With its amazing mountain vistas and smoky sunsets, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a fantastic place to spend a romantic weekend, celebrate Valentine’s Day or an anniversary, or to just spend time together. Don’t miss these five activities.
1. Profess Your Love in Two States at Once
Year-round the main north-south road in the park, Newfound Gap Road, offers 31 miles of mountain views. Stop midpoint at at the gap itself for the best vistas from the viewing wall. But another attraction is quietly sitting in the middle of the parking lot. This point, marked with the simple sign, happens to be the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s the opportunity for you to mark the moment by standing with one leg in each state and announce your intentions (or at the very least get a souvenir photo.)
Want to go bigger? Climb to the top of Clingman’s Dome and shout it out to seven states.
2. Stay in a Cozy Cabin
Although Great Smoky Mountains National Park only has one lodge, the areas bordering the parks offer hundreds of log cabins and cottages for rent, many with fireplaces and hot tubs. Your choices range from the large cabin resort communities in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, to individually owned vacation homes in the communities of Bryson City, Townsend, and Cherokee. The best-kept secrets of the region are the quaint cabins and B&B’s near the tiny town of Waynesville, N.C. such as the 1898 Oak Hill House on Love Lane. (www.oakhillonlovelane.com)
3. Get Married in the Park
Forget about the beach or Las Vegas. A wedding in a mountain forest or a pioneer cabin beats those locations in ambiance, uniqueness and romance. You can reserve a wedding spot in the park by simply applying for a special use permit and paying the $50 fee. There are over 50 pre-scouted locations in the park for your selection, or request a spot with special meaning to you. Note that there are limits as to the number of people and cars, food, and the volume of music. Learn more at the NPS wedding webpage www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/wedding-information.htm (Video by the Great Smoky Mountains Association)
4. Watch the Sunset at Cliff Top
This romantic adventure takes of bit of planning plus a bit of luck. Check the weather forecast for a partly cloudy (for color), mostly sunny (for clarity) afternoon. When you think you’ve found a golden day, pack your headlamps, a picnic dinner, and warm clothing then head for the Alum Cave Trailhead at the foot of Mount LeConte. It’s a 5.5-mile hike to get to LeConte Lodge. Then take the short Cliff Top Viewpoint Access Trail. Your reward? Famous views of the sun setting over Clingman’s Dome and Gatlinburg.
5. Take a Dip in Midnight Hole
A short 1.5-mile trek from the Big Creek Campground takes you to a natural swimming hole formed from Big Creek waters crashing between two large boulders. The crystal-clear water of Midnight Hole invites you to jump and make a splash, but we recommend a gentle wade after a steamy hot summer day. Venture on the trail another half mile to see Moose Creek Falls.