Spring Break Road Trip. Houston to Great Smoky Mountains NP 03/06-03/14

Got a little time off work and wanted to use it to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have been to GSMNP before, but spent only 2 days there. This will be my second time.

Here is my road trip plan with a list of tons of things to do on each day. I don't think I may be able to do everything listed on each of those days, but I just like to know I have a list of suggestions of what to do. I am open to suggestions from all you great travelers on this forum. I hope to share a lot of pictures of the places I visit.

ROAD TRIP PLAN 03/06 to 03/14

Houston to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

- Friday 6: Houston to New Orleans

Long 6 hours drive to get to New Orleans and enjoy a few things. Stopping along the way for some good cracklings and cajun food. Get to New Orleans and enjoy the night life and an attraction or 2.

- Saturday 7: New Orleans to Cherokee

Long 10 hours drive all the way to try and get to Cherokee before 8pm. So, limited stops along the way.
Drive through Highlands, GA to stop at Dry Falls waterfall.
Possible pit stops along the way; First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, Dexter Parsonage Museum - Dr. Martin Luther King home, Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site( his birth home), and world of Coca Cola.

- Sunday 8: Cherokee

Visit attractions in Cherokee like Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Indian Village, Mountain Farm Museum, Mingus Mill, Smokemont Baptist Church, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Mingo Falls, Harrah's Cherokee Casino. May drive to Soco Falls, Waterrock Knob on BRP toward Cherokee and come back through Blue Ridge Parkway.
Go visit the town of Bryson City. Visit tunnel to nowhere. Visit train museum. Visit the Three Deep Creek Waterfalls; Indian Creek Falls, Tom Branch Falls and Juney Whank Falls.

- Monday 9: Cherokee

Day trip: Cherokee to Blue Ridge Parkway. Make a detour to go to Cataloochee Valley first, then continue to Asheville to visit Biltmore Estate.

- Tuesday 10: Cherokee to Gatlinburg

Scenic drive from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. Any nice waterfalls to stop at? Stop at NC/TN border to drive to Clingman's Dome. But it will be closed. So, not possible. May go check into hotel and then go do Cades Coves. May go to Sugarlands Visitor Center.

- Wednesday 11: Gatlinburg

Day trip to Pigeon Forge. Then come back in time to walk around downtown Gatlinburg. Do Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

- Thursday 12: Gatlinburg

Possibly another day trip. Gatlinburg to Deals Gap and back. I wish Parson Branch Rd was opened. I really wanted to drive on the Tail of the Dragon to Deals Gap. I may just do the long route which is 321 to 129 to Deals Gap. May do Foothills Parkway.

- Friday 13: Gatlinburg to Memphis

Long 7 hours drive to Memphis to stop and see Graceland

- Saturday 14: Memphis to Houston

Long 10 hours drive back home!

A few things I would love to see;

- Blue Ridge Pkwy from Cherokee to Asheville. Can someone please tell me the 2 or 3 most popular stops along that road? I am thinking I do not want to drive it all the way because of time.

- Any idea if I can be lucky to find snow during these days?

- Any nice waterfalls that I can easily hike to? Lol, not more than 1 mile round trip.

- Are there any dirt roads in the area where I can go get my suv dirty? I wish Parson Branch Road was open.

- I would like any suggestions of some best local restaurants. Would like to try 1 or 2.

- Sensitive question. I have a drone and wish to fly it. Where can I fly while respecting the no-fly zones? The park is so huge. But I see in Cherokee, there are some places that are just outside the park like Oconaluftee Visitor area. I hope to find some good places outside the park area, especially at some waterfalls. Would love some aerial pictures and videos, where it is legally allowed to fly. I want to respect the rules of flying.
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These are my stomping grounds
What are you driving?

Chimney Tops is a strenuous hike but easily accessible

Camp in smokemont or elkmont in SMNP

Near tail of the dragon is Joyce Kilmer (huge trees that are almost as tall as the beltway 8 overpasses and big around as a buick) camp at horse camp


Lots of waterfalls near standing indian

Max patch close to NC/TN border for awesome views

Cataloochee has elk and short hikes to some falls. Cemetary from 17/1800's

Gregory Bald out of Cades Cove

So much more

This is the tip of the spear.... You dont have enough time to enjoy part if whai i listed

Gimmie a shout if you want some moe
What are you driving?
Thanks for the tips. Yeah, my list has way too many things that I may not do all. But I will shoot for as many as possible. I have to look up the suggestions you just mentioned. Feel free to give me more, especially if on my route.

About what I drive. It is a 2012 Infiniti QX56/80. I call it King of the Road.

Offroad it is a beast. On road it handles like a BMW. Super fast when I call on all 400 horses and tame when I need it to cruise on long road trips. Just the balance I need. It shines on all terrains.

I am taking it on the whole Tail of the Dragon to see how it will handle those twisty curves on that road down to Deals Gap.

on behalf of the 2-wheel crowd, be sure to stay on your side of the yellow in the dragon. enjoy the journey!
Lol, the Dragon is too curvy. I will not lie, it is very hard to stay on your side of the yellow with such deadly dragon curves, especially if you were planning to make your tires screech. Even the 2-wheel crowd live for that thrill. But I will try to keep on my side of the yellow, as I try to throw these curves of this mammoth driving down to Deal Gap. Well, high chance I might meet a slow poke who will hold me behind and make me smell the Rose's instead of enjoying the thrill zooming down those curves.

I hope that guy who stands from some hidden spots and take people's pictures capture a good pic of my rig and I will be sure to buy it from him when I get to Deals Gap and find out he took some pics of my rig.

I personally plan to probably fly my drone there for some shots, if it is allowed to fly anywhere on the dragon.
Starting odometer for my trip. Just had to take it before I took off.

Despite the super late start to my trip today, it was a fun drive to New Orleans eventhough traffic was horrible after Lafayette.

After a brief stop at my favorite place of every state line; Welcome to...., the next stop was at Billy's Boudin & Cracklins in Scott, LA, for some very yummy cracklin, boudin pistolet and boudin balls stuffed with pepper jack cheese, boudin pistolet. A definite place to stop if you like any of these.

Next destination was New Orleans in very bad rush hour traffic. 120 miles took me over 3 hours to cover because of bumper to bumper rush hour traffic. Checked into hotel and was off to the French Quarters for the night life.
First stop, Cafe du Monde for some well deserved beignets.

After that, dinner was a huge seafood platter at Mambo's seafood on bourbon street. The street was entertaining as usual and I saw 2 fights. Luckily, people were there to break the fights before it got bloody.

And one last pic of Bourbon street as I call it a night at midnight to head to the hotel for some rest in preparation of my 10 hours drive in the morning to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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Yesterday was a very long day of driving. Left New Orleans at 8am and got to my hotel in Cherokee, NC at 11pm at night. A 10 hours drive took me a total of about 15 hours because many stops for breaks, gas and a few attractions. I stopped in Montgomery, AL to visit some places.

Driving in Alabama on I-85 was interesting. Repped limit is 70, but everybody on the road was doing like 85 with the flow of traffic. I set my cruise to 80 but realized so many people were passing me up and even a 18 wheeler was gaining up on me. I had to take my car off cruise and joined the flow of traffic.

My normal psi on my suv with stock tires is 36, but I have larger Mud Tires rated for 80psi, but I am running them at 45, but after heating up, the psi is 52 as I am driving down I-85, keeping up with traffic.

I find it funny that I stopped in Montgomerry, Alabama to look at the First White House of the Confederate, but I ended up looking at all these other buildings next to it, but I missed to look at it and take pictures of it. But I was standing right infront of it.

Here is a picture from their website showing its location a.d the name of all the other buildings around it. I took pictures of every other building around it but it because I just could not find it. But it was right infront of me.

Alabama State Capitol

Alabama State House

Department of Achives and History. With the First White House on the left of the picture. I just dis not know that was the building or I would have taken good pictures of it. I went here to look st this building but missed noticing it.

And I think this is the new Capitol Building.

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A little Martin Luther King history

From here, there was not a lot of day light time left to stop in Atlanta for some attractions. So, I continued straight and only stopping for gas. It got dark quick and the drive was a lot slower now going up and down a lot of mountains and going through many small towns with speed traps in all of them. Speed limits drop suddenly from 55 to 35. Cops hiding in plain sight in the dark streets waiting to nab people. Luckily for me, I have a Ventine One radar detector set to maximum volume to sound above my music in the car. It would go crazy at all those small speed trap towns and I would see the cop car sitting in real plain sight. Very easy to nab drivers.
This was my last stop for the night for gas before the last 45 minutes drive to the hotel. I owned the mountains with my light as they turned the dark roads into complete day light.

I passed this sign in total darkness and in a very cold weather that I could not stop.
After a long drive last night, I had to sleep in a bit this morning. So, started off my day late this morning but feeling good from a good rest. First stop was the National Park

First stop right there at the visitor's center was the Mountain Farm Museum. It was great to take a walk through time and these are the things that caught my eyes and I took pictures of to remember them.

Next stop: Mingo Falls.
When you get to the parking lot, you have to walk up these 160 stairs.

Then a short and very rocky walk takes you to the waterfall. Everybody gets on this little bridge for the perfect view of the waterfall.

At this point, you are rewarded with this beautiful view of the Mingo Falls.

And when you are done, time for you to hike back down the stairs to your vehicle. Easy walk down.
In my quest for my next thing to see, Soco Falls, I missed the pullout point twice. Then I ended up in a private driveway. Then when I ginally found the pullout point, there was no parking available since only like 3 or 4 cars can park there at any time. So, I passed that up. Then got to the entrance of Blue Ridge Parkway. But could not get on it since it is closed ahead. I stopped for a shot.

Then heading back to the hotel, I made a pit stop at Harrah's Cherokee Casino. I took about 5 drone pics and liked these 2 the most and could not decide which one to post. Since there is room for both, I decided to posted both views of the hotel.

Continued on my way to the hotel. I just had to stop here though it was not opened.

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Today was dedicated to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC. Amazing building, but the cost to visit this place is a little on the expensive side. The ticket cost me $73.83. See it highlighted on my picture below. But it so worth it.

When you get into the welcome center, you are greeted with this beautiful map of the Estate.

The ticket gives you access to everything on the Estate PLUS an amazing FREE wine tasting experience. You get to taste 8 different wines. The wine server starts the tasting by letting everybody taste the Estates's best seller wine. Then hands you their wine list and you choose 7 of your own, as he tells everybody about each wine. Just mark your 7 choices and he goes around and serves your different tastings. The wine selection was pretty good and I ended up buying a bottle for when I get back home to Texas.

I met some amazingly friendly people and shared a table with a couple and a family with their 2 kids. The couple were on their first date. The guy drove 4 hours from Myrtle beach to Ashville to meet the girl who flew in from Forth Worth, Texas. They met there for their first time and first date and staying 4 nights in town. They were very friendly and told me EVERYTHING about what they have been doing together since he picked her up at the airport. It was entertaining, as we drank and talked.

Then the family next to me were from San Antonio, TX. We got to know each other, talked about the wine tasting experience and compared it with our amazing wine tasting we have in Fredericksburg, TX.

By the end of the wine tasting experience, I had shared a lot of laughs and stories with the family and the couple. At the end.