Day 4 – Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We made a plan last night to do a few hikes, all of which ended at waterfalls. We had heard about a very difficult, but awesome hike called Rainbow Falls. We hopped in the car and headed that way. The parking area at the Rainbow Falls trail head was full so we pulled the car up a bit and found a spot to park on the side of the road directly between two trail heads. We planned on doing both, so we figured this was perfect. We started off on a trail and eventually came to a “T” with a sign that told us Rainbow Falls was to the right and Grotto Falls to the left. Unsure of which to start with, I made the decision, that, after a long and challenging day yesterday, our motto today was “when in doubt, take the downhill route”. The trail to Grotto Falls happened to be downhill at that very moment, so that’s the direction we headed. The first half mile of the trail was along a road which was a bummer. Eventually we got up high enough where we were away from the road and could enjoy nature’s beauty. It was a pretty steady uphill hike, not overly strenuous though. At the top was a beautiful waterfall in which you could walk behind.

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls

This ended up being our lunch spot which was really cool. We snapped some photos and headed back down. I had a much easier time going down than I did going up, funny how that works. Round trip, this hike took us 3 and a half hours to go a little more than 7.5 miles. We went to the car to grab a snack. When we had originally planned out our day, we thought we wanted to see Grotto and Rainbow Falls. At this point in the day, we changed plans a little bit. We decided all of our hikes didn’t need to revolve around waterfalls and we’d heard good things about another spot called Chimney Tops. We decided to check it out. We drove over to the trail head and got ready to go. This was definitely the most strenuous hike we’ve done yet. It was a two mile hike, basically straight up. I had to stop for water and to catch my breath a number of times, but once we got to the top it was well worth it.

View From Chimney Tops

View From Chimney Tops

In order to get to the summit, we had to scale the side of a very steep mountain for about 200 yards.

Chimney Tops Summit

Chimney Tops Summit

This was a bit terrifying. We made it about halfway up the final climb before deciding to turn around. There were plenty of others who got to the same point we did and turned back. There was a nice young man who worked in the park and offered to guide us up to the top. We were both extremely sore, tired and hesitant to go any further so we politely declined his offer and began heading down, not before taking in some breathtaking views.

Halfway Up Chimney Tops

Halfway Up Chimney Tops

Because of the slope, the trek down was no walk in the park, but we made it. We got back to the car with just enough to to catch the sunset at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Smoky Mountain National Park. It was a 45 minute drive followed by a half mile hike to the top. It was worth every minute. We could see all the way to North Carolina. We took in some absolutely stunning views. It was chilly at the top though, 42 degrees, while my car said 59 degrees an hour after dark once we were back at our hotel. We grabbed a six pack and some ice cream to celebrate our second successful day in the mountains. Cheers!

Sunset at Clingman's Dome

Sunset at Clingman’s Dome

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