Going “Deep” in the Smokies

Our rather damp arrival in Bryson City was coupled with an equally damp first night at Deep Creek. But we awoke to clear skies and were ready to explore, even if everything surrounding us was completely sodden. After some examination of the handy-dandy trail map we decided to hike the Juny Whank falls trail as well as sections of the Deep Creek and Indian Creek trails. Feeling too lazy to pack lunch, we packed snacks to hold us off until lunch back at camp instead.

Deep Creek Falls
Deep Creek Falls is one of many to ponder in this unit of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Now I know I probably give you the impression that we have this whole routine down-pat, and to some extent we do. But there’s just something about kids, even granola ones, that is like herding cats. So even with as routine as this is for us and as simple as we were trying to keep the outing, it felt like an Everest expedition getting everyone on the trail. But we got there, everyone raring to go.

Or not…

After all of that energy getting out of camp however, we reached the trailhead only to discover that dogs weren’t allowed. D’oh! I thought I’d read the trail guide well enough and never saw mention of the dog issue. Having never been to a national park as a dog owner and having them so welcome in state parks, it just never occurred to me. There’s certainly good reason…dogs and bears don’t mix. It’s just that I didn’t see any signage until we were at the trail head so it came as quite a surprising hiccup.

So feeling deflated, we divided up Camp Granola with Jester and George heading back to camp with Dobby to chill out by the creek. It was up to Fred and me to explore the trails.

Trailside Mushrooms
Marvels abound on the Juny Whank trail.


As Fred and I began up the trail, I realized I had the car keys and Jester would probably need them if he was going to be stuck at camp for several hours. Being good little campers, all of the food was diligently stored in Blubaru and I didn’t want to leave them hanging. So feeling even further deflated at my inability to get the hike moving forward, Fred and I trekked back to the campsite to hand over the keys.

Take two…

Once on the trail, Fred and I settled in to a nice rhythm and all of the morning glitches faded. Away from George, Fred stopped being a clown trying to entertain his brother which is the typical dynamic at Camp Granola. Having several hours of one-on-one conversation was refreshing and the time alone with dear-old-mom brought out the explorer in him. With none of the distractions of home, his focus turned to awareness of the great beauty and wonder around him. It also brought out the patient side of him as he willingly waited while I set up shots. In other words, he got a great big dose of Vitamin N and it brought out a remarkable side of my tween.

Leaning Tree
The lush Smoky Mountains are criss-crossed with cool streams.

Exploring Deep Creek…

Most of the trail up Deep Creek to Indian Falls is wide, even-terrained, and heavily traveled. The Juny Whank trail is more of a traditional trail in that it’s uneven and narrow. While the Juny Whank trail leads into lush undergrowth reminiscent of a Tolkein novel, the Deep Creek trail leads you amongst the more open forest. Both are fabulously intriguing in their own ways. If you make it there, both trails are worth the time. Juny Whank doesn’t add a lot of ground to cover but adds another dimension to the landscape to be discovered in the Smokies.

And of course, Fred would be sorely disappointed if I didn’t warn you about the horse apples. While dogs and bears are an unfortunate mix, horses and bears seem to fare better. Many of the Deep Creek trails are open to horses so indeed, watch your step.


By the count of the number of tubing outfitters lining the road into the park, clearly this is a popular destination for tubers in the warmer months. Being late September and the middle of the week at the time of our adventure, there was not a tuber in sight. It made for a very peaceful visit.

Not that it doesn’t look like a jolly-good time to tube Deep Creek. It would be a great family outing if we’d timed our trip for tubing season but it would have also been much more chaotic in terms of navigating other visitors. Just trade-offs. Either way, there’s plenty of fun to be had at Deep Creek.

And now for your moment of green…

Leaves on the Trail
Always searching high and low for granola goodness. Happy trails friends!


  1. Looks like a great trip. I love the Smokies – I always enjoy going in the dead of winter, which makes for some very cold camping, but you have the mountains nearly all to yourself, which is amazing. There’s nothing like hiking some of the most popular trails in America and not encountering anyone else.

    1. It’s really a stunning area. And I’m with you on winter. I love the starkness…it’s a beauty unlike any other. It’s also great for geocaching since most of the muggles stay indoors.

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