I have always wanted to see the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Since Sam had moved near there last spring for work, I had to take a look. It is a national treasure, after all. Me being an avid hiker, we agreed beforehand that I would need to consider what small hike we could do. That way, the trip wouldn’t feel like it was lacking. With my knee injuries still being worked through, we chose the accessible Laurel Falls Trail to give a taste of the park.
On the first day, we traveled around Smokey Mountain National Park and made several stops at famous areas. Unbeknownst to us, the trailhead for Laurel Falls gets very crowded. By the time we arrived around noon, the parking had stretched a mile or more down the road in both directions.
Dismayed at the sight, we resolved to come back the following day early in the morning. That way, we could avoid the crowd and having to park along the shoulder.
We returned around 9 am the next day, and the trailhead was still very full. This time, we found parking in the overflow area across the street from the trailhead.
The Laurel Falls Trail starts quickly, winding through the forest. The trail is well-cut and even paved for the most part. The one thing I found myself wishing was that I had been here a month or two prior. All around are deciduous trees, and I imagined how colorful this place must be during the fall.
As an avid Seahawks fan, due to the pandemic, I knew I needed to wear my mask on the trail. Due to being in Tennessee, it might be fun to dawn my Seahawks mask and poke a little fun at any Titans fans. To my delighted surprise, not one person heckled me. Instead, several people proudly yelled, “GO HAWKS!” as they walked past me.
The Laurel Falls hike is straightforward to follow. There is little elevation gain, and I saw many children as young as 5 taking it on with ease. Despite the hoards of people, there is plenty of space to spread out, and it never felt overcrowded. I couldn’t resist the urge to follow others and scramble below the lower falls to get some extra fun in. The scramble down was not challenging, and it had far fewer people than the upper part, where most were taking photos.
Overall, the Laurel Falls trail was a great way to experience what Smokey Mountain National Park offers. I have heard that the backpacking here is to die for. One day when my knees heal, and I have more time, I can’t wait to come back and see for myself.