Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is situated just outside of Gatlinburg, Tn.
The road is approximately 7 miles long, but traverses many distinct areas. If
light is good this area may take all morning to explore and photograph. The
first area to stop at is the Noah "Bud" Ogle Place. Mature Dogwood trees give
this cabin the charm many photographers return to year after year. Pre-dawn or
early morning light is best for this cabin. As you continue along the motor
nature trail you may wish to hike the 1.2 miles to Grotto Falls. Many
compositions for photography of this falls can be accomplished. More
homesteads are along this trail and each have their own charm and charisma.
Early morning lighting conditions are best and if there is fog the images
produced can't be beat. The stream that runs along the road during second half
of this road is well-known for it's moss-covered boulders and rocks. Drive
slow and look for dozens of blooming wildflowers along this road. Place of a
Thousand Drips is near the end of the road. Depending on weather conditions,
it can be either a trickle or a cascade of water.
Newfound Gap Road traverses the park north-to-south. From Gatlinburg
travelling south on this road, many quiet walkways can be found. The first
area of interest is Campbell Overlook. Looking east, you will see Bull Head
and Mt. LeConte. I've always enjoyed this view and it is a classic Smoky
Mountain Scene. Spring snows do occur at higher elevations and can add drama
to your composition. Next is Chimney Tops Picnic Area. If conditions are
right, Fringed Phacelia can carpet the forest floor. Other species such as
Yellow Trillium, Large-Flowered Trillium, Squirrel Corn, Foamflower and Violets
can be found here as well. Concentrate on the uphill side of the picnic area.
Further along Newfound Gap Road are many pullouts with vistas and overlooks.
Of notable interest is Morton's Overlook. Recently named one of the top ten
spots in the country for photographing the sunset. Here you will look into a
deep valley and in the spring the sun will set slightly to the left. Be sure
to arrive early as this is a popular spot.
A fifteen minute drive from Newfound Gap is Clingman's Dome; the highest point
in the park. A short .5 mile hike will take you there, though the sunset is
best photographed from the parking area. This area produces the most
well-recognized scene in the Smokies...a sunset with layered mountains in the
foreground. Arrive at least fourty-five minutes prior to sunset so you don't
have to rush. Many photographers leave just after the sun goes below the
horizon. Depending on conditions it may be worthwhile to stay a bit and catch
the alpenglow. The long drive from a hotel or campground to this location
deters many from attempting scenes such as this. But, if weather conditions
are right, the view cannot be beat.
No matter how much time you allow yourself to explore the Smokies, it never
seems like enough. Constantly changing weather patterns allow for varied
photography. Although well-travelled, the Smoky Mountains quickly become a
very wild place. Make sure you have a appropriate clothing for changing
weather, a first-aid kit, plenty of water and a waterproof map. Basic
preparedness will ensure your trip is a successful one.