Even though the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is only a couple of miles from where I stayed at Tremont Outdoor Resort during 2013-2014 and I passed the road to it frequently on the way to Cades Cove, it took me a while to actually stop here.
For some reason, I had thought it was a private school or something and it wasn’t until a fellow camper told me that it is actually part of the national park that I went down that road. This ended up being one of my favorite destinations during the entire year that I stayed in this area.
Their stated purpose is to nurture appreciation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They offer educational programs, workshops and hiking trails, and the Middle Prong Trail became one of my favorite hikes, so I’d say they’re meeting their goal well!
After making the turn onto Tremont Road, it’s about 1.9 miles to the Visitor’s Center, parking and access to some of the trails.
Pick up the booklet “Tremont Logging History Auto Tour” here and continue down the gravel road from here. This road follows the original railroad that pushed up the Middle Prong of the Little River. The railroad served the logging industry and provided access to the sawmills.
The booklet tells you about the markers indicating points of interest. Here the small community of Turkey Flats once held homesites for Little River Lumber Company workers, some permanent, but mostly consisting of “car shacks” – 12′ x 12′ portable houses that could be lifted on and off flat cars for relocation and a small Company store. When the National Park was created in 1934, that marked the end of the era of the lumber industry this area.
There is parking at the end of the road and you can cross over this footbridge for other paths and trails.
Here’s the view to the left as you’re crossing over the bridge.
After crossing, if you take a little path toward the river, you can see the bridge from this perspective.
On my first visit, I wasn’t up for the longer Middle Prong Trail, so I decided to go off on that little trail on the right just a ways to see what it held.
By this time, I was so happy with my choice – I stood here a while to just soak this all in. It really felt like “the road less traveled” and the fall colors were just amazing to this southern gal not used to such spectacular showy trees.
Although the walk hadn’t been far, I turned around here since the trail got pretty narrow. It was a nice little introduction to the beauty of this area for me, though.
I could never get tired of the sights and sounds of the Little River!
1+ minute video with soothing sounds of Little River to accompany beautiful scenes:
Middle Prong Trail hike: The first time I hiked this was in the fall.
The next time I was here was in the springtime for wildflowers. Like so many things I’ve found here, once is never enough!
Location/Contact: 9275 Tremont Rd. — Townsend, TN — 865-448-6709