Since we were all prepared for Christmas early this year we took a trip to Pigeon Forge. Not only is it a great place, albeit a touristy one, it is always an excuse to stop by Dollywood and enjoy the Smoky Mountain Christmas festival.
It was quite an adventure to get there. There was an unusual weather pattern that dropped over 12 inches of snow in parts of western North Carolina the night before we left. Also I-40 is closed near the North Carolina/Tennessee border due to a rock slide back in October. (It should be reopened in Spring 2010). We decided to go through Smoky Mountain National Park but after getting there we found out that Highway 441 through the park was also closed due to snow and ice from the early winter storm. There wasn’t much snow in the immediate area but due to the high elevation of the pass that Highway 441 goes through, there was a lot of snow and ice preventing the road from opening. We back tracked and took one of the I-40 detour options, the scenic 25/70 route through the mountains. Please note that this is actually a pretty easy route to get an RV through but there is a very narrow bridge in Tennessee along this route that has a weight limit of 10 tons. If your rig weighs more than that take the longer detour route. TN state troopers keep an eye on both sides of the bridge looking for vehicles that may be over this weight limit.
We finally arrived at Clabough’s Family Campground after dark on Saturday. The staff was pretty friendly and the campground was in pretty good shape. The sites were laid out differently than I have seen at most campgrounds, though. The hookups are far forward and the sewer hookups are far back so if you move the rig to make the most of the hookups many configurations of RVs sit where the door ends up coming out on the gravel and not the concrete patio. Our site and many of the sites around us were also not very level. I used everything I had which has been sufficient for all the other campgrounds that we have gone to but it was not enough to make my rig level here. We were able to get our rig relatively close to level, though. All the hookups were in good working order. They also had some upgrades in the works such as a new pool (I think that will make three from my count) and a new playground that looked pretty cool. I am always pleased to see campgrounds put money back into the campground and continue to improve the quality.
If you’re familiar at all with Pigeon Forge you know there are a lot of things to do there. A quick drive down the main strip will let you see that there are lots of shows, entertainment, and activities that will gladly take your money. Our main focus of this trip was Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood so we didn’t do much besides that. However there are two main places that we stopped and enjoyed. First was the Old Mill Square. This is a complex of several buildings which includes the Mill itself and general store, a restaurant, pottery, creamery, candy kitchen, toy bin and more. If you have never been here before it is worth at least stopping by and checking out the mill and general store. The second place was The Apple Barn and Cider Mill. They also have numerous buildings but are easier to navigate through the interconnected walkways and many buildings are adjacent to each other. This complex features a general store, cider bar, candy factory, restaurant, creamery, winery, and more. We found the staff very friendly, the apple cider some of the best we have ever had and the fried apple pies were absolutely delicious.
Now for our time spent at Dollywood. The Smoky Mountain Christmas has something for everybody. There are many shows to choose from, numerous rides to try the lights are truly a sight to see. All of their roller coasters are open if the temperature is above 40 degrees so get there early on the warmer days to enjoy them. They are certainly worth the wait. Although you are in the mountains the climate is temperate and appears to be similar to the climate in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
If you live near enough to return within a year I recommend getting season passes. In the long run, they will end up being a better deal for you. It is also worth having one member of your party get a gold pass which gives you free parking and 20% off of nearly everything you buy in the park. It can pay for itself quickly. I was slightly disappointed in the condition of some areas of the park. Some areas seemed run down and in need of a good cleaning and some fresh paint.
Thankfully the roads were better for our return trip.