When I woke up, my knee felt a lot better but my ankle still hurt to walk on. Fortunately the park has several “driving” sights/tours so decided to go light on the walking/hiking and started my day at Cades Cove.
There are a number of trailheads up there and decided to try out the poles on a short hike. I did about a mile on the Abrams Falls trail. The hiking poles really seemed to help.
After that I continued the Cades Cove driving loop and decided to see the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the other side of the park. I do suggest spending some time there. They have a lot more to do and see than the Sugarland Visitor Center on the Gatlinburg side.
From there I drove up to Clingmans Dome. I was told it’s nearly impossible to get parking unless you get there REALLY early but I got lucky. This area is designed for the casual tourist with a paved path up to lookout tower and it’s very crowded. But there is a short loop trail that takes you away from the crowds with a short stretch on the AT.
Abrams Falls Trail
Abrams Falls is a very popular 5.5 mile out-n-back trail of Cades Cove. I only did a mile on this trail just to try out the hiking poles without hurting my ankle any more.
The hiking poles definitely made a difference.
Forney Ridge to Clingmans Dome Loop
If you’re going to visit Clingsmans Dome, this is the way to do it. The section of Forney Ridge Trail from the Clingmans Dome trailhead to the AT is really nice. And the short section on the AT is also really cool. I was very excited to experience why they call these mountains “smokey.”
I decided to skip the lookout tower because it was really crowded and I didn’t want to push my ankle too much. The walk down the paved path from the look tower was the worst on my ankle. I think it had to do with the sloped angle every step.