Holiday USA West Coast Road Trip in Aug 2022

Following up on our Easter break in April 2022 to the south west of the USA, this trip takes us on a road trip down the west coast of the USA.

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The two of us at Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The two of us at Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The two of us at Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The two of us at Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Holiday to Tennessee in Mar 2024: Day 9 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

By Nige on Sun 31 Mar 2024 at 20:56
Type: Post
Story: Holiday to Tennessee in Mar 2024
Tags: Hertz | Hilton | Holidays | Sevierville | Tennessee | USA

The alarm went off at 6:30am, whilst Vick was in a deep sleep. But she fought through her desire to remain in bed.

We were aiming to be on the road by 7am heading to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to do some hiking!

The view of Sevierville from our deck this morning
The view of Sevierville from our deck this morning
The view of Sevierville from our deck this morning
The view of Sevierville from our deck this morning

Breakfast comprised various berries and yoghurt. I enjoyed some raisin bran as well. Those raisins just make it so moreish…

We were driving away not long after 7am. The first stop was an urgent Starbucks fix, followed by a dash to the visitor center to buy another parking tag.

It was a lovely morning, just right for hiking. It was cloudy, but warm enough to not need a jumper.

The sun broke through from time to time and there was no risk of any rain. Perfect!

The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Visitor Center was dead, so parking wasn’t an issue. Grabbed our parking tag and we were ready for some serious hiking!

From there we decided to head to the most popular waterfall trail in the park: Laurel Falls Trail, just 3.5 miles from the visitor center.

That was a calculated gamble, that we could do the Laurel Falls Trail fast enough to still be able to get a parking spot at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead.

The Laurel Falls Trailhead
The Laurel Falls Trailhead
The Laurel Falls Trailhead
The Laurel Falls Trailhead

On the way, we saw numerous wild turkeys, some had a death wish by running across the road, and some were doing what comes naturally to them.

Laurel Falls Trail leads to an 80-foot falls, named after the mountain laurel shrubs that bloom along the trail and near the falls in May.

The waterfall has an upper and lower section, divided by a walkway crossing the stream at the base of the upper falls.

It was a 2.6-mile round trip and was likely to take us up to 2 hours to complete.

The quality of the path on the Laurel Falls Trail was really good
The quality of the path on the Laurel Falls Trail was really good
The quality of the path on the Laurel Falls Trail was really good
The quality of the path on the Laurel Falls Trail was really good

The parking lot holds about 40 vehicles and when we got there, we could see perhaps 4. By the time we got back to the car, it was packed.

The path was tarmac the whole way, which made it an easy hike.

We started our hike still drinking our Starbucks coffees, which helped ease us into the early climb up to the falls.

We only saw a few couples on the way up to the falls, and we found a few loitering around the falls when we got there.

Laurel Falls at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Laurel Falls at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Laurel Falls at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Laurel Falls at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The falls were impressive and definitely worth the effort.

Back to the car and after an early start and drinking a Starbucks on the way up, we both were in need of facilities when we got back to the car.

We stopped off at the Visitor Center before heading on to Rainbow Falls, which was through our favourite town, Gatlinburg (some sarcasm here; Gatlinburg sounds nice but is like a small Vegas).

The trailhead at Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The trailhead at Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The trailhead at Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The trailhead at Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It was still fairly quiet in Gatlinburg, so it didn’t take us long to join Roaring Fork Road, which would take us to the Rainbow and Grotto Falls.

We were very lucky to get the one free parking spot adjacent to the trailhead. So, our calculated gamble paid off.

Rainbow Falls Trail gains about 1,500′ in elevation. The 5.4 mile roundtrip hike is considered moderate in difficulty.

However, due to the length, elevation gain, and rocky terrain in sections of the trail, some visitors may rate the hike as difficult.

The Rainbow Falls Trail was much less defined that the Laurel Falls Trail
The Rainbow Falls Trail was much less defined that the Laurel Falls Trail
The Rainbow Falls Trail was much less defined that the Laurel Falls Trail
The Rainbow Falls Trail was much less defined that the Laurel Falls Trail

It takes about 3-5 hours to hike to the waterfall and back. The waterfall is 80′ in height.

It was clear early on that this was going to be a much more challenging hike.

There was no tarmac on the path. We were straight into dirt, stones, and boulders. That made it difficult for us both, but especially for the Vickster. After all, she’s had four knee operations!

The path had been constructed really well, with steps built into the path, where there was a steep incline, but there were still plenty of crags, sticking-out rocks and crevices, which provided numerous trip hazards.

The first minor waterfall on the Rainbow Falls Trail
The first minor waterfall on the Rainbow Falls Trail
The first minor waterfall on the Rainbow Falls Trail
The first minor waterfall on the Rainbow Falls Trail

We bumped into lots of couples/groups on our way up. All really friendly.

After about an hour or so, we met a couple of the way back down, who told us that it was about another mile and a half. Neither of us could believe that we had only hiked just over one mile so far. It felt much further.

They also highlighted that there were two “bridges” that we would discover, but that we needed to keep going until we saw the massive waterfall – that was the true Rainbow Falls.

The finale of our hike up the Rainbow Falls Trail
The finale of our hike up the Rainbow Falls Trail
The finale of our hike up the Rainbow Falls Trail
The finale of our hike up the Rainbow Falls Trail

We kept going, hoping that it wouldn’t be quite as far as that couple had suggested. Unfortunately, they were about right.

When we finally reached the massive Rainbow Falls, although it was high, the amount of water flowing over wasn’t that significant. And disappointingly, there was no rainbow (and no Starbucks!).

The other key point was that there were loads of tourists loitering around. They were all doing what we were doing – recovering and eating!

A quick visit to Starbucks was enjoyed prior to investing in puddings!
A quick visit to Starbucks was enjoyed prior to investing in puddings!
A quick visit to Starbucks was enjoyed prior to investing in puddings!
A quick visit to Starbucks was enjoyed prior to investing in puddings!

Coming down from the falls may sound easy but when your legs are shaking you tend to put your foot in the wrong place, feeling sharp rocks beneath your trainers or unexpectedly landing in a crevice and nearly going over on your ankle.

By the time we finally reached the car, there were a few tears in relief! I had stubbed my toe earlier and it hurt like buggery…

After re-hydrating, we decided we should treat ourselves: pick up a coffee at Starbucks, perhaps even some pudding for tonight’s dinner and visit a supercharging station ahead of our drive tomorrow to Chattanooga.

Another tasty steak dinner on the deck at the Sanctuary Treehouse Resort
Another tasty steak dinner on the deck at the Sanctuary Treehouse Resort
Another tasty steak dinner on the deck at the Sanctuary Treehouse Resort
Another tasty steak dinner on the deck at the Sanctuary Treehouse Resort

The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent recovering from our exertions of the day, back in our treehouse.

Steak, salad, strawberry cheesecake, key lime pie and a bottle of red Decoy satisified our desires for food and drink, although the bottle of decoy was mightily disappointing, considering it was $30.

Off to Chattanooga tomorrow!


Follow the whole story here: Holiday to Tennessee in Mar 2024


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Author Bio: About Nige

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Nige is one of the co-founders of The Billingham Blog and works as a freelance management consultant. He loves to fly in his spare time!

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