Did you know that the Smoky Mountains has a natural phenomenon that occurs only one other place in the world?

Did you know that the Smoky Mountains has a natural phenomenon that occurs only one other place in the world?  For a couple of weeks in early summer in mid June (4ththru the 12th), a rare species of fireflies come into the Smoky Mountains to do synchronized blinking.  This species has an internal sensor that lets them know when another firefly is lit.  The fireflies can be lit for up to 6 seconds, it creates a wave of blinking lights that is absolutely amazing to see.  The only other known location that this happens is in Southeast Asia.

Fireflies are beetles. They take from one to two years to mature from larvae, but will live as adults for only about 21 days. Their light patterns are part of the adulthood mating display. Each species of firefly has characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. Most species produce a greenish-yellow light; one species has a bluish light. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash. Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the park is normally within a two-week period in mid-June.

The production of light by living organisms is called bioluminescence. Many species of insects and marine creatures are capable of it. Fireflies combine the chemical luciferin and oxygen with the enzyme luciferase in their lanterns (part of their abdomens) to make light. The chemical reaction is very efficient and produces little or no heat.

No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons. The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchronicity occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.

How can you see them? There are Gatlinburg trolleys that go to Sugarlands VisitorCenter to pick up visitors every 20 minutes starting at 7:00pm. They run June 4th thru the 12th.  The fireflies usually start lighting up around 9:30pm.  It costs $1.00 per person to ride the trolley.  It takes you to the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont.  The last trolley back leaves at 11:00pm.  No private vehicles are allowed into the Little River Trailhead after 5:00pm, unless you are staying at the campground.

Here are the rules;

  • Bring a blanket or lawn chair to sit on, a flashlight that is covered in red or blue cellophane to minimize white lights, keep them pointed down and turn them off when you get to your destination.
  • Carry a backpack with any refreshments you may need.
  • The only amenities available are portapotty’s.
  •  No pets or alcoholic beverages are allowed.
  • If you want to take pictures, don’t use a flash and set your aperture to f11 and take a long exposure on a tripod to get a nice glowing picture.
  • Park rangers and volunteers will be around for questions, guided walks and assistance.
  • Don’t forget the last trolley leaves at 11:00pm

Cades Cove Information

Cades Cove was once a remote place in the Great Smoky Mountains. Nature abounds here and the loop affords spectacular views of the mountains and fields.  Many deer call the Cove home, and many people have seen bear here as well.  One of the few ways through the Smokies and into the cove was along Indian trails. Some of those trails were improved into roads. One of those trails was called, appropriately enough, Cades Cove road. The name was later changed to Rich Mountain Road. By either name the road was one of the main routes through the Smokies between Tuckaleechee and Cades Cove.

Rich Mountain Road is about a third of the way around the Cove. It is a one way dirt road that is about 12 miles long that ends up back in Townsend.  There are a couple of nice views of the Cove along the drive and can be a good shortcut to get back to civilization.  There is another road to explore out of Cades Cove called Parsons Branch Road. This is a one way primitive road that cuts through pristine forest with opportunities to see wildlife and wildflowers as well.  There are areas where the creek cuts across the road and some nice waterfalls.  It comes out on 129 in the middle of The Dragon.

Though Cades Cove was generally a self sustaining community, pioneers bought things from Maryville such as medicine and remedies such as Camphorated oil, catnip tea, Castor oil, Epsom salts. As time went by, general stores sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies. Products could be purchased with money or by trading products such as eggs. Still, the larger town of Maryville had a more appealing selection and so the trips from the Cades Cove continued. Many times families would sell chestnuts which grew everywhere in Cades Cove in the 1800’s.  Disease eventually killed the trees.

“Kate’s Cove” was the name of Cades Cove originally, after an Indian chief’s wife. The Cove drew the Cherokee Indians back to the area again and again because of its abundant wildlife and good hunting. Later, Cades Cove’s wildlife drew European descent frontiersmen to make it their home. They and their offspring cleared the fertile valley floor and built farms to sustain them. The pioneer’s families lived in Cades Cove for many generations before the cove became part of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Today, Cades Cove is still as full of wildlife as before but draws not hunters, but millions of Smokies visitors.

The Cove has been preserved by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to look much the way it looked in the 1800’s. Once home to a small mountain community whose settlers came from mainly from Virginia, North Carolina and upper eastTennessee, Cades Cove is today the largest open air museum in the entire GreatSmoky Mountain National Park.

There are many primitive buildings to enjoy as you go around Cades Cove, including two churches, some beautiful homestead cabins, corn cribs, various mills, a smokehouse and barns. It has all been preserved the way it would have been back in the 1800’s.  Today, the Cove boasts a large campground, stables for riding horses, an amphitheater, a large gift shop and bike rentals.  The Cades Cove loop is 11 miles long and runs along a beautiful valley in a loop with mountains surrounding it.  It is a favorite for many families and people enjoy the hiking and biking and nature viewing opportunities.  It is a great way to take a peek at what life would have been like 200 years ago

Interesting Facts about the Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a national treasure and a nature preserve unlike any other in the United States.  Here are some interesting facts and things to know about the Park;
1) Did you know that the Great Smoky Mountains were formed about 200-300
million years ago?  This makes them among the oldest mountains in the world.
2) There are many places to view amazing waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains,
including Abrams Falls, Grotto Falls, Hen Wallow Falls, Indian Creek/Toms Branch Falls, Juney Whank Falls, Laurel Falls, Mingo Falls, Mouse Creek Falls, Rainbow Falls and Ramsey Cascades among many others.
3) The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses approximately 244,000
acres in Tennessee and 276,000 acres in North Carolina for a total of 520,000 acres or more than 800 square miles.  Also, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
4) The Great Smoky Mountains is home to over 4000 plants, 140 species of trees,
and over 1600 bears.  Other animal species in the Park include the Eastern cottontail rabbit, red wolf, groundhog, red fox, coyote, bobcat, river otter, white-tailed deer and wild boar.  The Park is also known as the “Salamander Capital of the World” since approximately 30 species of salamander can be found here.
5) Established in 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest national
park East of the Rocky Mountains. The Park is one of the only National Parks that charge no admission fee.  The Park is also the most visited, receiving 9-10 million visitors annually.
6) A 70-mile stretch of the 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail winds through Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, the Park features more than 850 miles of hiking trails.  Some of the most popular hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park include Abrams Falls Trail (5 miles round trip), Alum Cave Trail (11 miles round trip), Andrews Bald Trail (3.6 miles round trip), Boulevard Trail (16 miles round trip), Chasteen Creek Falls Trail (4 miles round trip), Chimney Tops Trail (4 miles round trip), Grotto Falls Trail (3 miles round trip), Hen Wallow Falls Trail (4 miles round trip), Indian Creek Falls Trail (2 miles round trip), Laurel Falls Trail (2.5 miles round trip), Ramsey Cascades Trail (8 miles round trip) and Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail (3,000-foot loop).
7) Cades Cove is a 4,000-acre scenic valley that boasts preserved pioneer
homesteads, a campground and hiking trails.  It is the most visited area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For a Spring break that’s alive with activity and scenic wonder, travel to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

For a Spring break that’s alive with activity and scenic wonder, travel to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Offering miles of hiking trails and wildlife viewing, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is host to these and more. For those who love the outdoors, the park during Spring months is home to a diverse assortment of wildlife. Containing around 1500 black bears, the best viewing opportunities are in open areas. Inhabitating all elevations, bears are most active during the early morning and late evening. Carry binoculars to observe white-tailed deer, elk and black bears from a distance.

Plan to stay in Gatlinburg to experience a small town atmosphere with big events. Beginning in March, the Smoky Mountain Springfest offers activities for the whole family. Look for live entertainment, flowers in bloom and barbeques along the sidewalks.
In May, the Scottish Highland Games features opportunities where clans meet for bagpipe competitions, highland dancing and whiskey tasting.
Sign the family up for the Annual Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament to take on the challenge to hook the largest trout.
For a chance to see filmmakers from all over the country, the Annual Gatlinburg Filmfest features independent films at River Terrace Resort.

Find a wide range of accommodations from Timber Tops in Gatlinburg to suit each personal taste. Rent a vacation cabin from Timber Tops for a true mountain experience. Recommended for ski vacations, a cabin near Ober Gatlinburg will allow guests a getaway near the slopes for hours of breathtaking views and participation in a fun, challenging sport. Stay in the heart of Gatlinburg and find many choices of cabins. Many cabins haveindoor pools and jacuzzis for relaxation after a day around town.

Spring in Gatlinburg offers many activities to do right in town. For shopping, over 400 stores sell arts and crafts, souvenirs and antiques. At the Mountain Mall, find 36 unique themed shops.

For another experience in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge offers popular and unusual activities. Known as one of the best attractions in the South, Dollywood offers thrilling rides and entertainment. Ride the Thunderhead or Mystery Mine roller coaster for extreme thrills. During Spring, Dollywood’s Festival of Nations includes a showcase of entertainment from around the world. Be captivated by acrobat acts, high wire artists and traditional music from South America.

Besides the wild rides of Dollywood, thrill seekers may want to experience the unique adventures of the Pigeon Forge Sky Scraper. Located at Parkway, this exciting new ride takes guests high above Parkway and then turns them upside down.
Take a ride in a Zorb for a one-of-a-kind roll down a hill. Eleven feet high and eleven feet around, this round, hollow bouncy ball is a cross between a waterfall and a roller coaster.
Additional outdoor activities in Pigeon Forge include white water rafting, kayak rentals and mountain bicycling tours.

Last but not least, the Smoky Mountain things to do list includes interacting with the people there who go out of their way for visitors with old fashioned Souther Hospitality.

Hiking in the Smokies

If you enjoy hiking, the Smoky Mountains are a great adventure. Located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains are home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country. There are many different hiking trails with different features and levels of difficulty. Some are known for their wildflowers, others lead to waterfalls or extraordinary views of the landscape. Whether you are an experienced hiker or a newcomer to the field, there is definitely going to be a hiking trail you will enjoy in the Smoky Mountains.
Before planning hiking trip to the Smoky Mountains, there are several things that every traveler should know. First of all, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. This is great because it allows you to plan your trip around your schedule rather than having to find a time during peak seasons. However, it is also important that all hikers know their limits. During the winter, some of the Smoky Mountain hiking trails may not be safe to travel. Also, the park does close some of the campgrounds and roads during the winter months. If you are planning to hike during these months, contact the local park officials to see what the conditions are like before proceeding.
The Smoky Mountain hiking trails vary widely, ranging from short (less than one mile) to long (around 15 miles) and at different levels of elevation. More information about the Smoky Mountain hiking trails can be found from the park visitor’s office, where you will also be able to find maps of the trails for your reference. Knowing how to read these maps is important because you will be able to navigate through the landscape in case you get lost.
The Smoky Mountains offer hiking trails that are great for day trips, picnics, or sightseeing adventures. There are several waterfalls as well, including the Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, and Rainbow waterfalls. These locations make excellent family destinations or romantic hiking afternoons. Some of the trails also lead to wonderful views of the scenery. The breathtaking views at these locations provide excellent opportunities for photos and for enjoying the beauty of the natural environment. Wildflowers are in abundance on the Smoky Mountain hiking trails, and these can also be seen from the top of a mountain on the hiking trails.
For more experienced hikers, there are also longer trails that are great for longer backpacking trips. One thing to consider when planning a longer trip like this is safety. While there are places to park at the entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Park, it is always important to keep any valuables with you or to leave them at home. Also, if you plan on taking a longer hiking trail, it is a good idea to keep a first aid kit with you and to read your map if you feel lost. Hikers are responsible for their own safety in the Smoky Mountain hiking trails.