Blog for Zipline Attraction in the Smoky Mountains

Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.


The Other Side Of The Mountain

By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on July 18, 2023

When referring to our neck of the woods, a lot of folks automatically associate the Great Smoky Mountains with the state of Tennessee. That's understandable; some of Great Smoky Mountains National Park's most iconic sites are within our state's borders, including destinations like Cades Cove, Elkmont, the many hiking trails leading to summits like Mt. LeConte and access to the highest point in Tennessee - Clingmans Dome.

Also, communities like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, which offer tourists tons of vacation options when visiting the mountains, are also located on the Tennessee side of the national park. It's where the majority of Smoky Mountain visitors base their travels and spend their time. And that's where you'll find our ziplines in the Smoky Mountains.

But in all fairness, we should also tell you about the North Carolina side of the national park, which accounts for approximately half of its half-million acres of land area. So next time you plan a visit to the Tennessee side of the Smokies, think about working in some stops on the North Carolina side as well. This week, we'll point you in the direction of a few highlights.

We recommend starting your trip at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the North Carolina equivalent of Tennessee's Sugarlands Visitor Center. At Oconaluftee, you can find park maps, ask questions of park rangers and also get a free copy of the Smokies Guide newspaper. Located just outside Cherokee, NC, the visitor center also has a number of cultural history exhibits, and you can learn about the park's many ranger-led programs. Look for a bookstore and a shop run by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and of course, there are restrooms and vending machines.

Hiking is always one of the top activities inside the national park, and North Carolina is no exception. The Oconaluftee River Trail, which starts at the visitor center, is a 3.2-mile round-trip walk that is both pet- and stroller-accessible. It's a good entry-level hike for visitors just getting their feet wet. Also near the visitor center is Mingus Mill. The Mingus Mill Trail offers a number of different distance options and features points of interest like an old slave cemetery, a Civilian Conservation Corps campsite and an old home site. Also, the Smokemont Nature Trail, found at Smokemont Campground, has a .75-mile round-trip hike that gives hikers a view of natural reforestation and Bradley Fork Creek.

If waterfalls are your thing, we have several suggestions for where to find them. The Deep Creek Trail will take you to multiple falls, including Indian Creek, Juney Whank and Tom Branch. Mingo Falls, the tallest in the southern Appalachians is another worthy destination and only .4 miles round trip. Also consider Chasteen Creek Falls, near Smokemont Campground, and Twentymile Cascade, the highlight of a 1.25-mile hike that begins near the Twentymile Ranger Station.

The national park is known for its historic structures, and on the North Carolina side, look for the previously mentioned Mingus Mill and Mountain Farm Museum adjacent to the visitor center. The Cataloochee Valley also offers a variety of historic buildings worth a look-see. By the way, Cataloochee Valley is a great place to view wildlife, namely the elk population that was reintroduced to the area.

Finally, don't forget about taking a scenic drive. The six-mile-long Lakeview Drive offers great views of Fontana Lake and begins south of Bryson City. More notably, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway, though located outside park boundaries, serve up delicious views of the mountains. The former is accessible from U.S. Hwy. 441, just south of Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and the latter can be accessed along U.S. Hwy. 129 near Robbinsville. Both roads are subject to weather closures in winter.


This content posted by Smoky Mountain Ziplines. Visit our home page, for more information on zipline adventures in the Smoky Mountains.

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