The entrance and parking area for this trail is about a 1/2 mile north of the Sugarlands Visitors Center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s short (1/2 mile) but sweet, nestled in the mountains, with a paved and fully accessible path.
Starting in the 1800’s, the Sugarlands Valley was once home to 100 farming families, with churches, schools, hotels and other supporting businesses.
Old house sites are viewed amidst a burgeoning forest which has mostly reclaimed the land now. I always pause and wonder about the folks who lived here and what their lives were like, the joys and hardships, tears and laughter that filled the walls as they sat around the fireplace to keep warm on dark, chilly nights. No light pollution, no smart phones or TV to distract from the simple beauty of nature. I’m sure they were too exhausted after the hard work of the day necessary to sustain even their simple lifestyles, anyway.
Soon the moss and underbrush will hide these crumbling stone walls used as property boundaries and livestock barriers, further burying this chapter in the history of the first settlers here.
Some of these remains are from cottages that began to appear around 1900 when improved roads increased accessibility and city folks wanted summer home retreats. This era ended in the 1930s when land began to be purchased for the development of the national park.
Don’t neglect to veer off the path just a bit for visits with the West Prong of the Little River and the little cascades formed here.
Wildflowers accompanied me along the path…
… and their fresh blooms are always most welcome companions.
Did you know that there are more types of native trees here than in any other area of comparable size in the U.S., and more types of flowering plants than any other North American national park? Be sure to pick up a trail brochure for this kind of information to enhance your visit.
I always enjoy little treks like this when I don’t have a lot of time or energy for longer hikes and just want a quick connect with nature and the history of this fascinating area.