GATLINBURG (WATE) — After a 6 News crew spent nearly a week in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently, five places stand out on the must see list.
It's the highest point in the park at just over 6,600 feet. Unlike other peaks, you can drive to Clingmans Dome, weather permitting. It's a hot spot for photographers and there's even an observation tower just a short hike up from the parking lot.
2. Mt. LeConte
There's no road to this majestic spot, just a handful of hiking trails. Our crew hiked the Alum Cave Trail, which is 10 miles round trip and full of scenic stops. The trail runs through Arch Rock, past Alum Cave Bluff and right by the Eye of the Needle, a virtual hole in a ridge in the park.
Once at the peak of LeConte, you'll find the only overnight lodging in the park. There are several small cabins that can sleep up to 60 people. There's also a small gift shop, a fresh water supply and a lodge where lunch and dinner is served.
3. The Rockefeller Memorial
This is the sight where the only sitting president has visited in the park. Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated the park form the memorial in 1940, six years after the park was formed.
President George W. Bush was scheduled to speak in Cades Cove in 2005, but was diverted due to strong storms.
Many people think of Elkmont as a great campground in the park, but there's also a rich history there. Around the turn of the century, Elkmont was a timber town, and eventually, one section of Elkmont became a vacation resort before the park was formed.
The “Appalachian Club,” as the community was known, housed the last resident in the park. The final lease ran out in 2001.
The park service now has plans to preserve 18 of the remaining homes and the Clubhouse. Soon, visitors will be able to tour them like the structures in Cades Cove.
5. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is home to the most preserved structures in the park. Unlike Elkmont, the old homes, barns and churches are safe to tour and you'll often find volunteers on site to tell you about the history.
Around the turn of the century, Cades Cove was home to nearly 800 people, many of whom fought turning over their land to the national park.