Wildflowers & Waterfalls: Exploring the Great Smokies

Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

| Activities: Hiking, Rafting, History

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is world famous for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and many excellent hiking trails. Our annual trip is a great way to begin your hiking season. Designed to give you an overview of one of our most treasured National Parks, our trip will give your hiking legs a great spring beginning to the hiking season. We'll see wildflowers and waterfalls, hiking at a leisurely pace to enhance our enjoyment of the scenery, take time to take pictures and identify flowers, and soak those 'winter tired' feet in beautiful pools at the edge of waterfalls. Whether you are intrigued by salamanders or birds, wildflowers or trees, waterfalls or mountain vistas, learning about the fascinating cultural history, or just seeking less traveled paths, you will quickly understand why the Great Smokies have been designated both an International Biosphere reserve and a World Heritage Site. Maximum group size: 12

Highlights

  • Seeing up to 30 species of wildflowers on any hike
  • Rafting a fun section of the Pigeon River (also suitable for women with no experience)
  • Visiting Little Greenbrier Community and learning about the people who lived here
  • Hiking beautiful trails, and lunch everyday next to a waterfall
  • Gazing at the view from the hot tub and luxuriating in your own private room

Departures and Prices

April 10 to April 16, 2022
$2195.00 - FULL
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April 17 to April 23, 2022
$2195.00 - FULL
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Inclusions

  • 1 - 2 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Six nights lodging in a private room with ensuite bathroom
  • All meals from dinner on Sunday through breakfast Saturday
  • Transportation to/from the Knoxville airport (TYS) and transportation during the trip
  • White water rafting and rafting guide gratuities

Not included: Airfare to/from Knoxville (TYS), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, and any optional activities.

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is appropriate for any woman who exercises regularly at a moderate level (such as going for 45 minute brisk walks 3 to 5 days a week), and who either enjoys hiking or is new to hiking and wants to learn in a safe and fun environment. On this trip there is a special emphasis on cultural and natural history and stopping to smell the flowers (literally). Rating:1 [2]3 4 5

This trip combines hiking with learning about the natural and cultural history of the area. With lots of instruction and tips to make your hiking more enjoyable, this is an ideal trip for novice hikers. You can also learn to identify the many wildflowers found here.

On this trip we stay the entire week in a luxury lodge, perched on a mountainside just outside Gatlinburg. There are 12 private rooms (some with king beds and others with Queens) all with private bathrooms. Amenities include a pool table, a covered porch with rocking chairs and a great view, a hot tub, fireplace, and a large dining and living room. Everyone gets her own bedroom on this trip. Rooms are assigned by lottery.
If you are coming with someone with whom you would like to share a room and bed, there is a 10% discount (limited to 2 people).

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
This itinerary may be modified based on weather and where the wildflowers are best.

If you're flying in, we'll meet you at the Knoxville Airport at noon. After driving to the Park, we start with an introduction to the cultural history of the Smokies by visiting the area once known to early settlers as the Little Greenbrier Community. We'll visit the Little Greenbrier School (first opened in 1882), a pioneer cemetery, and the Walker Sisters cabin and home site. This slightly ascending trail is along an old roadbed. If you are driving, please plan to be at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic parking lot (south side) by 2:00 pm. Little Brier Gap Trail, 2.6 miles. Dinner tonight is at our lodge and you’ll be treated to a typical southern bar-b-que dinner, complete with hush puppies and corn on the cob! (D)
DAY 2
Our trail today rises at a steady, moderate grade as it passes through a forest of large Eastern Hemlocks and Fraser magnolias and then into a moist, sheltered cove hardwood forest. Well-known for its incredible display of wildflowers in April and May, the forest floor can be carpeted with up to 30 to 40 species of wildflowers. Rich in cultural history as well, Porters Creek trail passes the old Baxter Cabin, stone walls, an old cantilevered barn and the Owenby Cemetery, all remnants of the time that a thriving community lived here. We will hike to Fern Branch Falls and have lunch before turning back. Porters Creek Trail, about 4 miles. Dinner tonight will begin with appetizers and continue with the first of several ‘home made’ meals by your guides, ending with (of course!) dessert! (B, L, D)
DAY 3
Our first stop this morning will be the Sugarlands Visitors Center where we'll take the opportunity to learn more about the park, its history and its natural inhabitants through the orientation film and their natural history museum. Then - back to hiking and the search for wildflowers! Traveling off the beaten path, today's trail leads into a natural limestone sink. White Oak Sink is home to many rare plants, various caves, and a waterfall that flows into a cave, offering unique opportunities to learn about the geology, natural history, and cultural history of the area. Spring wildflowers abound in the sink, coating the trail side with a beautiful variety of colors. Our hike begins on the School House Gap trail, an old roadbed with an easy uphill grade. Shortly we'll turn off the Schoolhouse Gap trail onto the trail to White Oak Sink, an unmaintained trail with occasional steep ascents and descents. After our hike we’ll head back to the lodge for some well-deserved relaxation, and - tonight is pizza night! Also well deserved! White Oak Sink, 5.0 miles (B, L, D)
DAY 4
Ready to give your legs a break and see a completely different part of the ecosystem? We'll enjoy breakfast out at the Log Cabin Pancake House and then onto the white water of the Pigeon River! Although the rapids are large enough to be exciting, the trip is completely appropriate for novice rafters. Returning to Gatlinburg we'll stretch our legs as we walk out to Laurel Falls (2.4 miles on a paved trail) the most visited falls in the park. Back at the lodge, perhaps the hot tub or just relaxing in rockers on the porch before another homemade dinner! (B, L, D)
DAY 5
Today our morning will take us to Grotto Falls hike - one of the more spectacular waterfalls in the park and the only one you can actually walk behind! The trail is a moderate 2.6-mile hike through a hardwood cove offering great wildflower spotting as well as views across the valley. After our hike, we will return to our condo for lunch and a few choices. The afternoon is free and there are no bad choices! Your guides will offer the opportunity journey to the highest points of the park -- New Found Gap (with a short walk on the Appalachian Trail) and Clingman's Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest point on the eastern side of the U.S., a visit to the historic Bud Ogle's farm where we’ll take the 1.2-mile nature hike and explore what a typical homestead was like in this part of the country, including a plume for water and a grist mill, enjoying downtown Gatlinburg, or, since it is vacation, you might want to just spend a relaxing afternoon back at the lodge, enjoying the porch or hot tub. Your guides will help you sort out the options and help you get where you want to go. Or, maybe ice cream is in your afternoon - just an appetizer before another meal at the Lodge. Mileage will vary depending on choices made. (B, L, D)
DAY 6
Our trek today will take us through Eastern Hemlock and deciduous forests as we hike along the Maddron Bald Trail. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), the trail begins as an old roadbed and rises consistently, though moderately, throughout its entire length. Albright Grove, named for Horace Albright who was an advocate for the park and a director for the National Park Service, is an awesome remnant of old growth forest. Here you will experience the sights, sounds, and feel of this home to ancient trees. We'll have plenty of time to stroll among and admire the grand Eastern Hemlocks, silverbells, Fraser magnolias, tulip trees, and other tree species before returning along the Maddron Bald Trail. We’ll return to the lodge with plenty of time to ‘freshen up’ and head into Gatlinburg to share our last dinner together at one of the many local restaurants. Albright Grove and Maddron Bald Trail, 6.7 miles. (B, L, D)
DAY 7
It's our last morning in the Smokies but we'll continue to savor every minute! We'll take our time this morning, enjoy our last breakfast together and the view from the lodge, before making our way back. We'll fit in a visit to Sugarlands Visitors Center for one last chance for any items you may just have to have and even have time to walk the nature trail to Cataract Falls. After that, we reluctantly head to the Knoxville airport. If you're driving, you can plan to leave by 10 a.m. If you're flying, we'll return you to the Knoxville airport by 11:00 am for a flight out after 12:00 noon. (B)

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "Did this trip meet your expectations?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

4.8

(36 reviews)
5 Food
4.9 Lodging
4.9 Safety
5
(31)
4
(4)
3
(1)
2
(0)
1
(0)
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Barbara C.
1 month ago

It went beyond my expectations with the natural beauty of the waterfalls and wildflowers in bloom to my first rafting rip in forty years. The people on the trip were terrific and the lodging and food were fantastic. Your company did well!!!

Margaret D.
1 month ago

Yoana P.
1 month ago

Lynne P.
2 months ago

I loved the trip. The only suggestion that I would make is to increase the hiking time.

Donna R.
2 months ago

Pam K.
2 months ago

Donna G.
3 years ago

Really enjoyed the hikes and seeing/identifying the wildflowers. Excellent meals! Love Jan and nice meeting Alicia. Nice group of women.

Juluia L.
3 years ago

Jan's knowledge of not only wildflowers, but the history of the area. The wildflowers weren't as plentiful as I expected, but that is due to a chillier then typical Spring which isn't something you can control. The waterfalls were beyond my expectations and that probably was because of the weather. :) It was an empowering week of getting to know such a variety of women.

Bernadette V.
3 years ago

Seeing all the wildflowers, White Oak Sink, meeting the other hikers, the history of the area and park...

Cynthia R.
3 years ago

The mountains were beautiful. It was fun learning about the wildflowers and some of the history of the area. Lodge was comfortable

Stephanie P.
3 years ago

Dana T.
3 years ago

I greatly enjoyed learning about the history of the area as well as the various wildflowers. I also needed a week to escape from "real life" and spend quality time with my Mom. This trip met and exceeded those needs.

Linda V.
3 years ago

Loved the history of the land and its families, and the wildflowers were beyond expectations

Sue M.
3 years ago

Being outdoors. regardless of the weather. I really enjoy being supportive to new travelers or those who need encouragement. I want everyone to know they can do it. doesn't matter the order you finish. it never does.

Barbra G.
3 years ago

Hiking, experiencing nature, sharing the experience with new friends

Barbra G.
3 years ago

Hiking, experiencing nature, sharing the experience with new friends

Bonnie M.
3 years ago

Highlights: the pace of the hikes, the gentleness of the long ones the daily hikes the interaction with the hikers

Kathleen P.
3 years ago

The beautiful scenery and the wonderful women.

Deborah M.
4 years ago

Jean M.
4 years ago

Karen B.
4 years ago

It was a well-planned, well thought-out trip. I enjoyed the interaction with the guides and other women. I like active vacations, and enjoyed the hiking. The area is just beautiful!

Jennifer B.
4 years ago

Jan and Carrie were without a doubt the highlight of my trip. They were knowledgable about the area, had great hiking skill tips, kind, cool under pressure, and last but not least, amazing cooks! I thoroughly enjoyed every meal. I appreciated the healthy and great taste of every single meal. outstanding!

Alice F.
4 years ago

Each hike was special. Not just for the flowers and scenery but also for the history lessons that went along with the place we hiked.. I was so glad I did the artist circle because I got to talk to some of the real locals and appreciate the area even more

Mary W.
4 years ago

Hilights were all of the wildflowers that we saw and identified. Eating lunch by a waterfall or creek was lovely!

Kathy M.
4 years ago

I loved the park and the wildflowers.

Barbara D.
4 years ago

Grotto falls ogle farms nature walk the sinks

Anonymous
4 years ago

All expectations were beyond met. I have a whole new appreciation for the Smokey Mountains and their beauty.

Anonymous
4 years ago

Deborah M.
4 years ago

Loved being challenged daily and was inspired by all the women

Patricia P.
5 years ago

The highlight of the trip was meeting all the adventurous women. They were fantastic and inspirational because they had traveled all over the world.

Pamela C.
5 years ago

Hiking in the Smokies and meeting new women.

Sandra B.
5 years ago

Great scenery, wildflowers, waterfalls and weather.

Linda Z.
5 years ago

I loved the smoky mountains and getting to know other women and having some relaxation and I tried some new things!

Bernadette B.
5 years ago

Impressive guides- knowledge, organization, patience, accommodating to my needs (Diet Dr Peppers) Beauty of the plants, rocks, and waterfalls on the hikes We saw bears Food was great I learned so much about hiking and about this part of the country

Elizabeth M.
5 years ago

Staying at one place, private room, spacious lodge was great. Super excellent guides, beautiful place, just-right variety of daily activities. Liked the activity level--challenging enough to be doing something out of the ordinary, but no anxious anticipation. Lovely group of women. Lots of outdoor time, in a place warmer than home.

Pamela C.
5 years ago

Certainly the Smokey Mts. were spectacular providing us with gorgeous wildflowers and waterfalls and wonderful weather. Along with this, the knowledge, warmth, and passion of our guides enhanced the experience by educating us about the wildflowers. the history of the Smokies, and backpacking. So fu!

  1. Where do we eat?

    The guides will be cooking breakfasts and most dinners in the lodge. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you'll take a packed lunch. You'll go out for one breakfast and one dinner where you can order off the menu; other nights you'll relax in the lodge and have dinner there.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    Vegetarian options for this trip are available but may be more limited than you are used to. If you are concerned about having enough protein during your trip, plan to bring some plant-based protein sources such as nut butter, instant dried hummus, or high-protein energy bars. If you cannot eat gluten or if you have other dietary restrictions i.e. vegan, you will need to bring some supplemental food with you.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    No, all the rooms on this trip are singles! On our other trips you only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
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