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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mountain Trek

Take a road trip through the Rockies and the Smokies with two pros who map the most dramatic spots in these American icons

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The Great Smoky Mountains
Bill Campbell photographs extensively in both the Tennessee and North Carolina portions of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To access this range and reach the best spots for photography, enter the park on the southeastern Tennessee side.

Cades Cove - Deer and Dogwoods Cades Cove
1 Cades Cove
The biggest tourist attraction in the southeastern Tennessee portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove, near the North Carolina border, where nearly two million people descend upon the valley every year. Located near Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Cades Cove is accessible through various local highways. Campbell says that it’s the biggest destination for photographers to shoot in the Smokies because it’s a fertile valley surrounded by mountains, with many attractions and a wide variety of subjects to shoot.

An 11-mile, one-way loop road allows you to drive around the cove, where you can take pictures of historic buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as a gristmill, barns, churches and log cabins. There’s also an abundance of wildlife that sometimes can be spotted, such as deer, bears, wild turkey and foxes. When Campbell is in the cove, he likes to photograph the flora and fauna, the cabins, several streams in the trails around the cove and a patch of flame azaleas that can be reached via a short hike.

mountain trek
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Tree
2 Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is just one mile outside of Gatlinburg, Tenn., a narrow, windy, five-mile road that connects visitors to mountain streams, preserved log cabins, gristmills and a stream and waterfall called Grotto Falls, one of Campbell’s hot spots for shooting the Smokies. This one-way stretch of road is closed during the winter and only allows small pickup trucks and cars to pass through The road also features two overlooks and passes many chestnut tree blowdowns.

"The best spot for spring wildflowers is probably Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail," says Campbell. "There’s more density of flowers, water streams, waterfalls and cabins combined than any other area."

mountain trek
Campbell Overlook/Chimney Tops Picnic Area
3 Campbell Overlook/Chimney Tops Picnic Area
Also near Gatlinburg, you’ll find an amazing mountain view called Campbell Overlook, located off Newfound Gap Road. It offers vistas of mountain landscapes and Mount LeConte, with a 6,593-foot elevation, the third highest peak in the Smokies. Campbell says this place is gorgeous during the fall because of the huge spread of hemlocks and hardwoods. As you continue down the road on U.S. 441, you’ll find the Chimney Tops Picnic Area, which is a beautiful place to shoot, according to Campbell.

"The Chimney Tops Picnic Area is a great place for fall color," he says. "It has a lot of hardwoods in there, and the color can be spectacular. It has a good mile-and-a-half loop trail, and there’s a creek near the picnic area where you can combine fall colors and water."

mountain trek Clingma
4 Clingmans Dome
The largest peak in the Smokies is Clingmans Dome, with an elevation of 6,643 feet; it rests on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Clingmans Dome is accessible by car by driving on Clingmans Dome Road off of U.S. 441 and then hiking up a steep half-mile trail to overlook the mountain. Campbell says there are some stunning overlooks here to take dramatic pictures. At the top of the trail is a 54-foot observation tower with 360-degree views, which allows you to see more than 100 miles on a clear day, but that doesn’t happen often because of the haze the Smokies are known for. The road leading to Clingmans Dome is closed December 1st through April 1st.


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