Gatlinburg Old Growth Forest Tour

Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Trail

Within a few short minutes of the hustle and bustle, stop and go of the Parkway in Gatlinburg, you can drive through one of the most beautiful areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is an absolute must during your vacation at Carr’s Northside Cottages.

Roaring Fork Nature Trail Drive and Hikes

Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

From the downtown Parkway, you will enter the trail from stoplight #8 at Airport Rd. The 5.5-mile one-way road ends less than ½ a mile from Carr’s Northside Cottages. The driving trail is open from May 1 – November 30, 2015.

If the weather cooperates, plan to take your drive after a good rain. The streams and waterfalls will be at their best when Gatlinburg has gotten a good soak. Rather than putting a damper on a vacation, this time some rain will greatly enhance the experience!

Take the opportunity to learn a little bit about real mountain culture when you tour the Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead. This self-guided nature trail will offer a glimpse of two key attributes of the Smokies: the beauty of the developed forest and the simple ingenuity of the Appalachian farmer.

Bud Ogle Log Cabin and Farmstead

Noah “Bud” Ogle Log Cabin

If you’re still in the mood for walking after the nature trail, you can tackle two great hikes along the driving trail. You can stop at the Rainbow Falls trailhead, 5.4-mile moderately strenuous hike. The Grotto Falls hike, further along on the driving trail, is also worth the walk. While easier than the Rainbow Falls trails, you’ll still want to be prepared for this moderate 3 mile round trip hike. If you choose either of the treks, be sure to wear appropriate footgear and take along water and snacks.

Of course, Roaring Fork can also be enjoyed as a quiet, leisurely drive through some old growth forest. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to pull off of the road to admire the scenery and to take lots of photos. You can see log cabins, gristmills, and other historic buildings.

That’s part of the appeal of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail: you can approach in a way that suits your needs. Drive through as much as you want or get out and explore at every opportunity. You can always come back another day to see anything you might have missed the first time through.

Save a Bundle with Ripley’s Attractions

Big Savings on Gatlinburg Fun

If you’re looking for activities to keep the whole family busy during your visit to Carr’s Northside Cottages, you’ll be able to fill up a whole week with trips to all of the Ripley’s Attractions. You save a lot when you bundle your tickets, so plan to take in several options.

Most people will want to start with passes to Ripley’s Aquarium, and the bundle packages start there as well. The largest of the Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg, the Aquarium is indeed one of the most visited spots in the region. This 1.4 million gallon aquarium features over 10,000 denizens of the deep. Gaze in wonder as you glide along the moving walkway through the underwater tunnel; the sharks slip right over your head. Be sure to check out the new Swarm exhibit and get a free fish manicure. That’ll be a new experience! Allow for at least two hours to see all that the aquarium has to offer.

Ripleys Gatlinburg Attractions Tickets

Bundle Ripley’s Attractions for Big Savings

If the countless exotic sea creatures don’t slake your thirst for the unusual, you should head over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, home to all things weird and wonderful. Spanning 3 floors with 16 themed galleries taking up 12,500 square feet of exhibit space, the Odditorium is certain to be both educational and entertaining.

After all the walking around at the Aquarium and Odditorium, you might be ready for a sit-down. Don’t expect to relax too much at the Moving Theater, though. You’ll strap in for a thrilling 5D movie adventure with motion seats and digital effects to enjoy one of two films: Roadhoggers or Winter Wipeout. You’ve never seen a movie quite like this!

Step back to a leisurely pace as you knock a golf ball around for a bit at Davy Crockett Mini-Golf. This activity is perfect as part of a combo pack because the whole family will love the delightfully themed courses, complete with whimsical animated characters. Play one or both of the two 18-hole courses.

You can get another, even more challenging winding walk at the Mirror Maze. There’s only one way out, but the maze creates the illusion of infinite possibilities. If you get hopelessly lost, don’t worry! Search parties rescue wanderers every half hour. After you successfully exit, celebrate your victory with a candy treat from Ripley’s Candy Factory.

Which family member holds the record for the fastest time through the mirror maze? If you’re a fan of the Guinness Book of World Records, you’ll want to see the records and memorabilia at Guinness World of Records.

When evening rolls around and your energy is dipping, you need the shot of adrenaline that you’ll get when you visit the Haunted Adventure. It’s the #1 haunted house in Gatlinburg, and rightly so, featuring plenty of terrifying live actors in the 10,000 square foot spook house. On second thought, you might not want to make a haunted house your last stop of the day. You’ll want to get a good night’s sleep at Carr’s Northside Cottages before you set out for another day of adventure in Gatlinburg.

Choose Your Gatlinburg Attractions Package

Bundle Up to 8 Attractions

Sweets and Treats in Downtown Gatlinburg

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Gatlinburg covers a lot of ground and you’ll get around most of it on foot. That’s a lot of walking including some of it uphill. You’ll be burning a lot of calories, right? You’re practically exercising on your vacation, so you will have earned yourself a treat or two (or three, or a few, and then some to take home to enjoy later). There’s no better place than Gatlinburg to satisfy a demanding sweet tooth. Three locations in particular will offer you everything you need in the sweets department.

Gatlinburg Fudge Shop, Icecream, Candy

Ice Cream, Apples, Fudge Oh My!

If you can’t quite decide whether you’re in the mood for ice cream or candy, Kilwin’s Chocolates and Ice Cream is your destination. Maybe it’s the middle of a summer afternoon and what you really need is a nice, cold scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. Or maybe you need a fruit snack…just get an apple covered in caramel and you’re good to go. As long as you’re eating fruit, toss a couple of chocolate covered strawberries in too. You’re practically eating health food.

After eating all that fruit, you’ll certainly have the energy to take in a couple of attractions or do some downtown shopping. Before you set out on your trek, be sure to stop at one of the two Aunt Mahalia’s Candies locations for some fudge to take along. Aunt Mahalia’s has been in the business of making delicious fudge for over 50 years; the know what they’re doing. You may want to go ahead and grab some syrup or honey while you’re at Aunt Mahalia’s so back at your Carr’s cottage or cabin you can whip up a yummy pancake breakfast.

Homemade Fudge, Saltwater Taffy Downtown Gatlinburg

Yum-O

Since the early 1950s, visitors to Gatlinburg have been able to take a break from strolling around the parkway by watching the candy being made at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. They have fudge too, but it’s the taffy that they’re known for. Stand mesmerized by the saltwater taffy puller and the wrapping machine as they spin and whir, then go inside and pick out a box of taffy to take home. Get some for your friends. Might as well get a box to eat later today as you make your way back to the motel.

The kids will want some of your candy of course, but they’ll need to get their own won’t they?

You’ve earned this!

Perfect Smoky Mountains Souvenir

Heirlooms from the Arts and Crafts Community

For generations, the mountain community surrounding the Gatlinburg area has been known for its skilled artisans and craftsmen. Visitors can find excellent representations of arts and crafts of all kinds throughout the region, especially in the Great Smoky Arts & Craft Community, part of the Tennessee Heritage Trail. Nowhere else in North America will you find a larger collection of independent artisans than in the community located just a couple of miles from Carr’s Northside Cottages. Originally organized in 1941, the Great Smoky Arts & Craft Community continues to showcase the rich heritage and artistic skills of this vibrant region.

Heirloom Art Pieces for Smoky Mountain Souvenirs

Watching and Helping!

The 8-mile loop that follows Hwy 321, Buckhorn Road, and Glades Road is home to over 100 artisans, artists, craftsmen, and cooks. No matter your particular area of interest, you’ll find something that piques your curiosity along the loop. You’ll see traditional artists of every stripe: potters, weavers, carvers, wood-workers, quilters, jewelers, and candle-makers. Every medium is available too: ceramics, stone, wood, fabric, precious metals, leather, glass, paint, photography and more. Many of the artisans work on site, allowing you to view the creative process as it happens. You can follow the progress of a pot from a lump of clay, to the throwing wheel, to the glaze, to the kiln. Or you can watch carvers shape wood into beautiful forms. Seeing the process allows you to better appreciate the skill and technique that goes into making the objects that function in or decorate our homes.

With so many stores to browse and so many artists to appreciate, you’ll certainly want to allow for a whole day to explore. When you get hungry—and you will—stop in one of the many restaurants located along the loop. Get a taste of the local cuisine for a full sit-down meal or just pick up a snack to eat along the way. Eat ribs, wings, or local trout for a fuller dining experience, or just satisfy your need for a sweet snack with some fudge or ice cream or maybe both!

If you don’t want to drive yourself, just take the Gatlinburg Trolley. For $1 you can ride the Yellow Line Trolley all day, making stops all along the loop. The trolley can be boarded at the Gatlinburg Mass Transit Center at Traffic Light #5 and runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

At the end of your day of exploring crafts loop, you’ll be inspired by the work that you’ve seen and find that just-right piece of art that you can claim as the perfect vacation souvenir and family heirloom.

Experience a Chimney Tops Adventure

A Hike, Climb and Mountain Picnic

Chimney Tops Trail Panoramic Mountain View

Chimney Tops Bare Rock Summit

Just a 20-minute drive from Carr’s Cottages, the Chimney Tops Trail is the perfect place to spend the day. Since it is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Chimneys can get pretty crowded during the warm weather months. From Carr’s, you’ll be close enough that getting an early start will avoid big crowds on the trail. Pack a picnic lunch and head out! Wear hiking shoes with good support and take plenty of water to stay hydrated during the 3.8-mile roundtrip hike. You’ll want to allow a few hours to really enjoy your trek up the mountain and to spend some quality time soaking in the panoramic view that makes the steep end of the trail more than worth the effort.

The recent trail rehabilitation project added plenty of stone stairs to the trail and has improved accessibility. Simply put, it’s one of the best hikes around. Keep an eye out for the abundant plant life along the trail. Notably in May and early June, you can spot Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron. When you get to the top, you’ll get to see one of the few bare rock summits in the Smokies. You’ll find plenty of spots to climb around to get the full experience, but do be careful!

The Chimneys Picnic Spot

Everyone Loves a Chimneys Picnic

Once you’ve conquered the Chimney Tops Trail, travel to the Chimneys Picnic Area located a few miles north of the trailhead. This amazing picnic spot is absolutely beautiful and offers charcoal grills and plenty of easily accessible tables. (Park right at the table, so you don’t need to haul your coolers too far!) When listening to the rushing river, you’ll know you’ve found one of the most relaxing spots in the Park. Eat, read a book, or clamber around on the many massive boulders that stud the river. Splash in the cool mountain water and then flop on a nice, flat rock to dry off.

You can easily spend an entire day enjoying all that the Chimney Tops area has to offer. Actually, you may want to pack more than just a picnic lunch because once you arrive at the picnic area after your hike, you may have a hard time leaving. It really is all THAT! So, stay and play as long as you’d like; Carr’s will be waiting for you when you’re ready to call it a day.

Vacation in Gatlinburg

A Destination for the Generations

Honeymoon, Family Vacation or Family Reunion in Gatlinburg

Multi-Generation Family Vacation

Carr’s Northside Cottages & Motel has been offering a quiet getaway in Gatlinburg for over 70 years. In that time, many a couple has started their lives together by enjoying a honeymoon in one of the many cozy and romantic spaces. The location is perfect for newlyweds as it’s close enough to the attractions of town, yet out of the way enough to allow for plenty of time together without ever leaving the property.

Jacuzzi Suites | Romantic Log Cabin

As young couples enter the next phase of life, Carr’s continues to be a top vacation spot for their growing families. With indoor and outdoor activities nearby from mini golf to hiking to wacky attractions, kids enjoy fun-filled days of excitement in downtown Gatlinburg or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best part, though, is that families find plenty of things to do right here at Carr’s too. One mother explains that staying at Carr’s is “like sitting in your backyard with all of your family.”

Property Amenities | Creekside Motel Rooms

Carr’s offers all the comforts of home AND the anticipated family vacation fun. Property amenities include a level yard for outdoor games, playground, horseshoes and basketball hoop. And what kid doesn’t love to play in the water? Parents can relax poolside in a lounge chair while the kids swim the day away, or pull up a chair by the creek and watch the kids splash and wade.

Family Suites | Vacation Cottages

Once the kids are grown and have kids of their own, Carr’s is where a family vacation becomes a family reunion. With cottages from 1-3 bedrooms in close proximity, multi-generation families can choose several rentals that keep everyone close, yet provide maximum comfort and privacy. (Toddlers can take an uninterrupted afternoon nap while elders can enjoy their “early to rise, early to bed” routines.) Entire families—grandparents, parents, kids and grandkids—can gather together at the picnic pavilion for a ‘new tradition’ family dinner or cookout, and simply enjoy peaceful, quality together time.

When it comes time to explore the National Park, the whole group can visit the same places the newlywed couple did, the trail where the family first hiked, or find the perfect spot for a family reunion photo and reminisce about everyone’s first introduction to the Smoky Mountains.

The family traditions and time spent together at Carr’s Cottages are memories that will be forever cherished. Whether the first Gatlinburg getaway was as a newlywed or doting grandparent, there are many more memories to be made in the years to come.

Kid-Friendly Hikes

Short, Easy Smoky Mountain Hiking Trail

Kid Friendly Hiking Trails Smoky Mountains

Future AT Hikers and Park Advocates

One of the best hikes for families with young kids or elderly members who cannot walk a great distance is the .5 mile (1 mile round-trip) hike to the waterfall on the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail. This trail is an ideal introduction to hiking. Walking sticks and multiple bottles of water are optional, but a camera and taking your time to appreciate the woodland scenery along the shaded trail are a must! Kids may be tempted to run ahead a little ways, but they’ll easily be within eyesight.

This low impact, outdoor adventure will start at the Sugarlands Welcome Center at the Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s approximately 2 miles from downtown Gatlinburg traffic light #10 on US-441. There’s plenty of shaded parking, restroom facilities, picnic tables and a museum. There’s also a 20-minute free movie, but little ones with little attention spans may just be ready to get outside.

Before you head out, take a few minutes to look at the 3-D relief map. This will show everyone just how large the park is and how many more hiking trails are available, so that one day when you are feeling more ambitious ya’ll can hike another.

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail Waterfall

Sugarlands Trail Waterfall

Make use of the restroom facilities and walk right out the door to begin your hike, which actually begins when you step off the Visitor Center sidewalk. The path is wide and level with only a few tree roots to avoid. The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is well traveled, but the waterfall at the end will give everyone a wonderful reward.

While on the trail, be sure to snap a selfie or ask other hikers to trade photography favors. When you arrive back at the Visitor Center, spend as much time as your group will allow. Look at the flora and fauna exhibits, ask a park Ranger about things you saw along the trail, and visit the small gift shop for souvenirs. Besides plenty of books and hiking trail maps, the gift shop has plenty of educational items that will help instill a love of nature and teach your kids to take care of our green space for the future. Every purchase from the gift shop benefits park preservation and is greatly appreciated!

A Cool Down Summer Vacation

Rivers, Mountain Streams, Water Parks and Swimming Pools

If you’re heading to Gatlinburg for summer vacation, it’s likely that you’ll want to enjoy the cool waters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or find attractions that are sure to help you ‘chill out’ and relax on warm weather days.

If that’s the case, you’re in luck as Carr’s Northside Cottages offers convenience to both. Just off East Parkway (Hwy 321) and 3 blocks from downtown Gatlinburg, Carr’s is in a great location giving you easy access to the things to do in the Smokies that include ‘wet, water or river.’

Greenbrier Swimming Hole

Cool Fun at Greenbrier

For natural, nearby places to beat the heat in fresh waters, visit Metcalf Bottoms, Greenbrier, Cades Cove or the Chimney’s. Most of these Great Smoky Mountains National Park recreational areas have abundant picnic tables and restroom facilities as well as shallow water and giant boulders for wading and climbing. The best part of these adventures is that they are self-guided and completely free! Check out these and other wet places to play for free on the National Park Service website.

If you prefer popular water attractions, you can visit the underwater world of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies; paddle around Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Park; or have a wild whitewater river adventure with Rafting in the Smokies. Although these activities aren’t free, you can purchase discount Splash Country tickets at our front desk and other attraction discounts can be found here.

No matter where you go in our area, there are plenty of places to keep everyone in the family engaged, entertained… and refreshed! When you start to plan for water adventures, you can ask our front desk staff for recommendations but don’t be surprised if they say, “Don’t go anywhere.”

The best and most affordable part of your vacation just might be staying put! Head down to Roaring Fork Creek that runs through our hotel property to relax creekside at a table or swing, or wade across the shallow waters and find a big rock on which to sit. Prefer to be poolside? There are lounge chairs and umbrella tables right next to the heated swimming pool and wading pool.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? You won’t when you stay at Carr’s. Affordable, friendly, and THEE place to cool down.

Carrs Cottages Roaring Fork Creek and Hotel Swimming Pool

Roaring Fork Creek, Swimming Pool, Wading Pool and Hot Tub Onsite

Free Family Fun Vacation Activity

Little River Railroad and Lumber Company

Carr’s Cottages prides ourselves on not only offering affordable vacations, but also for being knowledgeable about the sights and activities in the Gatlinburg area that will help you have a great family vacation.  You’re going to like this!

One unique, family-friendly activity is The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum. Founded in the Smoky Mountains in 1901 by Col. W. B. Townsend, the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company (LRRC) built 150 miles of track and sawed over 2 billion board feet of timber before becoming part of the newly formed Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 1939.

Imagine the fun your kids will have pretending to be passengers or a conductor on the museum’s outdoor displays consisting of a 1909 Shay 2147 engine, a Frick steam engine, “Little Woody – a vintage caboose car, original flatcars, and a log loader. Inside the museum, housed in the original Walland TN Depot building moved to this site, are over 200 enlargements of vintage photographs, papers, tools, exhibits and small artifacts.  Don’t miss seeing the authentic “setoff” house – a movable block-like dwelling that workers lived in that could be picked up, placed on a flat car, and “set off” at the next working site.  We’d say that this is truly the first of “mobile” homes.

Each year, the The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum celebrates Railroad Days.  This year’s event is Saturday, September 27 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  Activities include museum tours, hand car rides, walking tour of old Townsend and Tremont.

Townsend TN Fall Festival Railroad Days

Railroad Days
Saturday, September 27

There is never a museum admission fee, but it does operate on donations and sales from the Gift Shop, which is housed in a replica of the early Elkmont Post Office.  Visit The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend on US 321 near the west entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  If you can’t make it for their Railroad Days, visit anytime during these dates and hours:

 
June, July, August, October
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday:  1 – 5 p.m.

April, May, September, November
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday:  1 – 5 p.m.

December – March
By Appointment Only

When you stay with Carr’s, you are on the right track to having a great family vacation!

Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum
7747 East Lamar Alexander Pkwy., Townsend
865.448.2211 | www.littleriverrailroad.org

Where to Take Family Photos

Gatlinburg Family Vacation Photo Ops

Family Vacation Photos in Gatlinburg

Share Your Vacation Photos with Us!

Family vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains are often about capturing special times with your family, and whether you plan for it or it happens by accident, everyone leaves with memories.  Bring your camera, bring your phone, or bring your camcorders because the scenic value of your memories will be something to capture and write home about.   Unlike the fisherman who hoards the location of their secret fishing hole, we’re giving you the scoop on a few choice family photo spots that are scenic vistas, points of interest, or of historical importance.

Gatlinburg never disappoints to provide scenic family photo ops.  You will find the most spectacular view of Gatlinburg and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains from the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook on the Gatlinburg Bypass.  Along this route you’ll have a birds eye view of downtown.  Be mindful of traffic and use one of the convenient pull off areas to fully appreciate the scene and get the perfect shot!

On a hot day consider the Roaring Fork Nature Trail, located about a mile outside Gatlinburg. The Roaring Fork Nature Trail is a 6-mile loop that will take you along some waterfalls!  Rainbow Falls stand’s 80 feet tall and provides a 5.4-mile roundtrip hike and is considered moderate to difficult.  The Rainbow Falls Trail continues for approximately 4 miles beyond the falls to the summit of Mount Le Conte.  Grotto Falls, a picturesque 25′ waterfall is the spot of a thousand drips.

For historical and wildlife photos, Cades Cove is the place to go.  Arrive early to get the best experience, as it’s early in the morning that animals are moving and haven’t had a moment to tuck themselves out of travelers view.  Take your time along the one-way tour as Cades Cove is home to a working gristmill, barns, primitive churches, and many cabins that were used by the first settlers.  Pull aside to allow those in a hurry to pass because you don’t want to miss an opportunity view wild flowers, a wild turkey, deer or even a black bear!

Even with all the beautiful backdrops throughout the Smokies, the best place to take your vacation photos is right outside your door at Carr’s Cottages!  With our park-like setting, playground, babbling brook and two swimming pools, there’ll be plenty of family fun to photograph.  We hope you’ll share your photos with us on Facebook because some of OUR best memories are the pictures of YOUR memories at Carr’s Cottages.

Amy