Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Laurel Falls Trail
We finally got out for a short hike this morning. I’ve been battling the this old bad back for several days and felt like a short, easy hike would be good for me. Short and easy were the key words. I didn’t want to carry a pack and I wanted to wear my tennis shoes instead of those heavy hiking boots. We considered the Maryville greenway until I remembered about the Laurel Falls trail in Smoky Mountain National Park.
This short trail is 1.3 miles from the parking lot to the falls. The best part for me today is the fact that it is paved. It may be the only trail in the Park that is paved, but the paving was done several years ago and is broken and crumbling in many areas. Still it allowed me to wear my tennis shoes, so I was happy.
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the Park. A short, relatively easy hike with a beautiful waterfall at the end is just what many visitors are looking for. Photographers, too. There are two large parking lots at the Laurel Falls trailhead and it isn’t uncommon to see cars parked on both sides of the road for a quarter mile in both directions during the summer vacation season. Because it’s so popular, we went early this morning to avoid as much of the crowd as possible.
It was a beautiful walk with rosebay rhododendron blooming almost as far as you could see. According to the June 17th post of Smoking Mountain Hiking Blog, this is a “super bloom” year. These don’t happen very often and they speculate this is the best year in 100 years. Whatever the reason, it certainly is gorgeous all over the park.
Bears are often seen on this trail, as well. That probably had something to do with my desire to hike it today. We’re still looking for that bear. We came close today, but didn’t see her. Others on the trail did, however. In fact, we stopped to talk with the Park volunteer patrolling the trail as we were coming down from the falls. He told us there were 5 bears in the area and one was on the trail this morning. She was so close to hikers he had to blow his “bear horn” to get her to move off the trial. All this was going on while we were enjoying the falls. The only wild thing we saw besides park visitors was this black snake clinging to the tree.
We were not disappointed in the falls. Sometimes after the spring rains subside and water levels go down, the falls are not as impressive. There wasn’t as much water as earlier in the spring, but plenty to make a nice display. The blooming rhododendron was a bonus.
There are not so many wildflowers in bloom now, but we did find a small patch of mountain mint.
We stayed at the falls for several minutes--until the crowds started to move in and block out the view. We usually try to avoid these popular places during the summer rush, but I’m glad we went today. It was the perfect walk for my back, the early morning temperatures were pleasant, the trail was not too crowded, and the falls and rhododendron were beautiful.
That’s all for today. Thanks for tagging along.