Elkmont {Great Smokey Mountains National Park}

Today I’m sharing one day from our trip to Pigeon Forge, TN.  We started off our day with breakfast at the Old Mill Restaurant.  We ate here twice during our trip and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone visiting Pigeon Forge.   Then, we headed to Elkmont!old-mill-restaurant

The portions are large so you may want to share.  The only thing I didn’t like were the grits.  They needed a lot of salt and butter to be edible.  But everything else was delicious.



Our next stop was Elkmont.  Let me point out that I have a fascination with places that are deserted and ghost towns in general.  I’m so curious to see what people left behind and explore what life may have been like for them.  I don’t get a lot of opportunity to explore in my every day life so I really enjoy visiting places like Elkmont.

Knoxville’s elite spent their summers at Elkmont in the early 19th century.  It was purchased by the government and became part of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the 1920s. Some residents received a 50 year lease as part of the agreement to sell their land/homes. According to what I’ve read, most the leases expired by 1992 and the government intends to demolish or “return to nature” all of the homes except 19 structures which were to be preserved.


This part of Elkmont is known as “Daisy Town” and is the easiest to access.  You can drive through this part or park and explore.  (Note:  There is also a bathroom here!)


All of the homes are owned by the government and have no trespassing signs posted.  However, we only saw one home in the entire park that was locked and most had their doors standing wide open.  So I was able to get a few pictures of the inside from the doorway.  I will say that we saw a lot of people going into them though.

Shiplap, anyone?


We loved walking from home to home and exploring each yard.


Can you imagine how much work it took to build these little fences and steps without modern tools?


The cabin behind us in this picture is one of the oldest in Elkmont.  It was moved here from another location and the owners used it as a guest house.


Next, we visited another area of Elkmont is known as “Millionaire’s Row.”  This is the Spence Cabin and was the only home we saw that was locked.  I was totally swooning over the cobblestone entryway.


The backside of the cabin overlooked the river and had a beautiful terrace.  I wonder if they hosted parties out there or had tea or fished or just sat and listened to the river.


We used it for a little photo opportunity!



My main little man couldn’t resist climbing down below the terrace to dip his feet in the river.


We explored a few more houses on Millionaire’s Row.  I loved this one!  The floor was completely rotten and I wouldn’t dare step foot in it. I managed to get these pictures from the doorway.  I wish I could have seen the rest of the house.




We stumbled upon a little bridge in the middle of the woods.  The girls decided it had to be a troll bridge.  (Cue: Grumpy old troll…who lives under the bridge? Anyone?  No Dora fans?)


Spruce Flatts Falls

When we left Elkmont, we decided to do a spur of the moment hike to Spruce Flatts Falls.  They weren’t too far from Elkmont.  The lady at the ranger station said it was a strenuous hike and not stroller friendly.  So sweet baby hopped on my back and we took off up the steep trail.  Oh, did I mention it started to rain as we left?  My legs were burning less than 60 seconds into the hike.


The park ranger was right.  The trail was steep and sometimes less than 18 inches wide with rocks on one side and a cliff on the other.  This was not the place to trek with 5 kids (+ 1 on the way) and Granna.  I tried to think of things we had done that were dumber than this little hike and couldn’t come up with a single thing.  All I could picture was one of the kids pulling away and falling off the edge of that cliff.

We hiked for what seemed like 45 minutes and finally made it to an opening.  Notice our feet in the picture below. We are standing a foot from a 50 foot drop off.  Shortly after this, we met a couple on their way back.  They indicated that we weren’t even half way there.  Morale was low and we decided it best to turn back around and skip the falls on this trip.  We definitely got plenty of adventure though!


That was quite enough adventure for one day!


With the exception of Daisy Town and the Pink House, many of these buildings at Elkmont have been demolished by the National Park Service since this post was published.  While I understand the concern for safety of visitors and funding constraints, I can’t help but feel extremely sad at the loss of these time capsules that let us glimpse into the past.  I am happy to have preserved a small piece of Elkmont here on the blog and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit.

If you go, here are a few tips…

  • This is a free activity!  Who doesn’t love free?
  • Wear tennis shoes.
  • Bring bug spray.
  • Pack a cooler.  It was so nice to have a cold drink and snack waiting for us after a hike!  I did not see anywhere to buy food or drinks at Elkmont although there is a small campground.
  • We saw several people fishing or carrying fishing gear in the Millionaire’s Row area, if that interests you.
  • There is a bathroom in the Daisy Town area so plan strategically.
  • There are too many structures to visit on one trip.  We hiked to the Wonderland Hotel and to the cemetery on our last visit.  A search for Elkmont in google images can help you pick and choose which ones you want to visit.
  • Most of the paths and trails were okay for a stroller although the ride may have been a little bumpy for my little one.

See my other posts on the Great Smokey Mountains!

4 comments on “Elkmont {Great Smokey Mountains National Park}

  1. We have never camped at Elkmont but they have no hookups for water, sewer or electric. Generators can only be used from 8am to 8pm. Toilets are available . No bathhouses and only cold water.

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