Gatlinburg with Kids: A Smoky Mountain Hike, Rock Climbing and Fort Fun12:00 AM
Our last day in Gatlinburg finally rolled around. I am sad to be returning home, but we had a blast and this old mama is one worn out lady. I swear we must have walked at least 6 miles a day. The boys had an amazing time and there is so much to do in Gatlinburg with kids that I would highly recommend visiting this location as a family if you are looking for somewhere new to vacation. Also keep in mind that there were a lot of outdoors things that we did not get to cover because of me being six months pregnant, like ziplining, rafting, etc.
Hiking in the Smoky Mountain National Park
A short 2-3 mile drive down the road from the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Resort in Gatlinburg found us in the Smoky Mountain National Park. We stopped into the Sugarland Visitor's Center, visited with the rangers, took a look around and exited with a map to hike up to Cataract Falls. This was a rustic self guided trail that is about a mile round trip, so not long at all.
We encountered plenty of different plant species that are marked with plaques so you know what they are, including sassafras, sweet gum trees and sycamores to name a few. There were a two bridges, a few muddy patches and even some areas where you had to hop across the creek on wiggly rocks. Let me tell you how funny that must have looked with a six month pregnant lady and a 73 year old grandma. Jase decided it was very important to hold up his shorts even though the water was nowhere near them and that was a good laugh.
We arrived at the falls and they are beautiful. If you're adventurous, there is a further trail you can take that goes about 6 miles up or so, but we were good with sitting for a bit and snapping some photos by the falls. This was the boys' first time seeing a waterfall and they thought it was the greatest thing. Cost is free, although they do have a gift shop at the visitor's center and vending machines are available as well.
Rock Wall Climbing at the NOC
The amazing activity directors at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations resort, Misty and Chasity, set it up so that the boys could go rock wall climbing at the NOC or Nantahala Outdoor Center. There, Aaron helped the boys gear up and take turns climbing or attempting to climb the wall. There is an easy and more advanced side. Jordan and Jayden managed to get about halfway up the wall, but did pretty good for their first time. Jase chickened out, but I think he was a little young to do it. Joshua however is the most athletic boy I have and he is super strong for his size. He flew up the easy side and did a pretty good job hopping to the top of the advanced side too. They all had a great time though and I would recommend this experience and the outdoor shop to anyone who visits. The cost for climbing the wall is only $5 each, so a great deal.
We ended our last day of vacation with a trip to Fort Fun. This is a collection of attractions that provide a good value for the whole family and tons of fun. There is a 3-D motion ride, bumper cars, laser tag, indoor blacklight golf, outdoor golf, a laser maze and more. The boys road the bumper cars first and had a blast, these are super easy to control and have a tube of air on the outside so the impact isn't as bad. I did laser tag with the boys next and there was another family with us. I had such a great time doing this and it was probably one of the things I enjoyed the most the whole trip because I could just let loose and laugh. Last, we did the indoor black light golf course. It was set to an underwater theme and the 3-D glasses you can get to go with it, make it that much more fun. There is a great "do it all" pass that you can buy here that includes 6 activities for only $15.99, making this a great value and somewhere you family can easily spend several hours of fun.
We drive home Friday morning and we will forever cherish the fun and memories we made here in Gatlinburg. Thanks to everyone who gave suggestions and made this trip possible.
*Holiday Inn Club Vacations provided us with a complimentary four night stay at their Gatlinburg location and the Gatlinburg Attractions Association provided us with a complimentary VIP attractions pass, but all words and opinions expressed above are my own.