Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A First Glimpse

May, 2015 – We left the beautiful antebellum estates of Georgia behind us as we took our RV into North Carolina. The land began to undulate beneath us, and the rolling green hills of the Smoky Mountains appeared ahead. What struck us immediately during our first excursion into the park was the constant proximity of rushing water, babbling brooks and waterfalls.

Oconaluftee River Great Smoky Mountains National Park North Carolina

The Oconaluftee River captivated us.

We had a blast playing with our cameras on this beautiful mountain stream, trying to catch its movement as it slipped over rocks and around logs on its way down the mountain.

Oconaluftee River Smoky Mountains North Carolina

Water slides over rocks and past logs as it tumbles downstream.

Newfound Gap Road is the main north/south road across the middle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It winds up and over the mountains, and for much of its length we found ourselves shrouded by an archway of vivid green trees.

Newfound Gap Road Great Smoky Mountains National Park North Carolina

Newfound Gap Road, the main road between the north and south sides of the park, winds under a canopy of trees as it goes from North Carolina to Tennessee.

The river was our constant companion, and we stopped frequently to take its photo.

Oconaluftee River Great Smokies Mountain National Park North Carolina

We just couldn’t get enough of all this rushing water!

River Great Smoky Mountains National Park North Carolina


After about 10 or so miles and a few switchbacks on Newfound Gap Road, some openings began to appear in the trees and we were able to stop at various overlooks to get a view of the mountains stretching into the distance.

The Smokies N. Carolina

Classic layers of mountain ridges in the Smokies.

We weren’t immune to taking a few selfies along the way!!

Selfie in the Smoky Mountains Cherokee N. Carolina

Everyone was taking selfies at the overlooks, so why not us too?

There was a lot of traffic on this road, and most of it was motorcycle traffic. This seems to be the place for groups of motorcycles to go for a ride. Clusters of them passed us repeatedly.

Motorcycle Smoky Mountains

Probably the best way to enjoy the roads over the Smokies is by motorcycle — and we saw hundreds!

The occasional RV uses this road to get between the Tennessee and the North Carolina sides of Great Smoky Mountains National Park too, but we kept ours on the North Carolina side for this trip.

Motorhome RV Smoky Mountains

A few RVs tackled the twisties too.

Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere.

Wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains N. Carolina

Springtime flowers in the Smokies

We saw trillium flowers here and there, and many other beautiful wildflowers too.

Trilium flower Great Smoky Mountains National Park North Carolina

We spotted little thickets of trillium flowers in a few places.


We found dandelions parading among the lavender wildflowers!

Dandelion and wildflower

Heck, even the occasional brown weed looked good out here in the Smokies!


We drove out to Clingman’s Dome a few times to see the view from the highest vantage point in the park. There is a wonderful spiral walkway that goes up to a viewing platform, and the view from the top is a full 360.

Clingman's Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Clingman’s Dome is a marvelous ramp that spirals up to a 360 degree overlook.

The layered mountains were mesmerizing at dusk as the sun set.

Smoky Mountains at dusk

Dusk steals over the sky.

Mountain layers in the Smokies

The mountain layers have a mystical air…

Great Smoky Mountains National Park sunset

Sunset in the Smokies!

If you are planning an RV roadtrip to the North Carolina side of the Smokies, there are several RV parks in the Cherokee, North Carolina, area. This gives you access to both the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We saw lots of big rigs in the area, but we did find that it can sometimes be a little dicey to drive a large RV on these skinny, twisting mountain roads. The Blue Ridge Parkway, in particular, has several low bridges in the first few miles that prevent taller RVs from driving that beginning stretch.

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