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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country and is filled with popular spots that everyone loves to explore. It’s also home to some incredible hidden gems for you to uncover when you visit! If you’re interested in exploring some of the lesser known spots in the Smokies, you’re in luck. We’ve put together a guide to 8 of the best kept secrets in the Smoky Mountains.
1. Elkmont Troll Bridge
Before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, the Elkmont area was a pioneer community, then a logging town, then a resort town for wealthy vacationers. When the park was established in 1934, Elkmont residents could choose to sell their homes for full value and relocate or sell their properties to the National Park Service for a discounted price in return for a lifetime lease. Once the National Park Service took over, Elkmont slowly started turning into a ghost town. One structure that’s still standing is the Troll Bridge. It spans a small creek a little ways off trail.
If you want to see the Troll Bridge, take one of the side trails to the right about 100 feet into the Little River Trail. You’ll follow the side trail through the forest until you reach the bridge. All you have to do is follow the path parallel to the stone walls!
2. Harrisburg Covered Bridge
Another one of the best kept secrets in the Smoky Mountains is the Harrisburg Covered Bridge. The past few years, the bridge has gone from being a hidden gem to a popular spot for pictures. It is one of only four covered bridges in Tennessee and has held a spot on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. The Harrisburg Covered Bridge is 83 feet long and 14 feet wide. Inside, there is about 11.5 feet of clearance. The bridge is located about 15 minutes from downtown Sevierville and isn’t hard to find!
You can find directions to the bridge on Google Maps.
3. Walker Sisters Place
Step back in time with a visit to the Walker Sisters Place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The cabin was originally built in the 1840s. It was home to the Walker sisters, 5 unmarried sisters who refused to leave their home after the establishment of the national park. Instead, they greeted visitors and sold handmade items like children’s toys, crocheted doilies and fried apple pies. The cabin is located just over a mile back from the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and offers a peaceful atmosphere for visitors exploring the park.
4. Rich Mountain Road
Everyone has heard of the popular Cades Cove Loop Road, but have you ever gone for a drive along Rich Mountain Road? This peaceful drive is one of the best kept secrets in the Smoky Mountains. If you want to take a break from all the traffic in Cades Cove, drive this one-way, 7-mile gravel road. It leads north out of Cades Cove and into Townsend. Rich Mountain Road passes by waterfalls, streams and cliff sides, and it even has a scenic overlook where you’ll have a great view of Cades Cove and the Primitive Baptist Church. It also offers great opportunities to spot wildlife!
5. House of the Fairies
The House of the Fairies is a secret spot that hikers love stumbling upon in the Smoky Mountains. It’s part of the Voorheis Estate, which consists of a main house, 2 guest cabins, a horse barn and an apple barn. The Voorheis Estate was developed from 1928 to 1944 using natural materials to create a rustic appearance. The House of the Fairies is an old stone house that was the springhouse at the Voorheis Estate. You can find it in the Twin Creeks area of the national park.
To get to the House of the Fairies, hike the Twin Creeks Trail. You’ll have to veer off the trail a little to find this structure, but it’s well worth it!
6. Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome
Did you know there is a secret tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road? This tunnel, called the Thomas Divide Tunnel, was designed to keep hikers from having to cross over Clingmans Dome Road. When Clingmans Dome Road was finished in 1935, there was a trail that paralleled the upper section of Newfound Gap Road. The trail connected to the Appalachian Trail on the far side of Clingmans Dome Road. Instead of routing the trail to cross Clingmans Dome, the engineers built the tunnel underneath the roadbed.
The secret tunnel is located less than a mile west of the junction between Clingmans Dome Road and Newfound Gap Road. It’s not a far hike from where you park your car!
7. Wears Valley
You may have heard of Wears Valley before, but it’s one of the best kept secrets in the Smoky Mountains because it provides visitors with the chance to explore a more peaceful side of the Smokies. It’s tucked just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s usually referred to as the “quieter side of the Smokies” because it’s full of nature and incredible views of the mountains. If you’re hoping to take a break from the hustle and bustle along the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Parkways, this is the perfect spot for you!
8. Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower
If you’ve never heard about the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower before, it should definitely be on your list of places to visit in the Smokies! The shortest way to the fire tower begins at the Low Gap Trailhead next to the Cosby Campground, but it’s still about 11.1 miles roundtrip. If you’re up for longer hike, this is definitely one you should try when you’re in town. When you make it to the top of the fire tower, every step will have felt worth it! You’ll be rewarded with one of the best views there is of the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Explore the Smoky Mountains
Now that you know about all of the best kept secrets in the Smoky Mountains, we bet you can’t wait to visit and explore! Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then start planning your trip to see some of the area’s secret spots.