I live in South Central Kentucky, which is actually one of the greatest places to live if you love to travel, simply because you’re not a far drive from anything. You’re 45 minutes from the city lights of Nashville, TN, 7-10 hours from the beaches of Florida, and 4 and a half hours from the Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN. For my 22nd birthday, I skipped my Thursday classes (priorities) and drove to Gatlinburg with my fiancé for a long weekend getaway.
When people say Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are cheesy, this is no lie. We arrived on November 2nd and I kid you not, more than half of the Christmas lights were shining bright by the end of the weekend. And by “Christmas lights”, I mean Christmas trees galore and giant blow up Santa Clauses on the lawns and balconies of hotels lined with lights upon lights upon lights. Luckily for Curtis and I, the hotel we stayed in was basically in the ghetto so our slumber wasn’t disturbed by lights. You can just call me the master of booking hotels. I can usually find a pretty sketch hotel (unbeknownst to me), pay a fabulously low price for it, and convince you 100% that all of the reviews said it was a lovely place to stay. Cozy and comfy and every other word you want to hear about a hotel you’ve never been to. And then when you show up at ten o’clock at night and google maps takes you away from the city on some weird back roads, there will probably be a scary man sitting two doors down from your room, smoking a cigarette and staring you down. Where’s the pepper spray?
Grotto Falls and Brushy Mountain
First of all, let’s start by saying that the breakfast we ate the morning of this hike was the greatest in my tummy’s history of great. Cinnamon Rolls and Stuffed French Toast and Cathead Biscuits and everything else a fat kid dreams of. Go here.
In the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and off of Roaring Fork Trail, parking for the Brushy Mountain Trail is about 1.6 miles down the one way road. The speed limit is 10 mph and the beginning of the November month made this slow drive breathtaking. The leaves are changing to bright reds, yellows, oranges, deep purples and are flooding the ground with grace.
When hiking to Brushy Mountain, you will encounter Grotto Falls a little more than a mile up the trail. The trail up to this point isn’t difficult, either. It’s fairly smooth and wide. Grotto Falls is not that heavy of a waterfall, depending on the recent rainfall, but no matter what there is enough room between the cliff and the water that you are able to walk behind it. It’s a good spot to stop and eat lunch if you plan on staying for a while.
As you cross the waterfall and continue on the trail, it gets steeper and the terrain gets rougher. It’s winding paths and struggling to keep up with your more-experienced hiker ahead of you, but its only a quarter of a mile more when you start to see the mountain and views ahead of you.
At just over two miles you are met with the Trillium Gap. Going left will lead you to Brushy Mountain, turning right will lead you to the summit of Mt. LeConte (which is strenuous and three miles more than Brushy Mountain AKA not for the amatuers like me). Once you pass this, the trail turns into a tunnel made of bushes, shrubs, and other towering plants surrounding you.
Not much further than this comes the summit of Brushy Mountain. It was fairly cloudy when we hiked this trail, so fog covered a lot of the view but had started to clear once we reached the top. We’re so blessed to have the capacity to admire such beautiful creations that God has created.
Outlet Malls and Paula Deen Wishes
Day two was spent shopping until we dropped. The outlet mall in Pigeon Forge is not somewhere you should go if you’re short on time, because anything you may want will be here (even if that may be a caramel apple topped with m&m’s and drizzled with chocolate). That evening, we planned to eat at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. When we turned into what we thought was the parking lot, the road took us to an area of Pigeon Forge called The Island. Hotels, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and so much more is in this little area. You park in a giant parking lot in the back, take a shuttle to the main area, and walk to any of the places you want to visit. Or, if you want to relax, there are lawn chairs lined around the dancing fountain – comparable to the Bellagio in Vegas, but smaller. Or take a ride on the 200 ft. ferris wheel that gives you views for miles!
Side note – It was an hour and 45 minute wait for 2 at Paula Deen’s Restaurant at 5:30pm. So if you’re set on eating delicious buttery foods, make sure you’re not that hungry at first so your stomach can handle waiting that long. I would give you some food options that Curtis and I tried and loved, but we turned to Margaritaville for dinner instead. If you’ve been to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, comment your favorite thing on the menu!