Smoky Mountains Guided Tours

Guided Excursions in the National Park

Once you’re settled into your Gatlinburg cabin or motel room at Carr’s Northside, that home-away-from-home you choose for your Smoky Mountain getaway, it will be time to turn to the local experts for ways to maximize fun in these hills! Thousands of people take guided tours through the National Park every year because it’s the best way to experience the joys of this one-of-a-kind place.

Cades Cove TN Guided Tours

Tour Cades Cove and the GSM Heritage Center

Cades Cove Heritage Tours
A visitor making a very casual drive through Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will understand immediately that the place is teeming with reminders of its rich cultural history. From old-fashioned churches and decades-old graveyards to log cabin home sites, the Cove is a trip back in time. If you’d like to get the full flavor of the extensive and very interesting history of the area, which served as a hunting ground for the Cherokee and was settled in the early 1800s, as well as information about the abundant wildlife and other natural wonders in Cades Cove, it might be a good idea to sign on for a tour guided by Cades Cove Heritage Tours. Tours depart from the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, located on Cromwell Drive, just off of East Lamar Alexander Parkway (the main thoroughfare in Townsend, Tennessee, a popular entrance to the GSMNP). You can buy tickets there or online at cadescoveheritagetours.org for $15 just the Cades Cove Tour or $18 for the Cades Cove Tour + Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Museum. There is no charge for children ages five and under. Call (865) 448-8838 for more information. Find out what all of the fuss is about surrounding the beautiful mountain valley known as Cades Cove TN. Be sure to bring your camera and a good set of binoculars if you can, though wildlife is often spotted very close to the eleven-mile scenic loop road. Bears, deer and wild turkey are abundant.

Rocky Top Tours of the GSMNP

Guides Tours by Local Experts

Rocky Top Tours
If you’d like to see some of the best views in the park, get some great photos and make new friends all while learning the history and ecology of the area, take the approximately four-hour tour by Rocky Top Tours known as the “Smoky Mountain Special Tour.” Ditch the anxiety of driving unfamiliar mountain roads and let Rocky Top do the heavy lifting while you relax and soak in the sights. This tour features the Sugarlands Visitor Center — where you can browse an interesting gift shop, walk a short hike to see abundant wildflowers in certain seasons, or watch a short film about the GSMNP — plenty of stops at mountain overlooks featuring sweeping vistas, and stops at Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome. Newfound Gap is where the park was dedicated by President Roosevelt and Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the park! On this tour, you’ll feel like you’ve fully experienced this beautiful place! Tickets are $30/adults, $13/children ages 7-15. Children 6 and under are free. Visit rockytoptours.com or call (865) 429-8687 or toll free at 877-315-8687 to learn more about this and other wonderful, comprehensive and educational tours they have to offer.

Smoky Mountains Moonshine Tours

Moonshine and Mountain Tours

Smoky Mountain Guides
Moonshine is synonymous with mountain life, it seems, at least in the lore surrounding these hills. Make your trip to the Smokies complete with your own set of tales to take home after a three-hour “Mountains and Moonshine” guided tour by Smoky Mountain Guides ($45/person). Leave the driving to them and learn all you can about the moonshine culture of the Smokies back in the days of prohibition while enjoying the beauty and serenity of the mountains that cloaked the stills so many decades ago. The tour is capped by a stop at Sugarlands Distilling Company, where you’ll get a taste of the firewater that sparked many a chase through the hills of Tennessee and points beyond! Go to smokymountainguides.com where you may book online or call (865) 654-4545 for more information about this unique opportunity and other comprehensive guided tours by Smoky Mountain Guides.

Birding in the Smokies

A Natural Outdoor Adventure!

Once you get settled in your Carr’s motel room or cottage, take your family on a treasure-hunt-style adventure of bird identification in the Smokies! The 800-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to nearly a quarter of a million different bird species, making it a prime destination for serious birders from all four corners of the globe. Amateurs and pros alike can enjoy hiking some of the park’s diverse trails, logbook and binoculars in hand. Get ready to learn, discover and soak in the beauty and serenity of this gorgeous park.

Birdwatching in the Smoky Mountains

Downy Woodpecker
@Bob Mullen

The most diverse population of birds is found in the lower elevations of the park. There are many family-friendly hiking trails that would allow for endless birding joy. Grab your gear and head onto Schoolhouse Gap trail, located between Townsend, Tennessee and the beautiful Cades Cove region of the park (just head toward Cades Cove and look for the trail sign). Take it slow on this easy hike, which features wildflowers in spring. You’re sure to see or hear a bird on your list! Huskey Gap Trail is another do-able, family friendly adventure that would put you in touch with some of the park’s feathered residents. Keep your eyes and ears wide open! Access this trail outside the Sugarlands Visitor Center. You’ll pass through remnants of old homesteads and, if you come in spring, enjoy a wide variety of mountain wildflowers.
Birds commonly sighted in the southern hardwood regions of the lower elevations of the park include: the Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Song Sparrow, Eastern Screech Owl, Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Wood Thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black-and-White-Warbler, Yellow-rumped-Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Ovenbird, Yellow-throated-Vireo, Louisiana Water Thrush and many, many more.

Birdwatching in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Eastern Bluebird
@Audubon.org

Park in the Cades Cove parking lot and walk or bike the scenic loop. On the way, look for the following interesting birds to be found in the less-common open fields of the Great Smoky Mountains: wild turkey, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, the gorgeous, bright blue and orange Eastern Bluebird and other field-loving species like Killdeer, Eastern Kingbird and Orchard Oriole. Differing seasons offer glimpses at different species, so be sure to bring your favorite Birds of Tennessee guidebook.

For the more adventurous, there are wonderful hikes to be enjoyed in the higher elevations of the National Park, where an entirely different spate of wild bird species thrives. The climate in these regions is similar to parts of Canada. Up in that rarefied air, hikes can yield both beautiful views as well as interesting bird-watching! Some popular hikes include Mt. LeConte by way of Alum Cave Trail, the Andrews Bald area by way of the Forney Ridge Trail (accessed in the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, this trail takes you through a spruce forest) and Chimney Tops.

The forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are alive with the music of birds. Visit Macaulay Library to learn the sounds of the birds you’ll be listening for.  Happy birding!

Pigeon Forge Wilderness Wildlife Week 2016

Outdoor Adventures, Seminars and Demonstrations

If you love nature, the Smoky Mountains, and hiking in these gorgeous hills, make plans to dive into Wilderness Wildlife Week 2016 held May 18-22 at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge.

Wilderness Wildlife Week Pigeon Forge Event

Wilderness Wildlife Week May 18-22, 2016

There will be hikes for all skill levels as well as other educational activities for children and adults alike. Participants will have a chance to hear lectures on a wide range of topics from the area’s rich history to the beauty and diversity of plant and animal life here. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 65 species of mammals and 200 varieties of birds. Seven-hundred miles of pristine mountain streams create an outstanding habitat for the 67 native species of fish.

2016 Outdoor Adventures Schedule

Outdoor Activities Schedule

Young people are usually excited to find that the Smokies have been dubbed the “Salamander Capital of the World.” Thirty species of this creature slither, crawl and hide in the leafy recesses and babbling brooks of the park. There is a total of 80 types of reptiles and amphibians in our National Park.
Come see indigenous wildlife up close and in person at the LeConte Center during Wilderness Wildlife Week! You can also learn more about fly-fishing and other ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the GSMNP. Buy outdoor gear or a handmade craft from the vendors on-hand or simply enjoy soaking in the knowledge, music, history and fun of this awesome week.

When planning your stay in the Smokies for Wilderness Wildlife Week, book a cabin, cottage or motel room at Carr’s Northside, boasting its own park setting. Never hiked before? Now is the time to start. Gather information at the LeConte Center during the week and head out onto one of the Great Smoky Mountains many wonderful trails. You’ll have plenty of potential geography to choose from, ranging from trails that lead to waterfalls, to hikes with expansive mountain views, to treks through beautiful old-growth forests that leave your soul feeling refreshed and quieted. Whether you take a guided hike as part of the week’s organized events or choose to head out on your own, you’ll be glad you did.

Visit the Official Wilderness Wildlife Week Web Site

Nothing says Great Smoky Mountains wildlife like “Black Bear!”

Spring & Summer Sunset Concert Series – Townsend TN

Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

If you’re going to spending some time at Carr’s Northside this summer, you’re invited to grab your lawn chair and gather at the amphitheater at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend TN. This concert series takes place throughout the summer and brings a variety of musical venues to the Smokies.

Concerts begin at 7 p.m. and are free to GSMHC members and children under age 5 and a nominal cost for non-members. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase and therefore no coolers are allowed.

Spring and summer concerts take place in all weather as the amphitheater is covered! Plan to kick back and enjoy these performers on these Friday nights:

2016 Spring Sunset Concert Series

April 29: Pistol Creek Catch of the Day
Americana and Rockabilly music featuring guitar, fiddle, doghouse bass, tenor banjo, mandolin, maybe a ukulele and an assortment of percussion instruments, whistles and squeaky toys.

GSMHC Sunset Concert Series

Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Townsend TN

May 13: Steve Rushingwind
Native American Flute

2016 Summer Sunset Concert Series

June 17: Blue Mother Tupelo
Genre: Stomp and Sway Southern Soul

June 24: Acoustic Eidolon
Contemporary Acoustic on Cello and Double Neck Guitarjo

July 8: Early Morning String Dusters
“Party” Bluegrass Band combining fast-paced picking and comedic parodies of classic tunes.

July 22: WestWend
Americana / Country duo playing new and traditional Country music

July 29: EmiSunshine and the Rain
Appalachian music with ‘old time’ songs

August 5: Tennessee Sheiks
A mix of Jazz and Blues with a little Cuban, Sicilian, and Appalachian thrown in.

August 12: Kip & Jerry’s Rocky Road Show
Bluegrass music with a traditional blend of pickin’

August 19: The Bearded
Rock music on Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, Harp, Mandolin, Percussion and Ukulele

2016 Fall Sunset Concert Series

September 2: Steve Kaufman
Acoustic Flatpickin’

September 16: Performer to be Announced

The Heritage Center is located between the Townsend traffic light & the national park entrance. Pets aren’t permitted but you and your family sure are welcome.

This Sunset Concert Series helps to support and further the mission of the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center:

To preserve, protect, and promote the unique history and culture of the Great Smoky Mountains region.

If you are interested in offering your own support through membership, you can download an application on the GSMHC web site.

I-75 Rock Slide Road Closure

Tennessee Road Travel TN SmartWay

TN SmartWay

Alternate Routes to the Smoky Mountains

UPDATE:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. March 23, 2016:  The Tennessee Department of Transportation will reopen one lane of travel on Interstate 75 North in Campbell County on Thursday, March 24, by 11 a.m. All northbound lanes have been closed since last month due to a rockslide that occurred at mile marker 142. One lane will remain closed on I-75 North as work continues to remove slide debris, stabilize the existing slope, and repair the interstate. All southbound lanes were reopened March 10. The entire repair project is scheduled to be completed on or before April 15. Motorists are encouraged to use caution and reduce speed in the work zone, especially while workers are present. – See more at: https://www.tn.gov/tdot/news/one-lane-to-re-open-thursday-on-i-75-north-in-campbell-county.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. March 10, 2016: – The Tennessee Department of Transportation has re-opened I-75 South in Campbell County. Both directions of I-75 have been closed since February 26 due to a rockslide at Mile Marker 142.

I-75 North remains closed for the removal of the slide debris, stabilization of the existing slope, and repairs to the interstate. One lane is scheduled to open on I-75 North on or before March 24, 2016. The entire repair project is scheduled to be complete on or before April 15, 2016.

– See more at: https://www.tn.gov/tdot/news/38148


When incidents such as the rock slide at I-75 mile marker 142 in Campbell County take place, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is quick to map detours and post on highway message boards.

Currently, when traveling south to the Smokies, here are 2 detour options:

  • Take Exit 160 (Jellico). Follow US 25W / SR 297 West to SR 63 South, and then re-enter I-75 South.

OR

  • Take Exit 29 in Corbin, KY and follow US 25E to Tennessee, and enter I-81 at Exit 8 Morristown/White Pine. Travel to I-40. Travelers can then choose to go I-40 W to Exit 407 or I-40 E to Exit 440/Foothills Parkway into Cosby, TN. Travel Hwy 321 into Gatlinburg.

The TDOT is estimating that the closure will remain through March 21, with all repairs being completed by mid-April.

For every visit to Carr’s Northside Cottages & Motel you plan, check current Tennessee road conditions on the TN SmartWay ap. For up-to-the-minute road closures and detours, construction, and live stream traffic cams, visit TN SmartWay to download.

Another travel resource that you’ll want to bookmark is the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures information provided by the National Park Service. This is a great go-to guide for those hoping to make the most of their Smoky Mountains National Park visit.

 

 

Tennessee I-75 Rock Slide

Tennessee I-75 Rock Slide

Dollywood 2016 Festival of Nations

Affordable Dollywood TN Vacation Packages

When folks say that the whole world comes to Dollywood, they aren’t just talking about tourist visitors to the park. During Dollywood’s Festival of Nations, which runs from March 19 – April 18, music, dance, food, and art come from all over the planet to delight and amaze Dollywood guests. The month long celebration brings together interesting acts from every corner of the globe and spreads the wonder throughout the park.

2016 Dollywood Calendar

2016 Dollywood Calendar

Reserve Your Stay at Carr’s and Purchase Discount Dollywood Tickets
for an Affordable Dollywood Vacation Package!

Here’s a description of just a few–some of them brand new–of the acts whose talents will be showcased during the Festival of Nations:

  • Mother Africa is a group of performers from countries across the entire continent of Africa who unite in a high-energy acrobatics, music, and dance show that takes the audience to “Khayelitsha,” one of the largest townships in South Africa.
  • Los Pampas Gauchos is a funny and fast-paced showcase of traditional Argentinean folk dancing.
  • Atahualpa, a band from Ecuador, hope that their musical celebration of the culture and history of the Andes mountains will build a sense of kinship and connection to everyone who sees the show.
  • The performance of Celtic Coast might seem a little familiar to fans of Appalachian music, with band members using instruments often seen at Dollywood: fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. As they hail from Nova Scotia, though, the music is inspired not by the heritage of the Tennessee mountains, but by the Canadian background.
  • French musician David Charrier will appear all over the park, offering interactive street shows. Guests will be astounded at the sounds produced by Charrier’s unique instrument, a hang. Look for the guy playing what appears to be a steel UFO.
  • Duo Del Soul is a musical pair that brings innovative Latin music to the streets of Dollywood. The shows are full of energy and cutting edge performances.

    View or Print the 2016 Dollywood Calendar

    2016 Dollywood Calendar

  • The United Kingdom Ukulele Orchestra combine British comedy with the traditional Hawaiian instrument to create a show unlike any you’ve seen before.
  • Via Romen perform both traditional and modern Romani (gyspy) music. The group is fronted by Ukrainian violinist Arkadiy Gips.
  • The Alash Ensemble are masters of one of the most unusual vocal forms around: Tuvan throat singing, which allows for multiple pitches to be sung at once.
  • Be sure to look up when you’re walking around Dollywood’s Festival of Nations. You might catch a glimpse of Zebra Stelzentheater of Germany, stilt dancers looking to make new friends through their high-spirited routines.

Visit Online for a Dollywood 2016 Schedule & Annual Festival Information

Go Whitewater Rafting in the Smoky Mountains

Wild to Mild Pigeon River Rafting Trips 

The Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee are famous for their free National Park, scenic byways and expansive mountain views, their vacation destination towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, and their mild seasonal weather.  It’s a perfect place to vacation and one of the reasons guests have been staying at Carr’s Motel for generations.  In the Smokies, you can do just about anything including peaceful walks and hikes, thrilling amusements, excellent outlet shopping, and live music theaters with up and coming talent.   All that and extreme sports too!

Have you ever been whitewater rafting in Gatlinburg?  If not, you’re in for an awesome outdoor adventure if you’ll face any fears and agree to meet the challenge of Class III-IV rapids.  Everyone age 8 or older can experience whitewater rafting and brag to their friends and family about defeating the rapids such as Veggematic, Lost Guide or Aftershave.

A little hesitant?  That’s OK because if you’re not up to the challenge of white water rafting, you can enjoy a leisurely river float trip instead!  Might not be as challenging, but just as enjoyable for ages 3 and over.  There’s nothing like taking in all the scenery during a relaxing float on the Lower Pigeon River.

East Tennessee Whitewater Rafting and River Trips

Trips Available March – November

Not only do you have your choice of wild white water rafting or a mild river float, you also have your choice of six great rafting companies ready and waiting to help you cross rafting off your bucket list or take your grandbabies on their first river ride.  Each company offers trips from late March – November with trained river guides, your choice of Upper Pigeon River or Lower Pigeon River trips, and excellent discounts when booking your tickets online through Carr’s Cottages.

Click Here to View Online Ticket Discounts Available from these Smoky Mountain Rafting Companies:

Nantahala Outdoor Center
Rafting in the Smokies
Big Creek Expeditions
USA Raft & Tubing Excursions
Smoky Mountain Outdoors Whitewater Rafting
Rafting at Wildwater Adventure Center

Choose your dates, choose your discounts, and have a wonderful experience on the Pigeon River!

Winter Hiking in the Smokies

Discover Cold Weather Hikes

Winter Hiking in the Smokies

Discover New Views During Cold Weather Hikes

When most people think of hiking, their thoughts immediately turn to a warm weather day next to a mountain stream or a brisk walk through an autumn color forest. To be sure, those hikes can be great. But what about the cold weather months? Is everyone to stay indoors from December through March? A hike in January can be among the best you’ve ever taken if you know how to do it.

Consider the benefits of a winter hike. You’ll encounter fewer hikers along the trail, so you’ll have the hike mostly to yourself. With the foliage off the trees, you’ll be able to experience views that would otherwise be blocked by leaves. A frozen waterfall is a sight to behold. A rushing cascade can be seen just about anytime, but a wall of ice is a bit more rare in the Smokies.

So if you decide that you want part of your stay in the Smokies to include a day of hiking, how do you prepare? Follow these tips for the best cold weather hike experience.

Stay Warm
Obviously when you’re taking a winter hike in January, you’ll want to keep your heat as much as possible. The term “layers” gets thrown around, but what does it really mean? Just remember three.

Base Layer
Your base layer is closest to your skin and acts to wick perspiration away from your body, If you get damp, you’ll get cold. Stay away from cotton as it holds moisture rather than moving it. Look for soft wool, synthetics like polyester, or silk.

Middle Layer
The middle layer insulates. Fluffy materials that catch the air work well. Again, wool is an excellent choice for the middle layer, as is fleece from synthetics.

Outer Layer
Some folks call this the weather layer. You’re looking to keep the rain, snow, or most likely, wind away from your inner layers. You want something waterproof that still breathes.

Snowy National Park Hiking Trails

Snowy National Park Trails

Use Your Head… and Your Feet
Most of your cooling happens high and low, so keep a warm hat on your head and warm, dry socks on your toes. Be sure to take along an extra pair of dry socks, just in case the pair you’re wearing gets wet. Again, stay away from cotton, especially for your socks.

Stay Hydrated
You might think that hydration isn’t an important issue on winter hikes, but you lose a lot more moisture than you think when you’re exerting yourself, even when it’s cold. A dehydrated body is less capable of keeping you warm.

Remember that dark comes more quickly during the winter. Get an early start so that you’re off the trail before nightfall when the temperatures will really drop.  No matter what time of year you’re hiking, let someone know where you’re going. We want everyone to come back safe and sound.

After a full day of winter hiking in the Smokies, nothing beats a comfy, cozy spot in a Carr’s cottage or Jacuzzi suite to spend the night. There you can warm up, rest up, and be ready to get up for another great day of cold weather hiking.

Smoky Mountain Wine Country

Trek the Rocky Top Wine Trail

When you’re spending a few days in Gatlinburg this month and you’re wondering what to do when it’s a bit cold outside, take the opportunity to see some of the indoor sites around the region. What could be better on a crisp December day than touring one of the many wineries in the Gatlinburg area?

Smoky Mountain Wine Country Rocky Top Wine Trail

Visit the Rocky Top Wine Trail

Five different wineries have joined forces to create the Rocky Top Wine Trail. Touring each of these facilities is the perfect way to spend a couple of days out of the cold. You can start at any one of the wineries, picking up your trail Passport when you arrive.  Locations can be visited in any order, and you’ll get a stamp for your passport at each.  When you have gotten your third stamp, you will receive a free logo wine glass. Complete the entire trail to receive a free gift.

Each of the wineries offers free wine tasting to visitors 21 and over. Be sure to have your ID handy. If you’re going to stop at a few in a single day, be sure to designate a driver for the whole excursion.

When you visit Mountain Valley Winery, Sugarland Cellars, and Hillside Winery, you can tour the cellars and tanks for a behind the scenes look at how the wine are crafted. Each winery has its own wine specialty too!

The five wineries of the Rocky Top Wine Trail:

  • Eagle Springs Winery in Kodak
  • Hillside Winery in Sevierville
  • Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville
  • Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge
  • Sugarland Cellars in Gatlinburg

All wineries are open seven days a week and are closed only on Christmas day.

If you tour one winery each day, you will have spent a great week sampling some of the best wine that the region has to offer. Certainly you’ll want to pick up a bottle or two at each location to bring back to your cabin or suite for a more in depth sampling. A bottle of wine in a cozy room at Carr’s Northside during a cold winter night? Sounds like a great vacation plan!

Annual Gatlinburg Holiday Craft Shows

Thanksgiving and Christmas Crafts Show

Thanksgiving Crafts and Christmas Crafts Show

Two Great Craft Fairs in One!

The Southern Appalachian Mountain region is known for its skilled artists and craftsmen. And nowhere else will you find a more concentrated group of these artisans than in the Arts and Crafts Community of Gatlinburg TN. In the eight-mile loop just outside of town, you can find everything from pottery to woodcarving to fine jewelry. Over 120 working artists have set up shop in the community, demonstrating and selling their creations to visitors from all over the world.

The Smoky Mountain Arts and Crafts Shows bring all of those craftsmen together in a one-stop showplace. Consider these two back-to-back shows at the Gatlinburg Convention Center a preview of the myriad offerings available around the Loop. Tour the show to find your favorites, then spend a day traveling through the Loop visiting the store locations and dining at one of the many wonderful restaurants, like Three Jimmy’s Restaurant near the beginning of the Loop.

The first of the two shows is designated the Thanksgiving show and runs from Tuesday, November 24th to Sunday, November 29th. The Christmas craft show will immediately follow, running from Monday, November 30th to Sunday, December 6th. The hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free to both shows.

Between the shows and the Loop, there’s plenty to fill up a weekend. Plan to stay at Carr’s Northside conveniently located to both the Convention Center and to the Arts and Crafts Community off of Hwy 321 N. From there you can park, check in to your room, and walk to the trolley route that can easily take you to both the show at the Convention Center and to the Arts and Crafts Community. After you’ve found just the right thing to buy (or a whole pile of things!), ride the trolley back to Carr’s and relax in your comfy cottage or cabin before heading back out on to the Parkway to discover all that Winter Magic has to offer.