Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains
Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on June 21, 2022
When someone mentions the Great Smoky Mountains, what's the first animal you think of? Most people would likely answer “black bear.” That makes sense, since the black bear is practically the living symbol of the entire region. A significant population of them exist in the wild in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
One animal that's not likely to come to mind quickly is the llama - a domesticated, camel-like critter that's indigenous to the South American continent. But believe it or not, llamas have become a more frequent site in the Smokies thanks to their ability to travel in mountain terrain. They don't exist in the wild here; it's not their native habitat. However, there are places you can go where you can visit these unusual creatures and learn about their role in Smoky Mountain tourism.
Smoky Mountain Llama Treks in Cosby, TN, offers a variety of hiking outings that involve llamas. For example, the Padgett Mill Trek is an easy to moderate hike (there are some steep sections) through the woods, covering a one-mile trail and lasting up to an hour and a half. The experience starts with a farm visit, where guests can meet, feed and interact with the resident herd of llamas. Afterward, each hiker gets to lead an individual llama on foot (no riding) to Padgett Mill, a route that features dense woods and some open views of the national park. If you choose, you can bring a lunch along to enjoy after the hike.
Other trek packages there include outings on the Trident and Moonshine Trails. If you're not interested in a hike-related visit with the llamas, you can just do the Llama Farm Visit tour, which lasts about an hour, but it all takes place on the farm. Guests get to know more about the llamas in detail in addition to getting to feed them (they love graham crackers) and pet them.
Llamas are also prominently featured in another part of the Smokies, in the national park itself. LeConte Kitchen, the lodge restaurant located atop Mt. LeConte, is supplied by llamas. After all, trails are the only way to get to the top of the mountain, which is one of the tallest in the Smokies. And there's no helicopter or four-wheeler access to the lodge, so llamas - which are excellent pack animals - are put into service on regular resupply missions to the restaurant.
A train of llamas has been carrying food, linens and other supplies to the lodge three times a week, along the Trillium Gap Trail, since 1986. Before that, horses were used, but as it turned out, the horses caused too much damage to the narrow, rocky trail.
Each 6.7-mile trek to the top starts off with a snack of alfalfa cubes, and then a llama wrangler spends about four hours leading the animals to the summit. Along the way, they walk through rocky, narrow passages at Trillium Gap, but thanks to the llamas' surefootedness and grippy foot pads, they are able to successfully get their loads up to the lodge. On the way back down, the animals transport garbage and dirty linens back to the bottom.
Another place that has featured llamas in the past is the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm Exotic Petting Zoo in Sevierville, TN. You may want to check with them in advance to confirm whether or not they are currently showcasing llamas in their petting zoo.
At our Smoky Mountain Zipline adventure, we're not as concerned about uphill travel as we are downhill travel. We have our own workhorses - military-style transport vehicles - to get our guests to the top of the mountain. From there, it's all ziplines and the miracle of gravity that are responsible for getting them back down. The best part is that everyone has a load of fun traveling in both directions. Call us this week to book your vacation zipline tour!