My favorite place to go to is the mountains. Recently we took a trip to the Cherokee, NC area. We have been there in the past and really like the Cherokee KOA. It is a great base camp with a central location to help you enjoy the surrounding area. They are located in a great setting and have plenty of amenities and activities.
As you may know, the Cherokee Indian Tribe settled in the southern Appalachian mountains where they were eventually forced to move west in the early 19th century by the government. It’s great to see the rebirth of their language and culture in Appalachia.
The campground is convenient to the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the country. You’ll drive through the park and up and over Newfound Gap on highway 441 to experience Gatlinburg, TN. While in Gatlinburg, you should stop and visit the Ole Smoky Distillery and sample their Tennessee Moonshine, if you are so inclined. It is a beautiful 30+ mile drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In Gatlinburg, TN, I recommend a drive through the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. There are a lot of great sights along the newly repaved road although you should note that RVs are not allowed on this road. This is a one-way road, so allow yourself at least an hour driving through here because once you start, you can’t turn back.
Before you head over the mountain to Gatlinburg, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the open file by the Oconaluftee Visitors’ Center. You never know what you’ll see grazing in the field. Thanks to efforts by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, you may be able to watch an elk grazing in the field since they were reintroduced to the area nearly a decade ago.
At the peak of the mountain along highway 441, you can branch off and drive a few miles to the observation tower at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet in elevation. It is a somewhat exerting half-mile hike from the parking lot to the observation tower so you should be prepared for this. There are plenty of benches that provide rest along the way.
The KOA campground is also near the southern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Keep your eyes open because you never know what is going to be around the next bend when traveling that great road.
If you are feeling adventurous, you may want to drive around Balsam Mountain. It is up the parkway to milepost 458. After another eight miles along mile-high Heintooga Ridge Road you will come to a picnic area. At the far end you can take the seasonal one-lane, one-way Balsam Mountain Road for 18 miles back to Cherokee. While passenger cars can traverse this road, you should note that it is an unpaved mountain road. Leave yourself at least an hour to go the 18 miles. We did spot a bear along this road but were not quick enough with the camera to get a picture of it. I’m not sure who was more startled, the bear or us.
It is still a functioning mill as well as a store.
This is a small sampling of all the things to do in the area. We hope you enjoy your next trip to Western NC as much as we have enjoyed our trips.