2022 – The Glorious Smokies 🌦

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Cliff Top Viewpoint Access Trail

This trip thankfully is still fresh in the mind so I will be able to at least add more depth into this particular hike in relation to my previous ones. The largest motivation to get this up were the dank views.

Firstly, I would like to point out that I didn’t fully realize how packed Gatlinburg would be. I did know of it as Hillbilly Las Vegas, but never actualized it until I went there again this past weekend with the intention of staying in the area close to the Great Smoky Mountains. Previously, I simply hiked or drove through the Smokies. In fact, when hiking through the Smokies on my thru-hike, Gatlinburg was a ghost town compared to what it was this past Easter weekend. To add some perspective, Gatlinburg during my thru-hike was not an intended destination. It was a two nero and zero type of stop due to the unordinary harsh weather. The unordinary weather being first very high wind gusts up to 100 mph to the point where park rangers were evacuating hikers out of the Smokies and then snow that closed the road up to New Found Gap the following day. If you’d like to read back on my very poor writing and okay photos during that time period on my thru-hike, Day 19, Day 20, and Day 21 should cover that section. I didn’t stay in town as much as I did on the thru-hike due to the sheer amount of people in this location, but I wanted to address this so anyone else visiting has the expectation that Gatlinburg isn’t a peaceful mountain town. In fact, if you have the ability, opt for an Airbnb or Vrbo type of stay to steer clear of this area at night. I originally did not plan to get a place, but due to a stupid misread on my part of terms and conditions from a previous payment, I had $1k sitting in gift credit on my account, so I committed and stayed here. I personally L🔥VED my stay,

but I am sure there are better places. This just happened to be a place with a hot tub and kitchen that was available within two days of my trip. If you do get something nearby, the Iced Blueberry White Mocha at Gatlinburg Grind is ðŸ’£.

Anyway, the plan was to hike up to Rainbow Falls with the intention of hiking back down the path back to the road to then, drive to the trailhead for Grotto Falls, and hike up, but I realized that if I hiked up to Mt Le Conte, I could then hike down to Grotto Falls as a loop hike as opposed to up and down. Plus, all of my hikes previously were around the herd of tourists. I wanted to break free and get a little of that magic like adventurous feeling I experienced in the Smokies rolling through on my thru-hike.

Rainbow Falls

As I expected, very few people were hiking past Rainbow Falls. I had the trail for the majority of time to myself.

The hike up was super hard climbing up, but well worth the views.

Upon arrival, to the top of Mt Le Conte, I was out of water, though I found a Lodge with a spigot that reminded me of the huts in the Whites. To my surprise, there were quite a few cabins up there. If I were to make a trip up there again with a group, I would definitely make moves on staying to commit to a sunrise or sunset up there.

Making my way up to Cliff Top Viewpoint, I found a group of young (my age) entrepreneurs talking about whether or not it is good to exercise after just hours after waking up, which is something I do. Apparently, you are prone to an increase risk of blood clots by exercising within hours after waking up for the day. Spoke some more and personally the conversation was quite refreshing. Gained some new an interesting perspectives.

Cliff Top Viewpoint

It being later than I realized, the hike back down was a quicker one than I had hoped for, getting back to my rental car at sundown.

The reason you should consider the Smokies if the photos above do not convince you is because this park is extraordinarily underrated. For a second, I was going to type out in confidence that the Smokies are one of the dopest rainforest experiences I’ve had, not in a rainforest, however after looking it up on the inter-webs 👀 because of my disbelief, I read that the Smokies are already classified as a rainforest. I feel like that is not common information. 😅 For the time of year, I would recommend hitting this area in May when the foliage is lush and the waterfalls are still full, however expect the weather to be hit or miss. With the mountains being the mountains, keep your expectations low weather wise, unless you are one of those people who appreciate all kinds of weather. It would be nice to have clear day, however I would argue that the best time to visit is after rain on a partly cloudy day. Also, keep in mind that the area is touristy, but only close to roads. If you allot out a trail for the entire day or even for a two day interval, deep into the trail near the higher elevations like this route, you’ll get the full experience, which includes, the views, fog, low-lying clouds, waterfalls, moss, mud, and air changes, though I recommend going with at least one other person if you can.

The wild life should not bother you, but the larger the group, the larger the confidence of the group will be when passing boar or bears. This said, on the beginning of my trek down Mt. Le Conte around 5:45PM, I had noticed that I was not only the only one on this section of trail, but also that there was an increasing number piles of feces. When I noticed the piles of feces on trail, I then noticed how late it was. The type of feces were not of bear, but I wasn’t sure if they were of boar, which are known to become aggressive easily. Though I had also remembered that bears are nocturnal in areas that have a high human presence and would be coming out of hibernation (hungry) around this time (It was mid-April). Immediately, I picked up a hand sized rock and increased my pace from care free to a 4.5-mile/hour (8 miles from 5:45 to 7:30 PM). I knew in my head that I was fine, however my instincts were lit. Plus, I did not want to be hiking at night. On the way down, I ran into a squirrel, pheasant, three deer, and two large black bears. Thankfully, I did not cross paths with the bears. They were down and off trail by maybe 100 yards as you can see in this very quick shot from my phone.

Grotto Falls

As soon as I got to Grotto Falls at 6:45 PM, which was a busy section of trail, my nerves calmed, though I still kept up my pace since I had parked, at the trailhead of Rainbow falls, which was a little over 3 miles away, thankfully for the most part, all down hill. There was a trail, connecting the two trailheads, however I opted to hike the road since I still was not completely sure that I would finish in daylight. It is a one way road, so if you have the daylight, hike the trail. You’ll need to stop every time a car needs to pass. Eventually, I got back to my rental 🚙 at 7:30PM with daylight to spare. 🤠

So I’ve been asked this question prior before about black bears and the reason I have an irrational fear of bears and animals in general is a mystery to me. I do not know exactly why. I’m assuming and would like to think I have just re-acclimated back to society. On trail during my thru-hike, other animals in general were not at the forefront of my mind. I was in it mentally and felt one with nature as if I was just another animal for lack of better words. I would though like to think it is possible to acclimate myself back into that such a mindset because I do have plans to thru-hike another long trail in my late 30s on another sabbatical. In place of such a sabbatical, I had planned to retire all together, but after reflecting more from a conversation with trail fam (Conor, Dan, Peter, and Ryan) on our previous backpacking trip in early April, I’ve decided to pump the brakes on saving for 🔥 at least a little so I am not living in a scarcity mindset, which has already affected my life in terms of limiting my own opportunities. So in moving forward, I will simply keep my options open and think true to myself before accepting or denying an opportunity.

NameApril 2022 – The Glorious Smokies
Rainbow Falls
Mt Le Conte – Cliff Top Viewpoint
Grotto Falls
LocationGatlinburg, TN
Trailhead/ParkingRainbow Falls Trail
Trail NameRainbow Falls Trail – 6 Miles
Bull Head Trail – < 0.5 Miles
Cliff Top Viewpoint Access Trail – < 0.5 Miles
Bull Head Trail – <0.1 Miles
Trillium Gap Trail – 8.4 Miles
Hike Length15.4 Miles
Gaia GPS LinkApril 2022 – The Glorious Smokies

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