bears depend on fall foods such as acorns and grapes to store fat reserves that enable them to survive winter. This year, these foods in the park are extremely rare leading bears to move long distances in search of food.
Many bears have been reported well outside the park boundary including several sightings in busy, downtown communities and neighborhoods. Recently, a mother bear with a GPS-monitoring collar and three cubs traveled over 20 miles from the Elkmont area of the park to downtown Sevierville, TN. Local residents are reminded to keep residential garbage secured and to remove any other attractants such as bird feeders and pet foods.
In addition to greater movement in search of food, bears are also foraging on less-desirable mast such as hickories and walnuts. Park staff have reported as many as eight different bears visiting a single hickory tree to feed on nuts. Park officials are temporarily closing areas around these scarce food sources to allow bears access to forage. Visitors are reminded to respect these closed areas to give bears an opportunity to eat undisturbed and build up fat reserves for the winter. Photographers are reminded to use telephoto lenses to capture photographs and to remain at least 50 yards from bears at all times.
“There were no cherries this year and the hard mast is marginal at best,” said Smokies Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “Because food is scare, bears are trying to access individual trees in areas they normally would not during good food years.”
Feeding bears is illegal and all food waste should be properly disposed of to discourage bears from approaching people. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park. If approached by a bear, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves creating space for the animal to pass.
For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates Bat Week
Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host several events for Bat Week, October 25 through October 31, to highlight the important role bats play in our ecosystem. Park rangers invite the public to visit bat information stations at Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina and Sugarlands Visitor Center in Tennessee from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 30.
Bats are often considered “keystone species” that help with pest control, pollination, and seed dispersal. The park is home to 12 species of bats including the federally endangered Indiana bat and the Rafinesque's big-eared bat which is a state listed species of concern in both Tennessee and North Carolina. Bats play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance as the primary predators of night-flying insects. Biologists estimate that an individual bat can eat between 3,000 to 6,000 insects each night including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes.
Forty percent of bat species in the United States are endangered or at risk and more than 5.7 million bats have recently died from white-nose syndrome. Bats are in grave danger from white-nose syndrome and the National Park Service is helping to protect these important mammals.
At the hands-on information stations, park visitors can learn about the many different species of bats, their importance to the world, and learn what the park is doing to protect the bats from white-nose syndrome. Participants will also be invited to create paper bat masks, bat airplanes, and receive free bat education material to take home.
In addition to these opportunities, the park will be partnering with students from Cherokee Elementary School in Cherokee, North Carolina and Pi Beta Phi Elementary School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee throughout the week to spread the word about bats through interactive lessons and activities.
For more information about bats please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/dff10-wns.htm.
NOC Special: Sleep & Soar
Enjoy the best of Western North Carolina—during one of the most stunning times of year. The Smoky Mountains' iconic fall views look best from the air on NOC's exhilarating Mountaintop Zip Line Tour. Fly on 8 different zips including the exciting Half-Mile Mega Zip. Catch your breath on the tree-top platforms and experience 360-degree views of the Nantahala National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains and Fontana Lake spalshed with fall colors. After an exciting day, enjoy dinner by the Nantahala River with a large pizza before a relaxing evening in NOC's hostel-style Basecamp lodging—all within walking distance.
Package availabe for 2-person or 4-person groups. Have more people? Give us a call at 828.785.4852.
Come Celebrate the Fall Colors in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains
SCENIC DRIVES in the SMOKY MOUNTAINS
South of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are many scenic drives you might want to explore. Consider these choices:
Take Hwy 64 East where you will pass Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls to Highlands, then follow 64E passing Whiteside Mountain (a 2-mile loop for hikers) to Cashiers, head south on Hwy 107 to Whitewater Falls (highest falls east of the Rockies), go back to Cashier’s on Hwy 107 towards Sylva passing lakes and rivers along the way. Head on towards Dillsboro and back to Franklin on 441 South. (For a shorter trip, in Highlands take Hwy 106 south to Dillard, Georgia at 441 South.)
Take Hwy 64 West, turn right at the sign to Wayah Bald, turn right on gravel road FS69 4.5 miles to paved trail, handicapped accessible, for panoramic views. When you get to Hwy 19, you have a choice! 1) Head south to Andrews, Murphy, then left on Hwy 64 East towards Hayesville (home to Jack Rabbit Trail). After driving through the town square, head 64 East again passing by Lake Chatuge on towards Franklin. You will pass over the Standing Indian area where you can follow the signs to Big Laurel Falls and Mooney Falls if you have daylight left. Otherwise, go back where you began, Franklin. Or 2) After Wayah Road, take a right on Hwy 19/74 towards the Nantahala Gorge. You may travel towards Bryson City to 441 South back to Franklin where you began.
Of course you may go north on 441 through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, to Clingman’s Dome and on to Tennessee, OR take the Blue Ridge Parkway for 26 miles to Balsam Mountain Exit at milepost 443, just west of Waynesville on US 74. If you want to return to Cherokee, visit Waynesville and then Maggie Valley, taking Hwy 19 West back to Cherokee!
The 2015 Wheels Through Time Vintage Motorcycle Raffle
This 1939 Harley-Davidson “EL” Knucklehead Bobber is a real American beauty….and it could be yours on November 14, 2015
Wheels Through Time is proud to introduce the 13th Annual Wheels Through Time Raffle Bike. It doesn’t get much better than this! Wheels Through Time is giving away this 1939 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead Bobber this coming November 2015!
Each year, the Wheels Through Time holds a Motorcycle Raffle Giveaway as the museum’s annual fundraiser. In 2014, WTT gave away a pair of Harley-Davidson flathead bobbers, but this year, the museum has really upped the ante. The 2015 Raffle Grand Prize — a hot-rod Harley-Davidson “EL” Knucklehead Bobber — is ready to roll, and will be taken home by one lucky winner in November of 2015.
Visit Wheels Through Time to learn more or click here to purchase tickets.
Wheels Through Time is a 501c3 Not-For-Profit.
The Smokies Offer The Best of The Appalachian Trail
Of the 2,147 miles that comprise the AT, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park accounts for 71 miles, including the highest peak along the trail (Clingmans Dome 6,643’). Of the National Park’s 848 miles of trails, the AT is by far the most popular.
The Trail through the Smokies also has the most rainfall and snowfall on the A.T. in the South, and many hikers are caught off-guard by the snow and cold temperatures at high elevations. The temperatures at 5000 feet can be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the valleys around Bryson City.
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians Now Open in Cherokee, NC
Visit Cherokee NC’s newest attraction – the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians. Through exhibits and videos you’ll learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters, and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast.
Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains
Fly Fishing the Great Smoky Mountains offers private all inclusive Guided Fly Fishing trips daily out of Cherokee NC, and Bryson City. Since 1999 they have guided anglers on some of the most beautiful Trout Streams in all of North Carolina. They guide the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Tuckasegee River, the Little Tennessee River, WNC Fly Fishing Trail, and Cherokee Fly Fishing Only Trophy Trout waters. Discover the majestic streams and mountains with the Smokies’ most experienced Outfitter and Guides.
Rates starting at $87.50 per person!
For Reservations call (828)-488-7665, or book securely online!
Be sure to check out our Summer Specials
Fourth of July Safety Tips for a Fun-Filled Holiday in the Smoky Mountains
Whether you're driving, enjoying the water, watching fireworks, or all of the above, the Fourth of July weekend is a time filled with fun. With a little planning and caution, you and your family can enjoy all of your summer holiday fun safely in the Smoky Mountains!
“Traveling and playing in the Smokies is one of the best ways to spend the Fourth of July weekend, and all of the Smoky Mountain Host members and communities want to make sure everyone stays safe while enjoying their time with us,” said David Huskins, Executive Director of Smoky Mountain Host of North Carolina.
DRIVING SAFETY It’s easy to get distracted with holiday excitement, so please remember these basic highway safety tips to get you and your family safely to your Smoky Mountain destinations:
- Make sure everyone in the vehicle is securely buckled in
- Observe all speed limits and watch for summer construction zones
- Keep lights and windows clear of bugs and debris for good visibility
- Drivers keep full attention on the road by letting a passenger handle cell phone calls or texts, maps, and other in-car distractions
- And, of course, please don’t drink and drive
FIREWORKS SAFETY The best bet for safe firework fun is to attend one of the many public displays put on by the communities across North Carolina! Check out our links below above and on the visitsmokies.org website to find ones near you. For home fireworks, please be sure you know the local laws and rules and put safety first!
- Have a hose or bucket of water nearby
- Keep small children and pets away from area where fireworks will be set off and spectators at a safe distance for viewing
- Be sure the area is fire-safe with no paper, wood, debris, dry grass/weeds, or other combustible materials
- Never relight a “dud” – wait at least 15 minutes and then soak in water before disposal (and soak all firework remnants in water before disposal after the “show” as well)
- Wear gloves and eye protection, watch for loose clothing getting near flames or fireworks, and only light one firework at a time
WATER SAFETY The Smoky Mountains are home to many lovely lakes and rivers that offer endless opportunities for summer fun. With a little planning and basic precautions, all ages can enjoy:
- Teach child basic water safety and keep them away from high or fast water or areas with obstacles and debris
- Have “throwable” flotation devices handy at all times
- Be sure everyone in the water can swim and/or has appropriately sized and fitted life-jackets
- Whether in boats or in the water, keep an eye on everyone and be sure no one is left alone
- Follow all boating laws and water safety regulations – remember no drinking and boating! The waterways are packed this time of year, and boaters’ full attention needs to be on keeping both passengers and those around them safe.
Have a safe and fun Fourth of July, and travel safely in the Smokies!
Synchronous Firefly Night Walks
Journey to our secret location to witness one of the true wonders of nature, the incredible light display of the rare Synchronous Fireflies. These fireflies are known only to exist in two places in the world, Southeast Asia and some small pockets here in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Your guide will outfit you with our specially monogrammed safety vests and a flashlight and then lead you through the dark of night to our "secret" viewing locations. Timing is everything, so don't miss this dazzling phenomenon of nature. The fireflies are only around for approximately 21 days, usually late May and early June. Homemade cookies and milk provided. There is minimal walking involved as we travel to each unique viewing location by vehicle.
Visitors may combine the Evening Elk Eco-Tours with Synchronous Firefly Night Walks.
Beginning May 22 through June 12*
8:45 PM to 11:30 PM
$40 per person, four person minimum
Pick up meeting location near Waynesville, NC.
Cataloochee Valley Tours
*Dates subject to change depending are the actual date the fireflies begin their flashing. In the past, they have started as early as May 18, and as late as June 6. The weather plays an important factor as to when they emerge. Typically, the warmer it is, the earlier they start. It's all up to Mother Nature. This tour lasts approximately 2 to 3 hours.
Cataloochee Valley Tours is a nature-based Eco-Tour Company operating out of Waynesville, North Carolina at the easternmost boundary and gateway of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are officially authorized by the National Park Service to operate hiking and guide services throughout the entire park under a Commercial Use Authorization Permit.
Wheels Through Time Open for the 2015 Season
Museum Operating Schedule
April 2 – November 30, 2015
Hours: 9:00am -5:00pm
*Closed Tuesday & Wednesday
Seniors (65 and up): $10
Wheels Through Time Museum is home to the world’s premier collection of rare American Vintage Motorcycles. Located 5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, in beautiful Maggie Valley, NC, this All-American motorcycle museum houses over 300 of America’s rarest and most historic classic motorcycles. Currently, over 30 marques on display, including the likes of Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Crocker, Henderson, Flying Merkel, and many more.
Western North Carolina’s premier museum and tourism attraction features dozens of motorcycle-related exhibits, ranging from board track racers, hillclimbing, and original paint machines to American Dirt Track racing, choppers and bobbers, and one-of-a-kind motorcycles.
Wheels Through Time
62 Vintage Lane
Maggie Valley, North Carolina 28751
Phone: (828) 926-6266
Enjoy a Mountain Beer Vacation
Choose from the Best Western Plus River Escape or Holiday Inn Express and receive a tour at Heinzelmannchen Brewery, two Beautifully engraved 23 oz Pilsner Glasses, Your Gnometown Cookbook & a bar of locally made Beer Soap for $139.99 weekdays & $149.99 weekends; additional nights may be booked at $89.99 weekdays or $99.99 weekends.
Must book package by calling Best Western 828.586.6060 or Holiday Inn Express 828.631.1111, cannot book this package online. Available from April 1 - 30, 2015.
Park Announces Spring Opening Schedule
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announce the spring opening schedule for park facilities for the 2015 season. Campgrounds and secondary roads will begin opening Friday, March 13.
The schedule follows:
Secondary Roads are scheduled to open as follows: Forge Creek Road will open on March 6; Clingmans Dome Road will open on April 1; Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open April 3; Parson Branch, Rich Mountain Road, and Little Greenbrier will open on April 10; Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain roads will open on May 22. Roaring Fork Nature Trail is scheduled to reopen May 1, pending completion of bridge replacement project.
Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for bicycle use only on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 6 through September 23.