Explore Tennessee's Scenic Beauty During Pigeon Forge Wilderness Wildlife Week

The flora and fauna are just ready to be discovered in the nation's most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A century ago, America's best idea was hatched and the National Park System was born. To this day, the Great Smoky Mountains, more ancient than the Rocky Mountains, remain one of the world's great protected natural areas.

From the mountain peaks, the ridges pale from blue to grey in the astounding visible distance. From the valley floors, ancient forests inhabited by elk and black bear stand immense and powerful. Streams and rivers rush along their boulder-strewn courses. And through it all, a mysterious history lingers, from the long ago home of the Cherokee to white settlement, through wars and the redevelopment of the landscape by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the National Park System. It can be more than a little bit daunting to attempt to make sense of this region. 

Luckily for us, some folks are doing everything they can to make that challenge as easy as possible for us.

(Credit: Pigeon Forge Tourism Department)

This year's Pigeon Forge Wilderness Wildlife Week, taking place Wednesday May 18 through Sunday, May 22, is a wide-ranging event that is part symposium, part outdoor adventure. All you have to do is choose where you want to be and what you want to do.

(Credit: Pigeon Forge Tourism Department)

For the symposium portion of Wilderness Wildlife Week, there are panels, discussions, demonstrations, workshops, performances, demonstrations and everything in between of an array of topics, including (but amazingly, not limited to) natural conservation, from fish and streams to the state and condition of the forests; photography workshops and contests; nature painting and drawing classes; mountain craft demonstrations including weaving, broom making, and wool spinning; history seminars ranging in subject from the Civil War, local family histories, settlers, the Cherokee to moonshiners; traditional Appalachian storytelling and myths; birdwatching; talks about wildlife from wolves to butterflies, wild hogs to black bears; and classes to learn to play the spoons, Native American style flute and even the penny-whistle.

(Credit: Pigeon Forge Tourism Department) 

And that's without even stepping outside. The outdoor adventure portion includes guides hikes and bus tours of some of the region's most iconic and well-known natural areas, and even some that aren't so well known that you can visit after Wilderness Wildlife Week is over.

Abrams Falls – Blount County

Named after a Cherokee chief whose village was located several miles downstream, the Falls are 20 ft. high as water rushes over. Hikers find the waterfall tucked among a pine-oak and rhododendron forest. The hike is five miles roundtrip and rated moderate difficulty.

Rainbow Falls – Sevier County

The end of the rainbow may just lead you to these beautiful falls. On a sunny afternoon, you can see a rainbow created by the mist from the 80-foot high waterfall. The hike is 5.4 miles roundtrip and is moderate in difficulty.

Andrews Bald – Gatlinburg

Named for Andres Thompson, a cattle herder from the 1840s, the trail begins at Clingmans Dome and has a large descent before becoming a broad ridge where patches of blackberries, raspberries, and Fraser fir trees can be found.

The Little River – Gatlinburg

(Credit: Pigeon Forge Tourism Department)

The Little River flows for 18 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park then 33 miles through Blount County to join the Tennessee River. The three forks of the river are fed by four mountains of 6,000 ft. Trout are abundant in its waters, making it a great fishing hole.

Cades Cove – Gatlinburg

(Credit: Chuck Sutherland)

Hop on the 11-mile loop via car, bike or hike to view wildlife and learn the history of the area with churches, a working grist mill, log houses and more structures from the 18th and 19th century.  

Elkmont – Gatlinburg

(Credit: Radim Schreiber)

The largest and busiest campground in the Park, the campground is also the site of the annual viewing of the synchronous fireflies May 31-June 7, 2016. This species are the only species in America who individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.  

Grotto Falls – Gatlinburg

The 25-foot high waterfall can be found along the Trillium Gap Trail which takes hikers along an old-growth hemlock forest. Moderate in difficulty, the three-mile roundtrip hike is ideal for summer hikers within its cool, damp environment.

Brushy Mountain – Gatlinburg

From Grotto Falls, make your way 3.35 miles to this treeless area to enjoy laurel, rhododendron, blueberry and huckleberry plants. Beautiful vistas can be enjoyed along the 6.7-mile roundtrip.

Sugarlands – Gatlinburg

Easy in difficulty, enjoy a leisure walk through the woods on the 0.5-mile trail that is moderately trafficked by those wanting a bit of fresh air.

Spence Field – Townsend

From scenic views to bubbling cascades, this 12.5-mile, two day loop is a mountain highland that can host 12 backpackers for camping. A permit is required for overnight use.

For more information, including a complete calendar of events, visit . 

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