East Coast Wanderer: Screen Detoxing the Atlanta Way

West Palisades

Concerning Hobbits” by Howard Shore from “The Fellowship of the Ring” 🎵

I’ve written about trails and hiking a few times on this blog – sometimes in Atlanta, sometimes in the Smokies, but never mapped it out. It’s what my husband and I do when we want to be away from screens. As I get older, I’m increasingly more conscious about truly how much time I spend behind one.

I used to walk 5 miles a day but had to pause on that for a year. I’ve found out recently as long as I stick to 30 minutes at a time and don’t over exert I can do some trails! So these last two weekends I did Vickery Creek and West Palisades in Atlanta – two easy ones. The header image from this post is West Palisades.

Unfortunately some of the longer trails and high/low altitude changes are off limits for me right now, but that isn’t stopping me. I recall talking to someone a few weeks ago how they should consider exploring the east side of the US’s parks because they’ve spent <their entire life> doing mainly trails on the west coast and have never seen the smokies. The 2,190+ mile Appalachian Trail is a bucket list item for many for a reason!

The GSMNP and Nantahala Forest hold a special place in my heart – my husband and I got married there with only 20 people on a balcony and our entire wedding was Lord of the Rings[14] themed. Since then I’ve often encouraged others to visit our parks – on the east coast, we are often only a few miles or hours from an epic trail if you live in Georgia, Tennessee, or North Carolina. So I am going to make it easy for anyone who wants to see the Great Smoky National Parks and Nantahala National Forest, the place I hope to someday retire.

Note: I don’t stay in Gatlinburg. I personally think it isn’t remote enough, has become very tourist-y. It’s also north of the Great Smoky National Park and the Nantahala Forest so anytime you want to go do something opposite of Pigeon Forge, you end up having to re-drive the GSMNP parkway, which while beautiful, if you’re trying to get somewhere south, isn’t convenient. You should go up north to Gatlinburg at least once to see what Tennessee Whiskey Disneyworld is like for comparison.

Where to Stay

I stay on the lower side near Fontana lake which has still (1) great views, (2) cabins are half the cost, (3) it has less people. I included a website that nostalgically looks like it was built in 1994 with a company I’ve booked at for years Carolina Mountain Vacations.

You can pretty much find anything you want – dog friendly cabins, cabin with a view, cabins near creeks. Cabins for 3 people….10 people. I also use Bryson City as our hub, not Gatlinburg. I wouldn’t expect lots of food options (I Included a few) – Cooking in your own cabin is budget friendly and just as lovely. Last year we opened up Skyrim the board game with a full view into the mountains and some wine and played all day.

You can see the full Map here which includes trails, waterfalls, campgrounds and areas of interest. I haven’t included everything I’ve done as I’ve only spent 30 minutes on it, but it’s enough to fill an entire week as is. My absolute favorite thing to do (currently off limits for me) is white-water tubing down Deep Creek. It’s $8/day to rent a tube and you flow alongside waterfalls.

In any case, I hope to get up North this year to see anything (current plan is to rent a small farm with goats for a few days…) but if you ever get the chance – go see the mountains and just do the unexpected.

Especially if you’re a parent, Happy Mother’s Day. 😊

[14] This is the fourteenth clue to the puzzle.