Our Thanksgiving getaway.
Chimney Tops, 11/26/18
My husband and I absolutely love an adventure! I think we enjoy exploring much more than relaxing and sunny vacations... even though we could REALLY use some relaxation since we both have such busy schedules between work, coaching, and grad school! But I guess we just find it more fun, so it’s worth it for us! We get to experience things we’ve never experienced before and it’s extremely thrilling.
Hiking is no joke!
So we’ve hiked once before, in the Rocky Mountains, but that certainly did not mean we were professionals! The hikes we took in the Smokys seemed much more strenuous and a lot harder of a climb. Our legs were sore for days!
Rainbow Falls, 11/25/18
Since we were in Tennessee for a couple days, we were only able to experience two different trails: Chimney Tops and Rainbow Falls. To be honest, two trails was plenty! And I’m happy we chose these two, because both had complete different outcomes and were uniquely breathtaking.
Of the two hikes we took, the climb for Chimney Tops required a lot more hard work! There are a handful of stairs such as the one pictured above, a lot of steep uphill climbing, and somewhat scary views as you’re on your way up. There was an elevation gain of 1,800 ft in only two miles, which is insane! That means you’re climbing uphill 1,800 ft in a short amount of time! I don’t remember exactly how long it took us, but I believe it was about an hour and a half to get to the top. And I say there were some scary views only because the mountain you’re climbing through was very open and it just seemed steep with a stream down below. This mountain experienced a forest fire not too long ago, so a lot of trees were knocked down and there’s a lot of open space as you climb.
There are a few bridges you have to cross over throughout your hike and they’re beautiful! If you have a fear of walking over streams on a wooden bridge, maybe this isn’t for you, but the bridges aren’t that long. I’d say it’s worth it! They’re very picturesque and super awesome to experience!
The Grand Finale
This grand finale to this climb was breathtaking (picture above). The photo cannot simply grasp what you actually see and feel in person. You’re as high as 4,000+ feet overlooking the mountains all around you. And of course, it’s called “Chimney Tops” for a reason - it’s very foggy up there!
We made it!
Do I recommend this hike?
I most definitely would! It’s beautiful and definitely has an ending that will blow your mind. The experience at the top is worth the climb... I just think that you should be ready for a tough climb! On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the hardest), I would say that this climb is about an 8.
The climb to Rainbow Falls was much more bearable than Chimney Tops... and extremely beautiful! I think that this trail was a little more picturesque than the other. You’ll run into a lot of nice streams, bridges, and just a lot of beautiful sightseeing! You’ll hear the sound of a stream throughout your hike that all leads to the huge waterfall at the end!
The elevation gain for Rainbow Falls is about 1,500 ft over 2.5 miles, so it’s not as steep of a climb than Chimney Tops! But it did take a lot longer... It was about a 2.5 hour climb, but the hike back down was was only an hour or so!
There were a lot of beautiful streams along the way to the top with gorgeous views! I absolutely loved the hike up. It was definitely a lot more picturesque.
Rainbow Falls also had a few bridges to cross! Very beautiful and a great experience! It’s a little scary for a person who does not like crossing over streams! But it’s quick and the ending is worth it.
The Grand Finale
One word to describe the very top is WOW! It was such a beautiful experience. An 80 ft waterfall just pouring down. Usually, if you go after it’s been raining, there would be a beautiful rainbow near the falls (hence the name)! We climbed all these rocks to get behind the waterfall, which was a little dangerous but worth it for the gram! 😉
Do I recommend this hike?
Most definitely! I think it’s a great hike for anyone, including kids. It’s not that strenuous and very safe. The waterfall at the end is absolutely stunning and I think anyone would feel this hike is beautiful! It’s a long hike, but a very enjoyable one. On a strenuous scale of 1 to 10, I would say this hike is at a 5.
Other things to do in Gatlinburg, TN
Other than hiking, there are a few other things to do in Gatlinburg! We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to, because time was quite limited. But simply walking around the town was nice and beautiful!
The Sky Lift was a really awesome experience! It goes really high up above a mountain, so if you’re afraid of heights this probably isn’t for you!
The view you get from at the top of the Sky Lift was pretty intense! It was a little cloudy when we went, but it was still a breathtaking view!
We wanted to go zip lining, but the day we chose to go it was too windy outside and so they were closed for the day (sad face). And not too far out of Gatlinburg, there’s a mountain coaster that travels through a mountain with a ton of sightseeing! We didn’t really have time for that either, but we went bear hunting! Not literally, obviously, but we went searching for bears and we saw three!
Bears of the Smoky Mountains
Black bears are all over the place in the Rocky’s! Sadly, we only saw three. It was so cool to experience freaking bears in a real environment! Not just at the zoo behind a cage. This is where they live! Which was one thing that kind of scared me while hiking, lol. Any noise we heard I was scared a bear was somewhere in the distance!
One poor bear (below) was stuck at the tip of a very tall tree on such a tiny branch! I’m not sure how it held him up. He was there for a few hours... We left and came back to see if he was still there and he was! But then when we went back before sunset he was gone... I hope he got down carefully! 😳
Ah, food... My favorite part of any trip! I have to have good food anywhere I go. It makes or breaks the trip tbh! Here are a couple places we ate at:
Blaine’s Grill & Bar
Super delicious food! We had cheese bites, wings, and chicken alfredo! I forgot to take pictures of my food (shocking)! But below are a few from their menu (sorry for the poor quality photos)!
Our first night in Gatlinburg we tried Calhoun’s for the first time. We really loved it! Their appetizers were awesome and their burger was extremely good!! I’m very picky, especially with burgers, and it was to die for! 😋👌🏼 I definitely recommend this place! And it’s right in the center of Gatlinburg!
Our Hard Rock Cafe Tradition
We are huge fans of Hard Rock Cafe and we’ve started a tradition of our own to go to one everywhere we travel, if possible! This is our 7th one together (Chicago, Italy, Canada, Florida, California, Colorado, and now Tennessee)! The only place we couldn’t go to one so far was Mexico (unfortunately), because we stayed at a resort!
Their sampler appetizer is so delicious! (My husband ate 9 of the egg rolls before I even got to my 4th 🙄) And I absolutely love their Atomic Burger! So yum! (Photo below is not mine!)
One night we found a cute dessert place that served delicious rolled ice cream in Pigeon Forge right after we ate at Hard Rock Cafe! It was really good!
Curl de la Crème
So the ride to Gatlinburg, TN from Chicago was about 9 hours on the GPS. But in reality, it was almost 10 or 11 hours because of making stops for gas, breakfast, food, and bathroom breaks. Going there, we left around 3 am (we’re psychotic) and it was such a horrible decision. We were so tired that we stopped at a rest stop and slept for an hour! It was such a drag when you’re super tired. The only exciting thing was stopping for breakfast in Louisville, Kentucky! They had some huge ass cakes there. 😳
Since we would hike early in the morning, we didn’t want to eat a huge breakfast beforehand. Luckily, there’s a Starbucks right in the center of Gatlinburg, so we would take a morning walk there and drink our coffee with a nice bagel or breakfast wrap! Their everything bagel is literally everything.
Overall, I definitely recommend traveling to Gatlinburg, TN! I might not recommend driving there if you have a 9+ hour drive, but either way, it was definitely worth it. The mountains were beautiful and the hikes were manageable. The food options were great and all in all, I had a wonderful time with my husband. After going to both the Rocky's and the Smoky's, I'd say we're not mountain people! We definitely want to try going to more national parks... Maybe Yosemite will be next! Who knows... If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know!