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July 31, 2017

Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Many of our guests spend quite a few of the hours they have here hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  One of our favorite trails for hikes is the one which leads to the Grotto Falls.  The Grotto Falls are the only falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which you can walk behind!

Hikes to Grotto Falls are beautiful, especially in the morning.

The hike to Grotto Falls is very popular with Buckhorn Inn guests.

The Trillium Gap Trail leads to, and behind, the Grotto Falls.  The trail winds through old-growth forests and many large eastern hemlocks.  The path is wide and well-worn, but be careful of the rocks and exposed roots!  Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring water.  The Buckhorn Inn has hearty and delicious sack lunches available if you choose to take one on your hike.  The trail is a moderate climb.  The roundtrip to the Falls and back takes about 2-3 hours.   During the hike you will cross four small streams.  In the springtime watch for the blooms of white and yellow trillium, white violets, and Dutchman’s breeches.  The Dutchman’s breeches are so called because the flowers resemble men’s trousers hanging by the cuffs on a clothesline.

Hikes on the  Grotto Falls trail feature many spring wild flowers.

White trillium are plentiful in the spring on the hike to Grotto Falls.

The Grotto Falls cascade down 25 feet.  The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has all the elements for beautiful waterfalls–ample rainfall and an elevation gradient.  In an average year, the mountains receive more than 85 inches of rain.  The rain trickles, then rushes down the mountainsides, cascading beautifully onto the large boulders below.  

Directions to Grotto Falls for Hikes

From the Parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at light number 8.  Follow the Historic Nature Trail into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to the large parking area near stop number 5.  You will see a sign for the trailhead.  For more information on planning your hike, visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/grotto-falls.htm  Happy hiking!

June 14, 2017

Buckhorn Inn is Gateway to Greenbrier Area

Just 1.5 miles from the Buckhorn Inn is the Greenbrier entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Often referred to as “the locals entrance to the park”, the Greenbrier largely is undiscovered by tourists.  The Greenbrier area of the park boasts the Ramsey Cascades–the tallest cascades in the Smokies.  In the Greenbrier, named for the thorny vines common in this area, one can find beautiful hiking trails, fishing, and picnic areas tucked among the towering hemlock and maple trees.

History of the Greenbrier Area

During the Ice Age, the high mountain slopes fractured, creating boulder fields.  The natural forces of erosion carried smaller boulders to lower elevations.  The early settlers in this area used these stones to build long rock walls, many of which are still standing today.  In fact, the Old Settlers Trail has dozens of these picturesque rock walls.  You will notice that the streambeds in this area are lined with sandstone and slate rocks of all sizes.

Natural forces carried the rocks from the high mountain slopes.

The stone walls built by early residents of Greenbrier still stand.

The first inhabitants of the area were the Cherokee, who had a seasonal community at Porters Flat.  The first recorded residents of European descent in the area were brothers William and Middleton Whaley who settled here around 1800.  In 1818 John Ownby and his family joined the area.  They were subsistence farmers, who supplemented their income by hunting and trapping.  By the early 1900’s, the population of the Greenbrier area was near 500.  The Greenbrier area has many streams which have cut deeply into the terrain.  Because of this natural feature, residents lived in many small communities along the streams, rather than being part of one large community.  General stores in the area provided a venue for residents to trade chickens, eggs, and animal furs for such necessities as clothing, medicine, and coal oil.  They farmed corn and potatoes, and dug ginseng.

Hiking along the trails in the Greenbrier, one can easily imagine the lives of the previous residents of this beautiful area.  This is a special place to spend one, or many, days exploring.  Guests at the Buckhorn Inn can keep up their exploring stamina by pre-ordering hearty, delicious sack lunches to take with them.  

Sandwiches and yummy treats for the Greenbrier hiker.

Gourmet sandwiches are the mainstay of Buckhorn Inn sack lunches to enjoy in the Greenbrier area.

http://www.buckhorninn.com/dining  We will see you on the trail!