Greenbrier Entrance – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Greenbrier entrance sign

July 12, 2013

Coming back from trying unsuccessfully to find a swinging bridge I heard of in Pittman Center, I came across this entrance into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that I had never heard of.  I had no idea where it went, and I was a little concerned because it was starting to get dark, but I started off figuring it would intersect with some major road and I could get back to Sevierville that way.

That assumption was wrong, but I didn’t regret one minute of this drive!


I read later that Greenbrier is known as “The Local’s Entrance to the Park” because it is rarely visited by tourists. I’m eternally grateful this tourist didn’t miss this, I tell ya!

Per the sign at the entrance, it’s one mile to the Ranger Station, three miles to picnic area and five miles to Ramsay Cascade Trail.

The road starting off was paved, but once you get to the Ranger Station (closed by the time I got there), you are greeted with a sign that says the road is damaged and nothing larger than a pickup is allowed past that point.  The road became dirt/gravel, but it still didn’t look too bad, so I went on.  A little ways further, the road got narrower and in places only one car could fit:

Dirt-gravel road past Ranger Station

There were potholes along the way, but not too bad if you went real slow.  This sign amused me because you really couldn’t tell from here if the road was clear or not.  But I proceeded even more slowly and didn’t encounter anyone from the opposite direction.

Upper view of Pigeon River

Along the way, you are sometimes higher up looking down at Little Pigeon River

Tuber on Pigeon River

Other places you are more level with the river.  At one point, I saw this blue tuber going downstream.

After I had gone about three miles from the main entrance, I pulled over at the Picnic Area for a bathroom break and met a couple there.  I asked if the road went through to a major road and they said no, so I was going to turn around there.  They said, “Oh, but if you about 1/2 mile farther, you’ll come to a bridge with some really incredible views.”  I couldn’t pass that up, so I went on.

Bridge over Little Pigeon River

 Bridge across Little Pigeon River


This little island just downriver was my favorite view and it was here that I made up my mind I’d have to come back earlier another day so I could just sit and enjoy this view and the sounds the rushing water made.

Like my FB friend, Fanchon said, “I love the scarf of rushing water wrapping itself around that tiny little island that I just want to wade over to – and sit quietly on – and ponder the secrets of the Universe.  Aren’t these discoveries wonderful?”

Indeed they are, Fanchon, indeed they are!  (Although I don’t know how safe it would be to “wade” over to that little island!)  🙂

Island - left side

Left side of the island

A short YouTube video with sights and sounds:

There’s nothing more soothing to me than the sounds of water falling!

Car seen from bridge

But by this time it really was time to head out.  True darkness was descending fast, so I made it back to my little Honda Fit alongside the road (which performed like a true champ all the way).

A subsequent visit in winter.  I definitely prefer the greens of summer, but I don’t think there is a bad time to see this gorgeous place!

 Ramsay Cascades:

Ramsay Cascades

Another reason I want to return is that I’ve since read about Ramsay Cascades, which trailhead was just a little farther up the road.

Ramsay Cascades (from (their picture)

And since I missed the Synchronous Fireflies at Elkmont Campground, I was happy to see the following (but I’m not keeping their secret).

From – Let this be our little secret! In early June, the trailhead to Ramsay Cascades is the site of the “Fire Fly Phenomenon”, a spectacular display of rare fireflies that seem to light up in a synchronized rhythm that rolls through the forest. Arrive just before dusk at the Ramsay trailhead and wait for dark.



Directions to Greenbrier Entrance:

From Traffic Light #3 in Gatlinburg, take Hwy 321 North (East Parkway) for approximately 7 miles. You will see Conley R. Huskey Bridge.  Just before the bridge on the right you will see the entrance sign into the Greenbrier area.


Covered Bridge at Emerts Cove


Right before Greenbrier, I actually had a longer and fantastic encounter with a mom and her 7 year old son from Knoxville at the Emerts Cove Covered Bridge near Pittman Center (after meeting the nice Pittman Center police), but that will have to be another post until I get her permission to use pictures, etc.


Me close by to covered bridge

She took this picture of me.  I have to say, I have never lacked in the blessings of meeting wonderful local people anywhere I go, but this one was extra special to me for several reasons.  They took me to a spot I would have never known of otherwise, watched her precious son jump off a big rock, then he taught me how to skip rocks, and I got to watch him light his first campfire!