Day three of the Smoky Mountains adventure was back to hiking waterfalls, and first on the list was Laurel Falls. This had to be the most popular falls because it was a paved trail (in rather poor condition) up to the falls. Like the Clingmans Dome trail, I think this gave people the impression that it wasn’t going to be steep. As it turns out, you’re still hiking up a mountain for 1.3 miles.
The falls have a total drop 80ft., but I suspect that most people just see the top 20ft of it. The trail ends at a bridge going over the river to the other side of the falls and that’s where most people seemed to gather. Going back down the trail a little way revealed a small side trail which allowed us to pick our way down to the real base of the falls.
The next stops were some of the old, still standing, structures of the areas. Namely a house and two churches. Before we got there though, we went by a pasture on the way into the Cades Cove loop (number 7 on the map, over to the West). This pasture was occupied by horses, which were important enough to Janet to stop for. I on the other hand, have no special appreciation for horses having had enough dealings with them as a kid.
On our way to the far end of Cades Cove to hike the day’s second waterfall, we came upon an area where some black bears had been sighted and everyone in a mile radius was stopping to see. We were apparently just a bit late to the party and the crowd started dispersing just after we parked and started walking back.
Abrams Falls were the next destination – a 5 mile hike up and down along a river to a falls. This was probably the highest volume falls we saw and emptied into a small lake where people apparently could swim, though it was not advised. It was also possibly the easiest hike because instead of a straight climb, there was some up and down to it.
Finishing up the loop of Cades Cove, we stopped by the old mill area which had a number of remaining buildings as well as a water trough diverting the river to the mill. We took a second loop of the area at dusk to see if any more wildlife would be out. We saw a few deer close to the first house we had stopped at, but not much else.