Spring Break day 5 - Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Cades Cove - Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls - Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park - TN Travel Blog

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Three bears at Cades Cove

Those who have read my previous blog entries know that I am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I arrived here after an amazing road trip over the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. Ever since my colleague Kellie showed me some pictures of her visit to this park I had wanted to go here. And it finally came true!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a remarkable park in the National Parks system. It is, with over 9 million visitors per year, the United States' most visited National Park. Besides a National Park it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike the majority of the other National Parks, the Smokies was not founded on national lands. The lands were privately owned. Just like it was with the first National Park of the East, Acadia National Park, in Maine.

Siglinde playing the honky-tonk piano in the Cades Cove Church

Where Acadia was mainly owned by rich vacationers, the Smokies were owned by Lumber Companies, and hard working farmers. The lumber companies were on track destroying the whole area. Lumber was big business and making them leave in order to establish a park was not easy. When they finally ceased their operations about two thirds of the forest that once covered the Smoky Mountains, was gone. This has all been restored by now!

It took the Park Service long to raise enough money to purchase the area. Help came from all directions, like John D. Rockefeller, the philanthropist that also contributed to establish other National Parks, like Acadia, Yosemite, Grand Teton, and... Shenandoah, the US government, and private persons. Even school kids saved pennies to contribute. Due to the way in which all this land was purchased and donated a special rule was declared for the park that it could never charge entrance fees.

Abrams Creek at the trail head
This makes the Smokies the only major park in the US that is free accessible. It was opened in June 1934.

With all the lumber and farming activity the area was well inhabited. Several communities lived in valleys like Cades Cove and Cataloochee. Hundreds of people lived there, had their farms, houses, log cabins, churches, graveyards, and schools. They were all forced out by the Park Service, leaving their structures behind. Due to this forced migration the park contains one of the largest wood log structures in the US. The majority of these structures are still on their original locations, such as the Little Greenbrier School, and the Mingus Mill (see previous logs). Others were moved to one of the Visitor Centers.

The trail had many steep shoulders
See previous blogs.

The park has a huge variety of fauna (a huge population of black bears) and flora. Going up along the Newfound Gap leads you along the climate zones from Georgia to Maine.

Today I would not hike alone. Siglinde, who I know from the Netherlands and who is currently studying in nearby Maryville TN, joined me today. She had been in the Smokies several times and acted as a perfect guide.

Our today's hike would go to Abrams Falls, which can be reached from Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a valley in the Smokies, before it became part of the park many people lived here. So, after these people were evicted a lot of farms, houses, churches, graveyards, etc. remained. Wildlife sightings are frequent here that is why Cades Cove is the most popular part of the park.

The tornado area

We noticed both: The first 50 meters that we had entered we already saw a black bear with two cubs. We also saw the tourists, driving like snails disobeying the kind request of the park service to be courteous and give way to people who want to pass.

On our way to the trailhead we visited a few of the historic structures. While I visited a grave yard Siglinde decided to play on the very old and by humidity affected piano of the church. It had become a honky-tonk piano, but even on such an instrument Bach still sounds spiritual.

Abrams Falls are actually named after a Cherokee Chief who had renamed himself from Oskuah to Abram. The falls are only 6 meters (20 ft) high. The impressive thing of them is the volume of the water that flows and which creates a huge natural basin at the base of the falls.

Another abandoned structure, at the end of the trail
The trail that leads to the falls is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). Although nice it looked like a scene from the movie exodus. Many people, most of them with coolers, towels etc. made their way over the narrow path that winded along the steep slopes above the Abrams River. The falls looked more like a beach with many people sunbathing and also swimming in the basins.

Siglinde and I both had the feeling that we did not want to hike the same path back, in the crowds, so, we continued on the trail with the aim to make a small, but respectable loop. That plan was cancelled when we found out we had to cross a roaring river. Which made us decide to complete another, even longer loop, which also started to roller coaster. This was in an area that was hit by a tornado, so no vegetation and walking in the burning sun. We were both a bit worried since we had counted on a short hike and not brought enough water with us.

Our hike: 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) with a cumulative rise of 780 meters (rendered by GPSVisualizer.com)
Then, all of a sudden like a Godsend, we found a huge cooler filled with ice and many bottles of water, literally in the middle of the trail. "Water for the hikers." said a sign. We gratefully took a bottle each. It saved our hike!

The hike turned out to be almost 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) with a cumulative rise of 750 meters. We were happy to step into the Mazda. We took a look at another mill (Cable Mill) and some abandoned houses.

We left the park via Rich Mountain Road an old mountain pass gravel road with many curves.

More pictures below!

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Three bears at Cades Cove
Three bears at Cades Cove
Siglinde playing the honky-tonk pi…
Siglinde playing the honky-tonk p…
Abrams Creek at the trail head
Abrams Creek at the trail head
The trail had many steep shoulders
The trail had many steep shoulders
The tornado area
The tornado area
Another abandoned structure, at th…
Another abandoned structure, at t…
Our hike: 22 kilometers (13.6 mile…
Our hike: 22 kilometers (13.6 mil…
Cades Cove Church
Cades Cove Church
Abrams Falls
Abrams Falls
Cable Mill at Cades Cove
Cable Mill at Cades Cove
GPS Height Profile
GPS Height Profile
457,535 km (284,299 miles) traveled
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Abrams Falls - Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park - TN
photo by: mdalamers