Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

My sun is in Capricorn (an earth sign), and my moon, rising and Jupiter are in Sagittarius. What does all of that mean? It pretty much means that the desire for me to travel, be free, and in nature, particularly the mountains is instinctual. Being surrounded by a mountain range is grounding for me. The times that I had spent exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, had always been peaceful and grounding experiences.

The Great Smoky National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The Smokies were named after the blue mist that hovers over the peaks and valleys. The Cherokees called these mountains, shaconage, (shah-con-ah-jey) or “place of the blue smoke”. There are many places to visit within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in both the North Carolina and Tennessee areas. You will find everything from trails, hiking, cemeteries, wood cabins, waterfalls, overlooks, etc. You can also spend a day driving through the park, but the fun is getting out and exploring.

On my first visit to the Smokys, I had taken my daughter when she was a teenager. We had a great time exploring, since we are both Earth signs. The second time I visited, I came by myself. I loved these Smoky Mountains with running rivers, and lush forests so much that I needed a round two.

I prepared myself on the second trip and wore my James Taylor concert shirt, and played ‘Carolina on my mind’ throughout the trip.

James Taylor – ‘Carolina on my mind’

With both my visits to the Great Smoky Mountains, I started off in Cherokee, North Carolina. This town is within the borders of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation reservation. There are several hotels, restaurants, shopping, and other services. I recommend visiting the Oconaluftee Indian Village, which is a replica of 18th century Cherokee lifestyle with live demonstrations.

With the suggestion from a friend, I drove from Cherokee, NC through the mountains and visited Gatlinburg, TN. This beautiful stretch only takes an to hour drive. If you have ever been on a road trip with me, you would understand why it took me longer. I was pulling over, and taking pictures of all the magnificent over looks.

The Smoky Mountains

Depending on how much time you allow yourself to roam the Great Smoky Mountains, there are terrific things to see here for all fitness levels and ages. I have listed several of my favorite things to do in this national park, including a short photo journal of pictures I have taken.


Behind the Wheel – Taking that breathtaking drive through the Smokys is a given. If you are short on time or only have the ability of staying inside the car, the drive is magnificent. Just driving through the lush trees, beside babbling rivers, and along the smoky mountains is something very special.

If you can step out of the car to walk the trails, I suggest that you do. I recommend to spend a few days here, and explore it slowly- just how life here is supposed to be.


Laurel Falls Trails – The hike up to Laurel Falls is lovely a shaded trek through lush green trees. It is a moderate hike, which is 1.3 miles, or 2.6 miles round trip. It should take you approximately two hours to hike it.

Laurel Falls is an 80-foot high waterfall that is named after the mountain laurel, which is an evergreen. The waterfall has two sections an upper and a lower, which is divided by a walkway. This walkway crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls.

Getting to the falls early is advisable. Laurel Falls is a very popular destination in the park, and parking at the trailhead is limited. This section of the park is especially busy on the weekends year-round, and on weekdays during the summer.

For more information, please visit – Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Trail View


Mingus Mill – Close to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is Mingus Mill. This historic grist mill was built in 1886, and is a tribute to the test of time. It uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building.

Mingus Mill is located at its original site, and is open from mid-March through mid-November, from the hours of 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily. For more information, please visit – Mingus Mill


Mingo Falls – While I was checking out the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I decided to head into the Cherokee Indian Reservation and explore Mingo Falls. Also known as Big Bear Falls by the Cherokees, heading to this waterfall on my own was a magnificent short visit. I recommend it highly if you are exploring solo or with others, who can do the short hike.

It is not far from the town of Cherokee, approximately six miles, which is at the base of the national park. I had arrived early in the morning from my hotel in Cherokee, and I only saw one other person on the trail, which was nice. I enjoy quietness while I am in natural surroundings such as this.

Mingo Falls was extraordinary from the stairs heading up into the forest, to the 120 foot waterfall at the end of the trail. I loved the peaceful energy, the meditative surroundings, and the sound of just me and the waterfall.

My trip to Mingo Falls 👩🏻‍💻➡ Mingo Falls | Exploring North Carolina


Gatlinburg, Tennessee – While I was exploring The Great Smoky Mountains, the town of Gatlinburg was that day trip for me. I had started off in Cherokee, North Carolina and drove through the park into Tennessee. I had never been to that state before, and wanted to check it off my list. What I found in Gatlinburg was absolute charm, and friendliness that made me more curious about the whole state. I feel another road trip coming, this time through the state of Tennessee.

I spent several wonderful hours in this Smoky Mountain town before I turned around, and drove back to Cherokee, North Carolina. My favorite part of Gatlinburg was the food, of course!

For my day trip and food in Gatlinburg 👩🏻‍💻➡A Day in Gatlinburg | Exploring Tennessee


Photo Journal

Smoky Mountain Range
Pulled over for a selfie
First strip to The Smokys with my daughter.
The road before me.
A river runs through it

Smokey look covering the mountains ahead.

For park information, please visit – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park


I’m not lost, I’m exploring…

Yours Truly hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains

🌎 Thank you for visiting my website and NEVER STOP EXPLORING!

📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre

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