History is everywhere here in East Tennessee! A walk down the Gatlinburg Parkway, consists of live folk and bluegrass music, old family recipes of homemade candies and shops filled with original artwork crafted by local artisans. Many of these skills and recipes have been passed down for generations and have greatly contributed to the Gatlinburg we enjoy today.
Most of Gatlinburg’s history originates from within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a place visitors are able to travel back in time and experience what life was like in the old days.
For all you history-buffs out there, here are the best places to visit in the National Park:
Cades Cove is an 11-mile, one-way loop road that circles the cove allowing motorists the opportunity to take in all of the glory of the mountains at a leisurely pace. The road loops around a valley that is full of wildlife and rich in history. The first Europeans settled in the cove sometime between 1818 and 1821. Cades Cove offers the widest variety of historic buildings of any area in the park. Scattered along the loop road, visitors will find three historic churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses and other eighteenth and nineteenth century structures.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The narrow, winding Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5 mile-long, one-way, loop road full of trails, waterfalls, and old-growth forest. Spectators who drive through the Nature Trail will find a number of well-preserved log cabins, working tub mills and other historic buildings. The historic district includes the Jim Bales place, the Ephraim Bales place and the Alfred Reagan place. Ely’s Mill is a popular place to stop and browse locally-made antiques, crafts and delicious honey.
A variety of historic buildings have been preserved in the valley including two churches, a school and several homes and outbuildings. This isolated valley was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements and surrounded by 6,000 foot peaks of the rugged mountains in Appalachia. In 1910, around 1,200 people settled in the beautiful mountain valley and made a living by farming and fishing. Cataloochee Valley is also a very popular spot to see wildlife such as bears, deer, and elk.
The Mountain Farm Museum is a unique collection of farm building from locations throughout the park. Visitors can explore log farmhouses, barns, an apple house, springhouse and a working blacksmith shop. Just a half-mile north of Oconaluftee Visitor Center is Mingus Mill. This historic grist mill was built in 1886 and is still functional today. The mill uses a water-powered turbine rather than a waterwheel to power all of the machinery in the building.
The Sugarlands Visitor Center is also filled with abundant resources, full of information about the Park’s history so make sure to stop by and check it out before venturing back to the past.