Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hiking in the Smokies of Tennessee

Have you ever noticed that on a hike, there is something delicious about the air?  Scientists may say it’s the oxygenated air due to thick vegetation, and adventurers might claim it’s that feeling of freedom that whispers off the stream.  Whether it's photosynthesis or vigorous aura, I don't know, but the air is just wonderful to drink in.  I love a good hike, and in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, there are several good hikes ranging from very easy, to extremely difficult.  Specifically near the Cosby Entrance of the Smoky Mountain National Park, there are three different trails that offer variety for any hiker.

If you’re looking for a quiet stroll beneath shady trees, the Cosby Nature Trail beckons.  The trailhead is just past the picnic area in Cosby, taking you on a loop that is only 1 mile long, with a few footbridges to cross.  For those with younger children, this trail is manageable, fun, and relaxing.  If you’re not feeling up to an extended hike, but you still want to take in nature's beauty, try the Cosby Nature Trail.

If you’re looking for a longer hike with a beautiful destination, the Gabes Mountain trail is the one for you.  With a length of about 4.5 miles round-trip, this trail leads to Hen Wallow Falls, and starts near the Cosby Picnic area, just before the turn into the parking area.  This trail has some steep stretches, some stream crossings on footbridges, and even a stone bridge about a mile into the hike.  This trail is adventurous and enjoyable, but it may be too long for smaller children.

Onto bigger things, if you’re willing to spend a day, the Low Gap trail takes you to Mount Cammerer Fire Tower, a powerful name for a majestic view, one of the very best lookouts in the Smoky Mountains.  But you have to earn it.  This challenging, 15.9 mile round-trip hike starts near the amphitheatre in Cosby campground, and goes up to Mount Cammerer with a steep incline.  The trail takes you on switchbacks, through a dense but beautiful forest, until you finally reach the summit, where a breath-taking view awaits.  You can even go inside the fire tower, where a panoramic view is given with the tower’s octagonal structure and surrounding windows.  If you’re ready to strike the mountain and claim the peak, hit the Low Gap trail.

There’s a trail for everyone, so come breathe the air, come see the sights, and come experience the memorable moments that Great Smoky Mountain National Park has to offer.