Category Archives: Uncategorized

book gatlinburg cabin direct save money

Why Renting a Gatlinburg Cabin Direct Is Better Than Airbnb or VRBO

When you are planning a vacation getaway to Gatlinburg, TN, you may be wondering what’s the best way to book a vacation rental: directly with the property owner or through sites like Airbnb or VRBO?

If you search Google for “Airbnb Gatlinburg” or “VRBO Gatlinburg” you will see many cabins for rent in the Gatlinburg area. What you may not see are the disadvantages of not renting directly with the owner.

While booking a vacation rental on Airbnb and VRBO have become popular among travelers, making a reservation with the owner offers you a host of benefits many travelers are unaware of.

We’ve highlighted a few of the top benefits of booking direct below for you.

Save Money

book gatlinburg cabin direct save money

When you reserve a property on booking sites like Airbnb, you will usually end up paying substantially more than if you simply contacted the owner of the rental and booked directly with them. A simple Google search can help you find the same or similar properties minus the extra fees.

Websites like Airbnb and VRBO act as a middleman between the traveler and the owner. Neither of these services owns or manages properties. Their business model is primarily based on charging fees to both property owners and travelers.

When you use a third-party website to make a booking, fees are added to every reservation. In many cases the fees can cost hundreds of dollars more than what the property owner actually charges.

VRBO booking fees can range from 4% to 9% based on the rental’s price. These hefty booking fees can eat into a family’s vacation budget, reducing what properties fit within a traveler’s budget and possibly limiting the activities a traveler can partake in while on vacation.

While it’s free for an owner of a vacation rental to list their property on Airbnb there is a host service fee of at least 3%, usually closer to 9%, for bookings made on the site.

As a general rule, an increase in cost for a business usually ends up being an increased cost for the consumer – you the traveler!

On some booking sites you will be charged based on the amount of guests you travel with, even if the owner does not charge more for additional guests.

It’s understandable how travelers can feel these fees are hidden, especially when they are lumped together with other charges like local taxes in applicable locations, daily rates, occupancy fees, security, and cleaning fees.

Additionally it’s a common practice for booking sites to disguise booking fees by calling them “service fees.” In many cases, you won’t know about these charges until you reach the end of your booking, but choosing to work directly with the owner takes away any surprise costs and boosts transparency for both sides.

Apart from the fees Airbnb and VRBO charge guests, some booking sites like Booking.com charge even larger commissions to the owner.

These fees can range from 10% to 20% of the booking income, but more often than not, it’s the traveler who ends up paying for some or all of these commission fees in the form of higher rates.

So while booking sites have different fee structures, the truth is, you’re paying more!

Increased Transparency & Communication

airbnb vrbo hidden booking fees owner direct

Because fees tend to take travelers off guard as they complete their booking (and in some cases, guests don’t even realize they’ve had costs added to their bill), there is often a sense of dishonesty or lack of communication.

Speaking to the owner and skipping the third-party platform makes the transaction more personal and transparent. All charges can be broken down and questions can be asked directly to the owner via phone or email.

When booking on third-party booking sites, you may find it difficult to contact the owner directly should you have a question or concern. Booking sites will often restrict how you can communicate with the property owner, making the process more difficult for you.

Without obstacles in the way, there is a boost in conversation and a better understanding of what the booking entails.

Speaking to the owner at the point of booking also ensures that expectations are met for both sides. Travelers can ask questions and will have a clearer picture of what they will receive with their reservation.

A Better Experience & Service

gatlinburg vrbo airbnb best vacation rental cabin

Another major benefit of communicating directly with the owner is travelers can also find out about things to do nearby and what to avoid. They get personalized recommendations that can’t be found on third-party sites, even before they book.

Communicating directly with the owner of a vacation rental gives travelers access to a local expert. This direct access gives travelers a better sense of who the owners are, their property standards, where you’re staying, and what you’re renting to help you make more informed decisions about your vacation earlier in the process.

While traveling you want to know your needs are met and that you have a trusted resource at every turn. Speaking with a person and eliminating an impersonal booking platform will help. In many ways, nothing tops the experience of working with a live person.

So the next time you consider searching for an “Airbnb Gatlinburg” or “VRBO Gatlinburg” try searching for the owner instead!

Need help with your Gatlinburg vacation planning? Contact us, we’re happy to help you!

If you’ve enjoyed our Airbnb Gatlinburg article, you may like our recent blog “The Best Places To Stay In Gatlinburg!”

Grocery Delivery Services In Gatlinburg TN

As you begin your vacation in Gatlinburg, TN the last thing you probably want to think about is going to the grocery store, fighting the crowd, and then taking all of that food back to your cabin rental. What a hassle! You are on vacation after all! Lucky for you there is a grocery delivery option available for you in Gatlinburg, TN so you can avoid all of the hassle and have your groceries waiting for you in your cabin the day of your arrival. Read on, and discover who offers online grocery ordering, delivery, and pickup depending on how hands off you want to keep things.

Grocery Delivery Services

The Smoky Mountain Grocery (Recommended)

The Smoky Mountain Grocery delivers to all of the rental cabins in the Gatlinburg area. You simply place your order online with  one of the local supermarkets they support. The Smoky Mountain Grocery will then pick it up and bring it to your cabin for a reasonable fee. This can be extremely convenient if you do not want to go out to pick up your groceries yourself. You will understand the value of this if you have ever tried to fight the traffic in and around Gatlinburg during a busy weekend or holiday. Why waste your valuable vacation time shopping for groceries? It does not get much more hassle free than the Smoky Mountain Grocery. They will set up a time to deliver your groceries right to your cabin door. You can also arrange to have the groceries placed in your cabin before your arrival. They will even stock your fridge.

Instacart

A few of the stores in the area offer Instacart delivery. The delivery radius with Instacart may be limited to areas within a certain driving distance from the city center.  You can click here to see which stores in the area offer delivery through Instacart. Our recommendation is to try out the Smoky Mountain Grocery linked above. They are locally owned and the delivery area is more extensive. The personal level of service you will receive will be worth it for you.

Would You Rather Pick It Up Yourself?

Another way to get your groceries without wasting time is to try to schedule a grocery pick up for the time when you plan to arrive in the area. There are a few grocery stores located in the area that offer online ordering.

Pigeon Forge – Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix, Food City (Online Ordering Available)

If you want to order you groceries online there is a Wal-Mart, Kroger, Publix, and a Food City located Pigeon Forge. If you plan to drive into Gatlinburg via Pigeon Forge you can grab your grocery items on the way through. All of the supermarkets that offer online ordering are located about 30 minutes from any of our cabins.

Publix in Pigeon Forge also offers grocery delivery to parts of Gatlinburg via Instacart. The Instacart service does not deliver to all locations, so be sure to check by entering the cabin address on their website.

Newport, TN – Food City, Wal-Mart (Online Ordering Available)

If you are traveling to Gatlinburg and your route brings you through Newport, TN you have two options to grab your groceries as you pass through. Both Wal-Mart and Food City offer online ordering and pickup at these locations.

Gatlinburg – Food City (Online Ordering Not Available)

Food City in Gatlinburg, TN is closest major supermarket and should have all you need. As of this writing they do not offer online grocery ordering or pickup at this Food City Location. Below is the distance from each of our cabins to the Gatlinburg Food City.

  • Bella Vista – 2 miles (Travel time 3 minutes)
  • Roaring Fork Lodge – 2 miles (Travel time 3 minutes)
  • Laurel Creek Hideaway – 9.2 miles (Travel time 15 minutes)
  • Star Dancer – 11 miles (Travel time 15-20 minutes)
  • Cloud Dancer – 11 miles (Travel time 15-20 minutes)
  • Smoky Mountain Sunrise 10 miles (Travel time 15-20 minutes)

Food City is the only major supermarket in Gatlinburg. They will probably have everything you need here. They have a, deli, produce dept, meat dept, fresh seafood, salad bar, and a hot food counter. The meat and seafood departments are superb, and have many top of the line cuts of meat and seafood choices for grilling.  They are also opening a Starbucks Coffee shop later in 2021 inside the store.

Did That Help?

I hope that these tips helped you out. Gatlinburg can be a very busy place, so why waste it driving to the store? Shopping for groceries does not have to take up your valuable vacation time. Relax and enjoy your vacation without the hassle!

best dinner shows in gatlinburg tn tennessee

8 Best Dinner Shows In Gatlinburg You Should Know About

The Top 8 Dinner Shows In Gatlinburg TN!

Check out our list of the Best Dinner Shows In Gatlinburg, handpicked just for you!

The Great Smoky Mountain area offers guests and locals alike some of the best meals in the country.

For those looking for a little something extra to go with their favorite plate, Gatlinburg, TN has a series of dinner shows where diners feast on delicious dishes while taking in unique and exciting performances by professional actors, dancers, singers, and more.

Take a look at some of the best choices to book for your next trip.

Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show

hatfield & mccoy family dinner show gatlinburg tennessee

The Hatfield and McCoy family feud is legendary, and now you can be part of history. The comedy show has fun for the whole family, including amazing stunts and tricks, a 22-foot swimming hole, hilarious acts, singing and dancing, and much more. Guests also get to dine on authentic country cooking, including fried chicken, pulled pork barbecue, smashed potatoes, coleslaw, corn, homemade rolls, and Granny’s special dessert. The venue offers guests gluten and dairy-free options as well as vegetarian and vegan meals upon request.

Dolly Parton’s Stampede

dolly parton dixie stampede dinner show gatlinburg tn

With 32 beautiful horses and a cast of expert riders ready to perform amazing tricks and feats, Dolly Parton’s Stampede is a must for families looking for an action-packed show. The performance concludes with a moving musical tribute to our nation, featuring a song entitled Color Me America, written and recorded by Dolly herself. For dinner, enjoy a four-course meal of original creamy vegetable soup, hot homemade biscuits, tender whole rotisserie chicken, hickory smoked pork loin, buttery corn on the cob, herb-basted potatoes, and a flaky apple pastry for dessert. Guests also enjoy unlimited tea, coffee, or Coca-Cola products.

Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show

pirates voyage dinner show pigeon forge tennessee

Minutes from Dollywood and Dolly’s Stampede is the Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, starring Captain Blackbeard and Calico Jack leading their crews in a battle for lost treasure. With full-sized pirate ships in an indoor lagoon, guests are mesmerized by the swashbuckling spectacle. The four-course feast includes Creamy Voyager Soup, Buccaneer Biscuits, Cracklin’ Pan-Fried Chicken, Sugar-Cured Ham, Corn on the Cob, Herb-Basted Potatoes, and a Walk the Plank Peach Turnover to sate your sweet tooth. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten and dairy free options are available upon request. Guests can also check out the Pirates Village for snacks and beverages as well as a mermaid makeover.

Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show

murder mystery show dinner show gatlinburg tn

Ready to solve a murder? Snag tickets to the Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show. With different shows alternating each night, you get to test your detective skills while feasting on a scrumptious three-course meal where you pick your choice of soup and enjoy a slice of cheesecake at the end. Ask for special dietary options as well.

Hazzard Hoedown

hazzard hoedown dinner show gatlinburg tn tennesssee

Were you a fan of The Dukes of Hazzard? Do you like action, comedy, and country/rock music? Head over to the Hazzard Hoedown, a show described as “a foot stompin’, knee slappin’, and sangin’ musical parody of the television hit.” Your favorite characters are there, including Boss Hogg and his deputies. The family comedy show offers a dine-in service with meals cooked to order as well as theater delights like popcorn and candy and spirits for the adults.

The Magic of Terry Evanswood

The Magic of Terry Evanswood gatlinburg tn

What’s a dine-in show without a little magic? Terry Evanswood and his enigmatic illusions will dazzle you will as you feast on cooked-to-order small meals and appetizer choices. The show features sleight of hand alongside comedy and exciting music to create a memorable show experience.

Hit Parade

hit parade dinner show gatlinburg tn

Music lovers must see the Hit Parade at The Grand Majestic Theater in Pigeon Forge. Top tunes from the ‘50s and ‘60s are featured in this jukebox review. Sing along to hits by Buddy Holly, The Four Seasons, The Shirelles, Mary Wells, Chuck Berry, The Chordettes, The Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley. The show features gorgeous costumes and exciting dancing from the era, too. As with most shows at this venue, small meals and appetizers are cooked to order to enjoy during the show.

Soul of Motown

soul of motown gatlinburg tn dinner show

If Motown is more your speed, the Soul of Motown has all your favorites such as Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Drifters, The Four Tops, and more. The tribute artists use their talents to capture the harmonies and showmanship of the genre and time period, all while you relax with an appetizer or your favorite drink.

If you enjoyed our list of the best dinner shows in Gatlinburg, you’ll love our list of best places to eat in Gatlinburg TN!

Here at Rental Cabins In Gatlinburg, we’re all about providing you with the best options available.

If you’re planning a trip to Tennessee, you’ve got to check out the best places to stay in Gatlinburg!

things to do for adults in gatlinburg tn

Things To Do In Gatlinburg For Adults

From outdoor adventure to indulging in local moonshine, there are plenty of things to do in Gatlinburg for adults all year long.

While the area has gorgeous landscapes to explore, your indoor options are just as exciting, making the area a top spot for people of all backgrounds, preferences, and tastes.

Here are a few ideas to consider for your next trip.

Take To The Sky

hot air balloon rides gatlinburg tennessee

Image provided by @airtennessee via Twitter

One of the most thrilling things to do in Gatlinburg for adults is to fly high over some of the most exciting sites.

Between the Great Smoky Mountains and miles of farmlands to Dollywood, a helicopter or balloon ride over Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is a great way to see the landscape with your partner or friends.

If you like heights but don’t want to fly, try the Aerial Tramway, a 120-passenger tramway 11,000 feet above the ground that transports guests over two miles from downtown to the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area.

Sip Some Spirits

adult things to do gatlinburg tn moonshine

Image provided by knoxnews

Looking for a bit of good ol’ fashioned moonshine? The Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery’s Holler location has you covered.

With traditional and unique flavors, the distillery features a tour of how the spirits are made and provides plenty of samples to try.

You can also take home your favorite, like Apple Pie moonshine. If wine and beer are more your speed, the area has some of the top wineries and breweries around, such as Little Bear Winery, Tennessee Homemade Wines, and Tennessee Cider Company.

The Smoky Mountain Brewery offers a delicious menu to taste while you try their extensive list of beers.

Try Ole Red

ole-red things to do gatlinburg

Image provided by smokymountains.com

Did you know Blake Shelton has a restaurant and watering hole for adults in Gatlinburg?

The location’s top-notch menu features delectable choices such as the Redneck Nachos and Champagne of Fried Chicken.

Wash it down with specialty cocktails and beer while watching up and coming country stars sing their hearts out on stage.

Get Out In Nature

gatlinburg tennesee things to do for adults

Miles of beautiful landscape are at your disposal in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the scenic views are a must when it comes to things to do in Gatlinburg for adults.

Hiking trails, tours of historic buildings, white water rafting, and other exciting excursions are all available.

You may even get an up-close glimpse at some of the wildlife of the region like the black bear.

Visit Dolly

dollywood gatlinburg adult things to do

Image provided by Dollywood.com

While Gatlinburg has plenty of amusement parks for kids, there is a special place that the older crowd can enjoy, too.

Dollywood is right next store in Pigeon Forge and offers a water park, thrill rides, dining, and dinner shows like Dolly Parton’s Stampede, where 32 horses and their riders perform extraordinary feats for onlookers.

The resort area offers visitors a spa and you can even book your wedding there!

If you have any questions contact us, we’d love to help you.

White Water Rafting Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg White Water Rafting for the Entire Family

We are often asked by our guests about what types of family fun activities are there to do in the Gatlinburg area. One of the more common questions is about Gatlinburg white water rafting and where you can do it.  I will break it all down for you below so that you get that white knuckle experience you are longing for during your vacation in the Smokies.

Gatlinburg is a really great place to do some white water rafting. All of our rental cabins are 20 to 30 minutes away from all of these attractions, which is a huge plus! No experience is necessary for most of these rafting trips, which means family fun for everyone. The local guides will set up your gear for you and keep you safe during your journey down the river.  Whether you are an experienced rafter, or a first-timer you will find your thrills in Gatlinburg. There are several rivers with class III and IV rapids just minutes away that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping! I will list a few of the companies in the area that offer white water rafting tours and you can decide which one fits you best.

Rafting Outdoor Adventures

Rafting Outdoor Adventures

Rafting Outdoor Adventures is located about a half hour drive east from downtown Gatlinburg. Two of the Gatlinburg white water rafting trips they offer are the Upper Pigeon River and the Lower Pigeon River trips. I will detail them below.

The Upper Pigeon River trip is an exhilarating 2 hour white water rafting experience. You will experience intense class III and IV rapids which sends your heart racing. This rafting adventure is for all people ages  8 and up, and there is no experience necessary. Your guide will assist you throughout your journey and answer any questions you may have during your trip.

The Lower Pigeon River trip is geared more toward younger children and does not take your through those gnarly fast paced rapids. The Lower Pigeon trip is a relaxing 2 hour float trip with predominately calm water throughout. This is perfect for non-swimmers and most children ages 3 and up. You will be introduced to beginner-level class I, II, and III rapids. Safety is the number one goal. Along the way you will have multiple chances to swim in calm, flat water. Personal flotation devices will be provided and you do not need to know how to swim to participate.

Wildwater Rafting

Wildwater Rafting

Wildwater Rafting is a larger company with rafting operations in multiple states. They are also located about 25 miles from Gatlinburg in Hartford, TN. Offered are two rafting trips on the Upper Pigeon River and the Lower Pigeon River. As mentioned above, the lower Pigeon river trip is the more gentle adventure of the two offered. The Upper Pigeon River trip is where you will find your class III and IV rapids. Some of these rapids have names such as Double Reactionary, Roller Coaster, and Big Rock!

A canopy tour and zip-line that traverses the Big Pigeon River is an another activity you can do while visiting Whitewater Rafting. They offer two zip-line options, with one going across the river and another traveling through the forest treetops.

Jeep Tours are also available if that is your thing. You can take a ride and explore wildlife, back-roads, and historic sites from the comfort of a Jeep.

Rip Roaring Adventures

Rip Roaring Adventures

Rip Roaring Adventures has been in business for over 20 years. They are also located about a half hour east of Gatlinburg. They offer the same types of Gatlinburg white water rafting trips as the other companies above. They have a shower and a changing facility available on site. For the people in your group who may just want to watch the action, they have a picnic area and a fire-pit to sit around and relax.

Be sure to leave the flip-flops at home. Secure footwear is required for any of the rafting adventures. Wet-suit rentals are also available on-site.

Smoky Mountain Outdoors

Smoky Mountain Outdoors Rafting

Smoky Mountain Outdoors offers all of the same types of rafting trips as other companies in the area. They also have a couple of different options the others do not offer.

Extreme Upper River Rafting is a high intensity Gatlinburg white water rafting adventure. It is available to anyone ages 12 and up. Previous rafting experience is highly recommended for this trip. Each 4-person raft will experience intense rapids, hydraulics, and big waves. If you want to take yourself to the limit check out this one out!

Inflatable Kayaking is a different type of activity also offered on the Lower Pigeon River. All of the trips are guided, and everyone has their own kayak.  Anyone participating must be at least 12 years old, and the ability to swim is required. Inflatable Kayaks are designed for the inexperienced or experienced alike. You will learn how to enter and exit rapids, surfing, spinning, and sliding in your kayak.

This list is not a full list of white water rafting companies in Gatlinburg, but hopefully it will give you a starting point. Be sure to read online reviews about  the company you choose to take you on your adventures. Online reviews are the best way to evaluate the level of service each company provides their clients.

Hikes, Waterfalls, and Quiet Walkways

We often get questions about what trail to hike , where to see waterfalls, where to picnic, etc…in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (GSMNP) I am going to share some of the places we have experienced, and hopefully it will answer some of your questions.  BUT! If you have a question and don’t find your answer,  please email us and we will do our best to find an answer for you.

I have only hiked a fraction of the 800 miles of trails in the Smokies, but I will do my best to share what I do know. I have children that accompany me on most hikes, so I haven’t been able to do many long ones. My 13 yr old isn’t big on hikes, she’s my city girl. My 7 yr old loves them and her longest hike so far was almost 5 miles.

Safety

Let someone know where you will be for the day and what time to expect your return. There is no cellular service within the park boundaries. You can not simply call to let them know you need help, or if you will be running late.

Please prepare for your hike, BRING WATER, know your abilities, and pack accordingly. REI has a great day hiking checklist.

Please read over some bear safety tips.

It is dangerous to play in the waterfalls and/or pools beneath. Deaths have occurred, caused by slipping on the rocks or jumping into unknown waters and causing head and neck injuries.

Check out the park’s page to get up to date information about trail closing, and weather updates along with another info about the National Park.

On to my hiking experiences…

Middle Prong Trail

Baskins Creek Falls 

I have hiked to Baskins Creek Falls once. It is, in my option, an underrated waterfall. Baskins Creek Falls is a beautiful 40 ft, two tier waterfall. The trail is less crowded, the hike is rated easy. The trail is accessed from Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The trail-head is around 0.2 miles after the one way stretch of the motor nature trail starts. When I hiked Baskins Creek Trail it was just to hike through the woods for a little while. I met a gentleman on the way in and asked if there was anything worth seeing if I kept going, he informed me there was a waterfall. I can’t say I would have hiked to the falls if I hadn’t known it was there waiting for me. I still can not find any information about this particular waterfall on the GSMNP website, even on their waterfalls page. They mention Mingo Falls, which is not within the park boundaries, but nothing about Baskins Falls, which is located in one of the busiest tourist areas within the park.

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls is a rather popular spot. The round trip distance is about 2.5 miles. The trail actually runs behind the 25′ falls. It is a very refreshing experience to feel the mist behind the falls after the hike up. The trail-head for Grotto Falls is also located off of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail loop. Parking for this trail can be a nightmare as well as Rainbow Falls and Laurel Falls. The lot fills up quick, there are pull offs along the roadside after the parking area, then everyone seems to find places to park. You could end up hiking a 1/4 mile along the road just to get to the trail-head. (Go early if you want to beat the crowd.)

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls IconLaurel Falls is, I would guess, the most popular of all the falls and very crowded. I recommend going very early or during a down time. Unless, you don’t mind the crowds. I like to go when I can enjoy the walk and hear nature and not the normal noises of a busy day back home. To get to and back from the falls it is a 2.6 mile round trip. The trail is paved all the way to the falls. It is easy for stroller and wheel chair access, the trail is however up hill all the way. There is a log bridge with hand rails at the falls, but it is not accessible to wheel chairs and strollers.

Middle Prong Trail

Traveling to the trail-head you may wonder if you have taken a wrong turn. You can enter the Middle Prong Trailpark through the Wears Valley entrance, near Townsend, or head towards Cades Cove and  make a left towards Tremont Institute. After about 2 miles the road turns to gravel for the next 3 miles and dead-ends at the trail-head. This trail is also used by horses, so it is wider than some. It is easy to navigate and runs parallel to Little River. There are multiple waterfalls/cascades, an old car they say has been there since logging days, and lots more to take in.

 

Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls! One of my favorite. You have to drive to the Cherokee side for this one, VERY much worth it. I decided to drive over the mountain and take the short hike. I figured the walk was short, therefore if the waterfall wasn’t spectacular, I wouldn’t have hiked to far to see it.  It is a less than a  1/2 mile trip to get to the towering 120′ falls at the end. There is a small bridge that crosses the bottom of the falls and you are able to stand in front of it and take in the entire falls with all of its splendor. The hike to the falls is a steady climb, it is rated moderate in difficulty. There are stairs during part of the hike. The reaction of my daughter at the age of 3 says it all. We got to the bridge, I told her “here we are” and she responded with “that’s it?” while looking down at the small rocks below the bridge. I told her to look up and her response changed drastically. “WHHHOOOOAAAAA!” One of those “to remember” moments. Mingo Falls is simply breath taking…. go see it.

Rainbow Falls

I hiked to Rainbow Falls 10 years ago with my younger brother and no children. I haven’t tried it with the kids yet. We started around 8 am and returned around 4 pm. It is a 5.4 mile round trip. At the end you are rewarded with an 80 ft waterfall. We hiked at a leisurely pace and took everything in. The hike is up hill all the way, to the falls.  It has 2 log bridges to cross, a small waterfall along the way with a sitting bench, great place to sit and have a snack before continuing on. Rainbow Falls is a very popular hike, the parking lot, as well as, the sides of the road fill up fast with vehicles.

Quiet Walkways

Quiet WalkwaysThere are multiple stops along Newfound Gap Road, from Gatlinburg all the way to Cherokee called Quiet Walkways. I do not have first hand experience with many of these. There is a small booklet at the visitors centers called New Found Gap Road auto tour, you can purchase for $1. It has every quiet walkway, lookout and point of interest listed in order of mile markers.

 

 

Hiking in the Smokies.com  is a go to for me when looking for a trail. They have information on more than 70 trails, and the information they provide is stellar. You can see trail list in alphabetical order, order of difficulty, by location, top 10…and a few more. Each trail has directions to the trail head, a description of the trail itself, including elevation, mileage, and difficulty rating. There is also lots of great information at the park’s visitors centers. They have small brochures on many different hot spots in the GSMNP. They do cost $1-2 each, but full of good info.

Other Helpful Information

If you need gear, GSM Outfitters is my new go-to Outdoor store. It is a small locally owned business. The owners are very knowledgeable and eager to help. They have clothing, gear, accessories and a coffee shop. They offer a military discount on your purchases, and often have sales.

If you are looking for a guided hike with a very knowledgeable naturalist, try Just Get Outdoors. Owned and operated by Liz Domingue, I have been on a few excursions with Liz and have learned an abundance of facts on each one. She offers planned hikes, over night trips, small groups, or one on one hikes. A little info about the owner Liz from her website:

“Liz  has over 30 years of experience as a naturalist, educator, wildlife biologist, photographer, and writer. She received her M.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology from the University of Florida in 1995 and her B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Cornell University in 1987. She is trained in CPR and is certified by The National Registry as a Wilderness First Responder.”

 

PicnicsPicnics

There are hundreds of picnic spots with in the National Park. I tend to pull up a rock and have my lunch. Sometimes in the middle of a river, other times I snack on the side of a cliff. If you are looking for something with a table, Greenbrier area has a nice picnic area, it is located off of Hwy 321 towards Cosby. Chimney Tops Picnic area has many tables, it is around mile 6 on New Found Gap Road. The number one thing to remember when picnicking, LEAVE THE AREA AS YOU FOUND IT! (or cleaner) All trash, goes with you or in one of the bear proof trash cans provided by the park. A fed bear is a dead bear. Bears start to relate humans with food and start to look toward humans when hungry. This causes the bears to be aggressive sometimes when hungry. If the animal places it’s mouth on a human, leaving marks or not the bear must be euthanized. Black bears are one of the many things people want to see when visiting the Smokies, leave your picnic area looking like you were never there.

I hope this helps some of you when making trying to make a decision on where to hike, walk, picnic, or just get grounded. Be safe out there and do your part to keep yourselves and our wildlife safe.

 

Safe and Happy Travels,

Sarah

The Chimney Tops 2 wildfire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Chris Higgins Photography.

How the Gatlinburg Wildfires Affected Us.

Gatlinburg Wildfires

On November 28, 2016 the perfect storm formed over the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This is our story on how the Gatlinburg wildfires affected us. The wildfire started in the Chimney Tops and spread to cover 11,000 acres in the park itself. Drought conditions and extreme winds caused the wildfire to grow rapidly. Wind reached gusts over 80 mph, these winds carried embers and knocked down electric poles starting fires in multiple places in and around Gatlinburg. The National Park Service has the Park’s complete story here.

Receiving the News

On Monday November 28, 2016 I received a text alert, at 8:45 pm. It said there was a smoke alarm going off inside Roaring Fork. I immediately called Chris. He pulled up our security cameras and we watched as our log home and the entire street burned. We watched until all the cameras went offline and sat helpless over 200 miles away as one of our dreams burned to the ground. Both of us were in shock and couldn’t imagine what we would find in the end. We were thankful we still had a place to go, Bella Vista. We sat together quietly that night, not really knowing what to say to each other.

Four hours later we received another text that smoke alarms at Bella were now being set off. Multiple calls came in from the alarm service as each door and window sensor inside Bella Vista melted.

Not knowing how bad things really were, we contacted the fire department and never thought we would reach an emergency service so over whelmed they had no idea what to tell us. Nothing could be done. The fire had reached so many homes the fire department was speechless. The size of the fire was unimaginable. No one was prepared for the wind to pick up and carry it down the mountains to homes.

Seeing the damage

Emergency services allowed home owners back into the area at the end of the week.  There was one way in and cars were backed up for miles. It easily took 2 hours once in line to get into the restricted area. The devastation was mind-blowing. I can not describe the smell or my emotions as we drove into our beloved town as it was still smoking.

Roaring Fork
Roaring Fork

Roaring Fork Lodge before the fire.

We went to the site of Roaring Fork first. The property is at the end of a road lined by cabins, some belonging to locals we call friends. As we drove toward the end of the road, everything was gone. There were only black holes left with smoke slowly rising above each empty space where each cabin once stood. Before the fires,  I always looked forward to rounding the corner and seeing MY cabin sitting above the river below, one of my favorite sites. On this day as we drove down the road and rounded that corner, the space was empty.  What was once my pride and joy that I loved sharing with all of you, now an empty black hole as well. Many memories were made there by my family and many others.

I am a “stuff” person. My things have great meaning to me. Staring into a hole with all of our things melted and distorted into piles of blackened soot was debilitating to me. It was all just stuff, but it was our stuff. We worked and saved for all of these things, each piece having a story or memory behind it.

Seeing the Damage

Roaring Fork after the fire.

Hope

I want to share one experience I had that day. It made me feel that in the end it would all be OK. The temperature was in the low 50’s on that Friday and there was no sign of life, except the people looking at what was left of their lives. I hadn’t noticed a bird or even an insect. Then, as I stood there, a butterfly flew right in front of my face and landed on the dirt next to me. I squatted down and it stayed as if it was telling me it would be OK. Then, just as it came, it flew back into the black and gray forest. From what I have read, butterflies usually don’t fly around in less than 60 degree weather. I held on to that moment as we left and started to see the damage at our other home away from home.

Bella Vista
Bella Vista

Bella Vista before the fire.

Bella Vista is at the top of a small mountain with about 12 other cabins down below. As we entered Laurel Oaks Resort, it looked similar to the rest of the properties. Each structure a smoking black hole in the ground. All but one cabin was gone in the entire development. It still amazes us that every house burned except for one. After seeing all the damage around the resort, turning into Bella’s driveway and seeing only the mountain view remaining really didn’t surprise me. Once again we stood over a hole and looked at what remained. As Chris and I let it all sink in, we realized Bella still had one thing that could not be taken away… the view.

Bella Vista

Bella Vista after the fire.

After staring into a black hole and recognizing melted pieces of the belongings that were now only memories, we departed and wouldn’t return until January as we started planning the rebuilds.

It is truly amazing the damage a fire can do. As we walked through the remains we would recognize pieces and were able to identify items. Things also surprised us as we were looking though. The dishes in the dish washer were unharmed. some had broken when the dishwasher fell from the second story, but other than that they were in almost perfect condition. Any ceramic items, pottery, were only covered in soot. One small vase still sat on top the hot water heater where I had put it one day while cleaning.

Since that day in January we have rebuilt Bella Vista, purchased 3 more properties and are currently working on Roaring Fork’s rebuild. Roaring Fork will once again be my pride and joy, and I can not wait to share it with you and hear of the memories you make.

In the End

The wildfire ended up killing 14 people and injuring 190 more. Damage caused by the fire was estimated at over $500 million.  Over 2460 structures were damaged or destroyed and 17,136 acres were burned.

I have heard so many stories from families that break my heart and I can not imagine losing my forever home. My heart goes out to each family who lost everything. Many families and home owners have started to rebuild or have completely rebuilt as of now.

 

Main Image Photo: The Chimney Tops 2 wildfire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Chris Higgins Photography.

Family-Rotated

Who are we?

Hello everyone!

I wanted to take this time and use my first blog post to introduce myself and my family to you. I’m Sarah, my husband is Chris, we have 3 beautiful girls, 3 dogs, 1 cat, 1 hamster and 5 ferrets! Our furry friends outnumber the people in our family! I’m going to share with you “Our Journey” from our first visit to Gatlinburg to present day.

Our first visits and Roaring Fork

The first time I visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was in 1992, on my very first family vacation at the age of 13. I fell in love with the mountains. I fell further in love on my second trip, when Chris and I spent our short honeymoon in Gatlinburg in 2006. While Chris and I were there, we talked about how we should buy a cabin some day. I cemented my love for Gatlinburg after spending a rained out “camping trip” (spent in rental cabins) with my little brother Sean.

As time passed, we started our family. We had our first daughter, and did most of our traveling to visit family . After having our youngest daughter, we visited again, and, yet again, spoke about buying, only this time just a few months after Chris showed me the listing for Roaring Fork Lodge. It was beautiful, and we made the decision to buy it.  Me, an Army veteran with no other work experience, and Chris, previously a produce manager for Winn Dixie, had grown our first small business large enough to buy our own cabin in the mountains. Little did we know, the was the first step on the path to our second small business.

Purchasing the cabin went smoothly enough, and after a short time, and a little red tape, it was finally ours! I was amazed with the view from Roaring Fork’s deck, and even the cabin itself was breathtaking. After enjoying it for ourselves, we spent months after the purchase getting it ready to share with all of you. It didn’t take much, just some cleaning and a few safety musts.

Front view Roaring fork Lodge

Roaring Fork Lodge before the wildfires.

Bella Vista

Roaring Fork, our beloved home away from home, was doing so well we decided to buy a second cabin, Bella Vista. The view at Bella was spectacular, CHECK THAT OUT!!  I took this photo with my iPhone. I had nothing to do with it of course, the beauty was provided for me.  Chris and I had made it happen. Not one property but two. I loved both cabins and loved sharing my special places with all of you.

Still riding high on our latest purchase, and setting Bella Vista up for rentals, tragedy struck. The Gatlinburg Wildfires took both of our beloved properties. I have a separate post, “How the Gatlinburg  Wild Fires Affected Us” if you would like to read our story.

Bella Vista Mountian view Gatlinburg

 The mountain view at Bella Vista from any of the 4 private decks. You can see downtown Gatlinburg in the valley.

 

Starting Over

Star Dancer

As we began planning the rebuilds and waited for things to start moving, we decided we needed a headquarters during the rebuilds, and a place to continue doing what we loved to do. We found Star Dancer in 2017.

Star Dancer was in great shape. The previous owner took very good care of the home and his guests. It was ready to go after some repairs  from wind damage caused by the storms that spread the wildfires.

Once back in shape, Star Dancer did not disappoint! I was floored by an even better mountain view. The previous owner explained to me from the deck you can see the mountains in North Carolina all the way left, and all the way to the right was  Mt. Leconte, the tallest mountain in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Beautiful right?!

Star Dancer Mountain View

Panoramic view from Star Dancer’s deck. North Carolina mountains to Mt. Leconte.

Laurel Creek Hideaway

Laurel Creek came into the picture because Chris gets an itch every few years and sends me a cabin listing…he  is always ready to buy once I get the listing. This property was an easy decision for me. It does not have a mountain view, but it has its own special feature. The creek! The creek was completely hidden when we viewed the listing. When we viewed the actual property it was the first thing I heard and went to. Immediately I envisioned the bridge and picnic area. I go into the creek barefoot every time I’m there, no matter the temperature. You can hear the creek running by from the bottom bedroom closest to it. On days it rains, it’s louder and on days it pours you can stand outside and hear the rocks tumbling under the rush of water.

Exterior Repairs

Laurel Creek  (formally known as Lion’s Den) was in desperate need of some love when we finally got it. We worked hard to get it ready. We had the exterior freshly stained, new deck posts installed for stability, we  couldn’t have anyone falling off the deck!  The creek was completely grown over, so we had brush cleared and the creek opened up. A split rail fence was added along the driveway and a bridge across the creek leading to a picnic area with grills and a fire pit.

Interior Repairs

We had the entire main floor refinished and added new living room furniture. We bought new arcade games  for the bunk room and game room floor. The kitchen was restocked with new supplies and appliances. We replaced the washer and dryer and even removed the flying squirrels from the attic….and the bats. As much as we like critters we couldn’t let them live with all of you. No animals were harmed in this process! We called in professionals and they blocked all entrances except one, caught the exiting animals in a trap and released them. The experts permanently blocked all holes/entrances and trimmed away any branches that could be used to get to the roof.

Laurel has a special place with me simply because of all the work we put into it. It is our largest cabin, sleeping up to 22. It is nestled in the woods in a secluded area, with its own creek and picnic spot.

"<yoastmark

Smoky Mountain Sunrise

Smoky Mountain Sunrise is our most recent purchase. It is not a traditional style log cabin. The exterior is masonite siding, which I wasn’t too sure about at first. It was different. It was a brand new home. The owners had just rebuilt after losing the original home to the wildfire. Once I arrived in one piece after the steep driveway accent, and saw the care and love that had been put into this rebuild I started to feel differently, despite my initial hesitations. The view didn’t hinder my decision in any way.

Mountain View Smoky Mountain Sunrise

 View from the rear of the cabin, at the start of the flagstones staircase leading to the fire pit.

A Small Description

The exterior has been landscaped with a huge flagstone stair case and fire pit. The interior is beautifully done in dark flooring with accents on the walls and ceilings to compliment them. The two car garage is great when coming in at night, you never know if a bear will decide to say hello. For me it feels safer all the way around.

Frequent Visitors

When purchasing Smoky, one piece of information was not in the signing documents. The bear traffic at this place is crazy! We have watched a family of 5 grow up on our security cameras. Mama Bear and her 4 cubs have used the drive way as a path since the spring. There have been multiple sitings of a rather large guy just passing through, and even a frisky juvenile trying his luck at our empty ice chest on the deck.

During one visit I decided to get up before everyone and see if I could catch a glimpse of a bear just passing through. I waited on the deck for almost 2 hours starting at dawn. I finally gave up and cut my losses. Not 3 minutes later, the juvenile bear was on the deck and walked right to the chair I had been sitting in! We met eyes at the same time and freaked! I grabbed the camera and he tight rope walked the deck rail and climbed down the post. You can see the video here.

Bears are great to watch from a distance, but always stay a smart distance and NEVER leave food or trash out for the bears. If they relate humans to food it only hurts the bears. A fed bear is a dead bear. Read more in my soon to come Bear Talk post.

Summing it up

Chris and I love sharing our spaces with you, and we try our best to make  it feel like home away from home for our guests. We truly hope all of you can make wonderful memories and hope that you share them with us on our Facebook Page. We are very grateful for each and every one of you, we couldn’t do what we love to do without you all.

Happy and safe travels,

Sarah

 

WordPress Lightbox Plugin