We started off our last day in Gatlinburg, TN started off at The Pancake Pantry, the oldest pancake house in Gatlinburg. This is an impressive title considering how many breakfast joints there are just in Downtown Gatlinburg alone. Somehow, we beat the breakfast rush and got seated right away, just as the line was starting to form. They had a HUGE selection of crepes and pancakes; I chose the mountain blueberry pancakes. They came with a delightful blueberry syrup and were absolutely delicious.
The coffee here was also very good, and the service was great and fast. We all really enjoyed the family atmosphere of the Pancake Pantry, especially having the baby with us. From breakfast, we headed to a different entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park than the day before to hike the Grotto Falls trail. Unfortunately, when we got there, the trail was closed for a couple of hours while they did maintenance, so we occupied ourselves at the Ogle Farm Houses until it reopened. The houses have been there since the 1800’s and are empty save for the tourists snapping pictures in their open rooms. The grounds surrounding the houses are gorgeous, with a small stream running behind them and the trees stretching up above.
Once we were able to get to the trail it was already a little crowded, but we’d find out later on that we actually beat most of the crowd. Even so, the parking lot was full, so we were forced to park along the one way street heading out of the lot. The hike was a little less than three miles to Grotto Falls and back. The trail was riddled with rocks and knotty roots, and it crossed small streams that snaked their way down the mountains. There were some steep drop-offs coupled with beautiful views. Clumsy me tripped just about a hundred times because I was so distracted by the gorgeous scenery.
As we got closer to the falls, the path became rocky and tad treacherous and the bugs became a little more prevalent. Grotto Falls itself was absolutely gorgeous. You can walk behind the waterfall, but be prepared to wait in line behind hikers wanting photo ops. The trail was crowded with hikers, with more and more coming up the path. The Falls pooled in a few separate places, which spread the crowd out a bit. We were able to get one to ourselves to stick our sweaty feet into without too much trouble.
The water was very cold and refreshing. On our way back down, we picked up the pace due to some thunder rumbling close by. We ended up being safe from the storm for a while, so we drove the scenic route around the park, driving by more waterfalls, across wooden bridges and alongside beautiful creeks. I won’t lie, I made everyone stop a couple of times so i could get out of the car and take pictures, but the photos are certainly worth it. We had another picnic lunch, which is really the only option if you’re spending the day in the Park.
After lunch, we drove to the Arts and Crafts Community, which is a neighborhood of stores featuring local artisans. There were quilters, weavers, glass blowers, candle makers and more. It was fun to look around, but prepare to spend some time here if you go because you have to drive between small groups of the shops to find the good stuff. It is very possible to find some unique souvenirs and treasures here.
Close to the Arts and Crafts Community is Gray Hawk Enterprises, where you can find hand woven blankets and rugs, handmade dream catchers, and beautiful turquoise jewelry. Mike and I got a rug for home, which we still have yet to put out, but it is very pretty! Our plan for our last night in Tennessee was to make dinner and hang out enjoying the amazing cabin. We were celebrating my parents’ 36th Anniversary, so us kids were in charge of cooking. While Mike and my brother-in-law, David, went to grab the ingredients, my sister, niece and parents and I made good use of the game room.
We played pool and Centipede and Pacman, and while it would have been silly to sit inside playing games amongst all this natural beauty… it was really fun. Soon after the boys came back, dark clouds started rolling in over the Smoky Mountains. It looked like something out of Lord of the Rings; it was beautiful and a little frightening. We sat out on the porch for a bit to watch, until it started pouring. We were grilling for dinner, so we took turns running out into the rain to check on the steaks. And then the power went out.
Everyone had to scramble around to find our phones and flashlights and attempted to figure out how to continue cooking. Before we could even begin to Macgyver our way to a cooked dinner, the power came back. The storm rumbled on as we sat down at the huge dining room table to enjoy our steaks, baked potatoes, grilled onions, asparagus, and salad. It turned out to be an amazing dinner, which we followed up with some rummy and wine. The next morning we had breakfast at the cabin and finished packing up to go our separate ways. All in all, it was a perfect Smoky Mountain vacation. I wouldn’t change a single thing we did. The scenery was beautiful, the hikes were solid, and my family was amazing as always.
Have you ever been to Smoky Mountains National Park? Which was your favorite hike?
**A special thank you to my very generous Mom and Dad, who gifted us this trip for Christmas. Love you guys!**