Ep. 65 – Nightlife in the Smokies and the Summits of Mount LeConte

SHOW #65  June 8, 2015


This week on Episode 65 Smoky Mountains Radio, Nightlife around the Smokies, and the confusing summits of Mount LeConte! Let’s go!


It is Monday, June 8, 2015 and this is Episode 65 of Smoky Mountains Radio.  To all my old listeners, welcome back and to those of you that might have just found us, welcome aboard.  I’m Mike, and i’ll be your guide around the 800 plus square miles of the Smoky Mountains and the 150 square miles of towns that border the parks.  If need info about coming to the Smokies, you will find it here.  Put my 40 years of experience to work for you to have the best vacation possible.  Thanks for making Smoky Mountains Radio part of your week, and I hope you find something in the show that you can use on your next trip.

I invite you to check out our website SmokyMountainsRadio.com to get all the information you need about your trip to the Smokies. You can contact me directly by emailing me at mike@smokymountansradio.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/smokymountainsradio or on twitter @smokies_radio.  You can also call the listener line at 865-325 9784.  Finally, of course, every one of our shows can be found on the website for you to stream or download. Of course, you can make sure you get episodes the moment they are released by subscribing to the show via iTunes or stitcher.  Leave me a review while you are there.  Those links can also be found on the site .  If you have anything you would like me to cover on the show, please feel free to contact me at any time.  Both of our topics today were inspired by our listeners.  I wasn’t able to get the new poll up this past week.  I am technologically challenged, after all.  But, it is up now, so be sure to go check it out or contact me directly.  Again, all the ways to reach me are right on the website at SmokyMountainsRadio.com.  Finally, if you like the show, all that I ask is that you help spread the word.

Now, let’s get on with the show!

Nightlife in around the Smoky Mountains

You know by now that the Smoky Mountains are the most visited national park in the nation.  In addition, the towns that surround them have become attractions onto themselves.  This is a very different phenomenon from what you see around most other parks.  The mountains are what brings the towns together for sure, but there is so much to do that you could honestly stay busy without ever setting foot in the Smokies.  What a horrifying thought.  Still, it is one of the truths about the mountain towns. So the question has come up several times as it did this past week from listener Tim who is a self-proclaimed night owl and looking for things to do when the suns go down.  Thanks for writing in Tim, and I hope i’m getting this in before your trip coming up.  This seems like it would be an easy question with easy answers, but interestingly, it is a little more complicated.  What can you do when the sun goes down?  What is better to do when its dark?

Most of the things around the Smokies are open when the sun goes down, though plenty of shops and smaller restaurants close around 5pm, especially in the smaller towns.  Trying to figure what you should save to do at dark is actually a little more complicated.

There is really not much of activities that are dedicated for nightlife here.  It’s strange, but true.  There have been multiple attempts of nightclubs in the area that are usually out of business not long after they open.  That is not to say that people are not out after dark, they certainly are.  But dedicated nightlife spots are about nonexistent.  So that takes us to the next question.  Are there things to do that are better at night?

Let me rule out a couple of things as we get going.  Anything with views is better during the day.  Things like the Skylift, Space Needle, and auto touring in the mountains themselves is simply better during the day.  You can see much more.  That is not to say that those experiences are not cool at night.  They certainly are.  But if I had only one chance to do any of those, I would do them during the day.  The only exception to that would be the Ferris Wheel at the Island.  The view you get of the city at night is pretty cool, and the lights on the wheel itself are pretty cool.  I personally like things like mini golf and go carts at night much better.  Unless it is winter time, getting the sun off of you makes the experience more enjoyable.  It’s not really any better at night, but the sun out of your face is better.  That is especially true on the go carts.  The cars and pavement keep you pretty warm and you can bake standing in line for your turn. That is better.

For the most part, though, during the nighttime I do the things that I couldn’t fit in during the day.  I try to spend as much time in the mountains as I possibly can while there is daylight or even auto touring.  One word about that.  I would not recommend auto touring during the evening.  For one thing, it is much more difficult to see anything.  For another, the mountain roads can be tricky in the dark if you aren’t used to them.  So unless you have done them several times, keep the driving in the mountains for the daytime.  However, much of the music that comes out, especially during the Spring and Summer months happens around dusk or in the evening, so that is something to look forward to.  Also, there are dinner theatre or singing shows that happen at night, mostly in the Pigeon Forge area.  Those aren’t really my thing, so I have only been to a couple, but if you are into dinner and a show, those mostly occur at night only.

Unfortunately, one of the things that does tend to happen at night around the mountain towns, Gatlinburg more than the others, but the others have it too, is a lot of drunk people.  Virtually all of the mountain towns have plenty of bars or bars and grills, and given that there is is not a lot of night specific things to do, there is a ton of boozing.  I like a drink as much as the next guy, but at times, especially on the weekends, evening is boozing time.  And a lot of those folks are not walking to their hotels, they are driving, so that is an issue.  It’s not as bad as it was a few years ago, or at least it seems to be a little better these days, but it is still an issue, especially as the night goes on.  Its something to be aware of if you are in towns or on the road.  If that is your scene then you will enjoy it. It isn’t out of control or anything, don’t get me wrong, but it is an little issue.

If you have a season pass to Dollywood, that park is much more enjoyable at night than in the daytime.  The temps are cooler, and a lot of crowd takes off around dinner time.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this without a season pass, because wasting a full price, full day ticket for only a few hours would be a waste.  But if you have a season pass, it is a great way to go.  And if you make multiple trips a year, a season pass is a no-brainer.  The other thing I like to do is head to the Cherokee casino.  It is always open, so it is a good activity when everything else is closed or the weather is lousy.  Time and weather have no meaning there, so it is a good way to spend the night.  Finally, if there is a night game with the AA baseball team, catching an evening game is a great way to spend the night.  The ballpark is nice, and it is super cheap.  I reviewed that in a previous episode, so check that out if you haven’t already.  Hope that gives everybody at least a few ideas for your next trip to the Smokies.

I’ll put more information about this in the show notes and on smokymountainsradio.com

The Confusing Summits of Mount LeConte

I know that many of you have taken the pilgrimage to Mount LeConte.  It is definitely a right of passage and the Smokies gem to climb.  Sure it is not the tallest.  That distinction belongs to Clingmans Dome.  But come on, Clingmans Dome is a joke.  You can drive to it.  You don’t even have to hike to reach it.  And if you want to get to the observation tower, it is an easy, paved .5 mile to get there.  No, if you want to take a real hike, it doesn’t get more real than the towering Mount LeConte.  You can get there one of five different ways, and all of them will require some work.  Where it gets interesting is when you get to the top.  Because that is not as nearly as cut and dry, and I have had two listeners that have written in confused about the summit of Mount LeConte.  One of them ended up stopping at LeConte Lodge and the other went to Cliff Tops, technically, not the summit of LeConte.

Basically to break it down as easily as possible for those of you that haven’t yet gone or been confused when you get there, there are three separate peaks or vantage points of that great mountain.  There is Cliff Tops, Myrtle Point, and High Top.  The highest point is, you guessed it, High Top while the best views are at Myrtle Point.  There are signs to point you in the right direction to each, but they are .5 mile or more away from one another, so be sure to add that to your mileage if you want to check out all three….and I suggest you do.   If you get there and you don’t know where to go, head to LeConte Lodge.  Their staff knows the mountain better than anyone.  They are excellent and will point you in the right direction.   I will tell you right off that High Top, the true high point of mount leconte, is right off the Boulevard Trail, which is the least popular route to LeConte.  And that is why some people have difficulty finding it.  Once you get to the area around LeConte Lodge, there are trails that merge and diverge all over the place.  It is perhaps the one place in the Smokies that it is easy to lose your bearings.  But as we discussed last time, signs are abundant all over the place to help you out.  This is also a widely used area, so you are going to see many other hikers around most times of the year, so if you can’t find where you need to go, just stop and ask one of them.  Hikers are great people.  They will help you out.  But you can easily reach any of these areas easily and without confusion from LeConte Lodge.  If you are unsure about where to go, head there.  The trails spoke out in several directions from there and make it easy to go back and forth.  Hope that will help some of you out.  Next week, we will delve further into Mount LeConte and the history of the Smokies greatest mountain, so be sure to stay tuned for that.

I’ll put more information about this in the show notes and on smokymountainsradio.com

Bear Attack

It is one of the most unusual occurrences in the Smokies, but it happened just today.  And while this content may not end up being evergreen, I thought it was important to cover nonetheless.  Bear activity is very high in the Smokies and people are seeing more bears than usual out and about, and people are seeing more aggressiveness than usual from the bears.  A 16 year old boy was attacked in his hammock at a campsite in the evening.  Luckily he is okay, though he has multiple lacerations and smaller injuries.  According to park officials, the son-father duo was starting a long hiking trip a few miles outside of the Fontana Dam area and the boy was attacked as they were getting ready to go to sleep.  Apparently, this was just a case of awful luck.  They had their gear stowed, food cabled properly, and the whole nine yards.  The father was able to scare away the bear and get him medical treatment.  He is expected to be fine. We wish you the best in your recovery young man.  That is sad indeed.

As you might expect, a lot of areas are closed right now due to bear activity.  LeConte shelter has been closed for a couple weeks now.  The Hazel Green trail and about eight campsites in the area including sites 82-88 are closed.  Jenkins Ridge and Spring Gap trails are also closed.  There are also bear warnings in the Laurel Falls area and all around Mount LeConte Lodge.  So if you do decide to visit LeConte in the next few weeks, be cautious about your surroundings.

This is the exception to the rule.  There are bear problems each year in the Smokies, but most of the time it is the hiker’s fault or mistake that creates the issue.  Once in a great while, it happens to the guy doing everything the right way.  It’s too early to tell if this was brought on by an event with other hikers or a problem or issue with the bear, but i’ll let you know when I have more details.  Just keep your distance regardless of the circumstances or time of year and have something with you to run the bear off if he decides to get close to you.  Don’t let it detour you from coming out.  Just be sure to heed the advice and postings of the rangers.  If they say its dangerous, don’t go to that area.  The good news is that even if one area gets shut down, you still have hundreds of miles to explore.


Its been good being back with you all this week, and I will have the new poll for the week up on Monday.  Thanks so much for listening again this week everyone.  It has been excellent talking to many of you friends this week.  Whether its advice, a question, comment, or just want to chat about the Smokies, contact me at any time.  I love hearing from you guys.  Hope to see several of you later this month.  It seems like everyone is planning a trip towards the end of June.  In the meantime, stay clear of the Hazel Creek area and everywhere else the rangers tell you, and GO TAKE A HIKE!!




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