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Smoky Mountains - Metcalf Bottoms
Most people don't automatically think of - or even know about - the Great Smoky Mountains Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. In the 1800s Metcalf Bottoms was a farm west of Elkmont owned by William P. and Sarah J. Metcalf. The family supplied fresh water to workers on the Little River Railroad. Their home was located about where the restrooms are located now.
Locals and tourists alike love this spot between the Townsend Wye and Elkmont Campground. Coming from Gatlinburg on Little River Road, Metcalf Bottoms is about 11 miles on the right. The less traveled route is about 9 miles down Wears Valley Road from Pigeon Forge. Turn left on Lyon Springs Rd. and follow it to the end. Cross the bridge and you're at Metcalf Bottoms.
Located on the banks of Little River and open year-round, the 165 sites at the Smoky Mountains Metcalf Bottoms picnic area fill quickly in the summer. There are concrete picnic tables and grills at each area, with some right on the water and others closer to the road. Other than elaborate meals on plaid plastic tablecloths people bring an assortment of other gear, including lawn chairs, swimming supplies, fishing poles and sometimes just a good book.
A pavilion with seating for about 70 people is available for a rental fee during the busy season. See the link below this article to make reservations.
Bears frequent the Smoky Mountains Metcalf Bottoms picnic area and look for food scraps left behind by picnickers. Don't encourage them or feed them. Pick up all trash in your picnic area and use the bear-proof dumpsters. Bears that are fed (either accidentally or on purpose) become acclimated to humans and may become aggressive when you don't share. These bears are often euthanized. Remember the saying that "a fed bear is a dead bear."
All ages enjoy dipping their feet - or more - into the cold, clear water of the river in the summer heat. Walk only on the well-worn paths as poison ivy lurks nearby. Tread carefully in the water, too, because the rocks are slippery in the swift current. Tubing down the river is a popular pastime.
Hiking trails to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse & Walker Sisters Cabin are just across the old, wooden, single-lane bridge. The Schoolhouse trail is about 1/2 mile long and the cabin is about one mile past that. There is an old cemetery on the way, as well.
A side trip from the picnic area is a favorite waterfall trail between Gatlinburg and Metcalf Bottoms. The Laurel FallsTrail is paved, about 2 1/2 miles roundtrip and rated moderate in difficulty. A breathtaking 80-foot waterfall is located at the top. Note that this can be crowded spot and the small parking area fills early in the day.
For an entertaining afternoon appealing to all ages, I highly recommend a stop at Metcalf Bottoms. If you visit once, you'll surely be back.
To Reserve the Picnic Pavilion at Metcalf Bottoms
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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