Blue Ridge Parkway – Green Knob Trail (Milepost 295.9)

Today we headed up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked the Green Knob Trail. I’d call this a moderate hike. It’s a loop hike and is approximately 2 1/2 miles. I suggest that you start the hike around Sims Pond, and then come out of the woods about 100 feet south of the parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Going this way, the climb up is more gradual, where if you went in the other way, you’d be climbing some pretty steep hills. I would also suggest not hiking this immediately after a rain. When you walk down the steep hills, it would be very slippery because as you are coming down, there’s not a lot of places to step that would give you traction.

But, as for the hike. It was nice. This is actually one of my favorite trails. We started out walking around Sims Pond. You eventually come upon a creek that you will follow for a little ways. I’m thinking that we may have had to cross creeks maybe 8 times. But, it hadn’t rained in a few days, so they were easy to cross. You then walk under the Blue Ridge Parkway and start a section of the trail that I bet is absolutely beautiful in the spring. Rhododendrons bushes everywhere. You eventually arrive at a fence line where you will walk through the fence into a huge meadow. You take the trail through the meadow to the top of the hill, and take a sharp left and head down what seems to be an old road probably used by a previous farmer. You start back through the woods and then come into a smaller meadow. You walk across that meadow and go through another fence. You are now back in the woods and ready to take the steep walk down the hill. After a good downhill walk, you come to an area with a bench where there is a beautiful view of Calloway Peak. They view is probably much more beautiful in the fall / winter when the leaves are not on the trees. After you enjoy the view, it’s not much further out to the parkway. Be careful crossing the parkway, and then arrive back at your vehicle.

Here are a few photos from that excursion. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

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Blue Ridge Parkway – Flat Rock Trail (Milepost 308)

It was a cool and cloudy day on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parking area at Flat Rock Trail has a couple of picnic tables where Steve and I had our picnic prior to hitting the trail. Actually, almost every time we hit the parkway, we choose to picnic at this quiet pull-off. Our only other option for a picnic is to drive to Julian Price Picnic Area where there are so many people, and most of the time, the grass isn’t mowed. The Flat Rock stop is quite refreshing.

But, today we had our picnic and then hit the trail, which in all ends up being a little over 1/2 mile. I carried our rain gear because it was looking a little cloudy. And, as we are having our lunch, we could slightly hear thunder in the background.

You take off on this easy trail and eventually arrive at a rocky area where you have great views of Linville Valley, and Roan, Hump and Grandfather Mountains. As we were admiring the views, you could see a storm that seemed to be heading west to east. Looked like it was going to not directly hit us. But, I guess it took a little turn and hit us good. I put on my rain gear. I asked Steve if he would like this, but no. He’s the tough man. I had his rain gear in my backpack, but he was going to be tough and walk back to the car without using his rain gear. It came a gusher. He was absolutely soaked by the time we arrived back at the car. I think next time I’ll just throw his rain gear at him and force him to wear it. I wish I had gotten a picture of him all drenched. Oh, well.

Here are a few photos of the Flat Rock Trail and views. Unfortunately because of the storm, we were unable to capture any photos from the time that you leave the rock until you arrive back at the parking area.

Run your cursor over each photo for a brief explanation.

Directions: From Elizabethton, TN, take 19E approximately 31 miles into Newland, NC. Turn left on Hwy 221 and travel approximately 4 miles into Linville, NC. Take a right at the light where you see the sign that points you to Grandfather Mountain. At the next stop sign, take a left. You will eventually reach the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a right onto Blue Ridge Parkway and go around a curve or two, and the parking area will be on your right.

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Mouth of Wilson, VA – Grayson Highlands State Park

It was so hot in our area today, that we headed over into Virginia to Grayson Highlands. The temperature was supposed to be in the lower 70’s. Hah! Never made it out of the low 50’s. Luckily I had a light jacket with me. But, Steve still ran around in his shorts and t-shirt, as did alot of other people.

When we arrived, there was a light fog hovering over Big Pinnacle. But, as we came out of the higher elevation, the fog not only completely covered Big Pinnacle, but was almost down at the parking area. With the fog, I was a little disappointed because we weren’t going to be able to photograph the beautiful views. But, it ended up being a great day photography-wise.

If you are familiar with Grayson Highlands, you know that this is the home of wild ponies. We’ve been here 3 times before, and have only seen one wild pony, one time. Today they were all over the place. Not only did we see alot of wild ponies, but there were also alot of Texas Longhorn cattle. It wasn’t weird walking around with the ponies, but at first was a little weird walking around with the cattle and those huge horns. But, all they did was look at you. Never really did feel threatened by them.

But, as we were walking amongst the ponies and cattle, this is the route that we took. From the Massie Gap parking area, we headed across the field and took the Rhododendron Trail 1/2 mile to the summit. At the top, we headed north on the Appalachian Trail. As with previous times, we didn’t plan on a long hike on the trail. We just headed briefly to the right to an outcropping of rocks. We always see people on these rocks, so my plan was to go up on this rocky outcropping too. But, we were never able to find our way up. So, we headed back to the summit. This is when we started running across all of the ponies. When we got back to the summit, we then headed south on the Appalachian Trail. Wasn’t sure how long we were going to walk. But, we eventually came to a fence. If you kept on going, you were going to leave the park. We decided to turn around here and head back. I wanted to go back on a different trail that was more grassy. But, decided that since the fog had turned so heavy, I was afraid we could possibly lose our way in the grass. So, we took the same trail back.

Hope you enjoy our photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: From Bristol, TN, take I-81N approximately 35 miles (Exit 35 / VA107 / Whitetop Rd). Turn right after you get off of the exit. Travel approximately 11 miles and then turn left continuing on Whitetop Rd. Travel approximately 8 miles, then turn left on US58 / Highlands Parkway. Drive approximately 7 1/2 miles and turn left into Grayson Highlands.

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Kingsport, TN – Kingsport Greenbelt (Boatyard-Riverfront Park to Cloud Park)

Since tomorrow was a work day, we stayed local and did another leg of the Kingsport Greenbelt. I didn’t start my blog until January 2013 and we completed our first leg in 2012. Maybe after we complete the rest of the trail, we’ll go back and do the first leg of the trail so I can blog about it.

Today we parked at Boatyard-Riverfront Park and headed towards downtown Kingsport. Boatyard-Riverfront Park is on the river. There were lots of geese and ducks, quite a few picnic tables. a swinging bridge across the river, people fishing in the river, and several people walking / jogging / biking. After we came out of the park, we ended up on Netherland Inn Rd. We were looking for the continuation of the trail. Didn’t see anything across the road. Walked over to the old seafood restaurant. Backtracked and went behind some old building, and just couldn’t pick up the trail.

So, we walked back to the car and headed up the road in hopes that we could find the trail again. We noticed some bicyclists up the road ahead of us, and decided to follow them. We ended up turning right on Gilliam St, then left on Keller St. We then parked at the edge of a field at Keller and Barton Streets. We started walking on a road that said it was a dead end, and did pick up the trail again.

We headed around a little park that had a nice picnic area. We then went under the bridge at Windustry Dr. Shortly after that, we went across a bridge that was built under a railroad trestle. We continued on the Greenbelt, and walked around Cloud Park. When we were getting ready to walk under Center St. bridge, we decided to turn around and head back to the car. It was pretty hot today.

Here are a few photos from this section of the trail.

Directions to Boatyard-Riverfront Park: From I-81 in Bristol, TN, drive south for approximately 18 miles. Take a right on exit 57B. Travel approximately 8 miles and take a right at exit 1. At the end of the exit, turn left onto West Stone Dr. Drive approximately 2 1/2 miles, and take a left onto Netherland Inn Rd. After 6/10 of a mile, arrive at the park on your right.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Sugarlands Visitor Center Fighting Creek Nature Trail and Cataract Falls Trail

When we left Laurel Falls, since we’d only walked 2.6 miles, we wanted to get a little more walking in. I knew that there was a nature trail that was only a mile or two long at the visitors center, so we headed over that way.

To get to the nature trail, you have to go by the restrooms and you will see a concrete pathway going into the woods. It eventually ends and turns to gravel.

We came across a little surprise though when we started the trail. We could either take a trail to the left and walk the nature trail. Or, we could head off to the right and check out Cataract Falls. I had no earthly idea that there was a waterfall in this area. I had never even heard of Cataract Falls before.

So, we headed to the falls first. It’s a very easy walk. ‘m guesstimating maybe 1/2 mile round trip. You take a very flat trail along the river. You then come to where you walk under the road, and then turn left and walk up the stairs. You then turn right and you’ll pretty quickly arrive at the falls. This is probably more enjoyable after a very heavy rain. Wasn’t all that impressive today, but still a nice addition to our walk.

Then, we turned around and headed back for our walk on the nature trail. It’s a 1.25 mile loop. I’d call it easy to moderate. There are some ups and downs, and roots in the trail. About 1/2 way into the walk, you come across a restored cabin. After you enjoy the clearing and the cabin, you will continue on the loop and head back to the visitors center.

Here are our photos from these two trails. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: From Johnson City, TN, take I-26W approximately 14 miles to I-81. Head towards Knoxville on I-81 traveling approximately 56 miles. I-81 will end and you will merge onto I-40W. Travel approximately 14 miles and get off on Exit 407. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Winnfield Dunn Pkwy. Travel approximately 9 miles and turn left onto W. Main St. Go about 1 1/2 miles and turn right onto Veterans Pkwy (going to bypass Pigeon Forge). When the road ends, turn left onto the parkway. Travel approximately 5 miles and take the bypass (going to bypass Gatlinburg too). Travel approximately 4 1/2 miles and turn right onto Little River Rd. The visitors center is immediately on your right.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Laurel Falls

Today we headed to the Smokies to check out Laurel Falls. This is probably one of the most popular falls in the park since it’s such an easy trail. I was worried that we weren’t going to be able to find parking when we arrived. We got lucky though and found a spot right at the trailhead.

The trail is about 2.6 miles in length, round trip. They say the waterfall is about 80 feet high.

As I said, the trail is easy. But, once you get towards the top, and close to the falls, you’ve got to be careful because it drops off on the left hand side of the trail.

There are 2 sections of the falls. You have the section to the right of the trail. Then, it travels under the bridge at the falls, and then falls over a ledge down into the creek.

Hope you enjoy the photos from today’s trek. Run your cursor over each photo for a brief description.

Oh, and a warning for those of you that like to take your dogs on walks / hikes. There is a sign at the trailhead that states dogs are not allowed. If you go ahead and take your dog in, the Rangers are going to come after you and make your turn around. And, there is usually a Ranger at the falls too.

Directions: From Johnson City, TN, take I-26W approximately 14 miles to I-81. Head towards Knoxville on I-81 traveling approximately 56 miles. I-81 will end and you will merge onto I-40W. Travel approximately 14 miles and get off on Exit 407. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Winnfield Dunn Pkwy. Travel approximately 9 miles and turn left onto W. Main St. Go about 1 1/2 miles and turn right onto Veterans Pkwy (going to bypass Pigeon Forge). When the road ends, turn left onto the parkway. Travel approximately 5 miles and take the bypass (going to bypass Gatlinburg too). Travel approximately 4 1/2 miles and turn right onto Little River Rd. It’s about 3 1/2 miles from here. You’ll come across parking on right and left hand side of the road.

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