How to Explore the Great Smoky Mountains if You Don’t Hike or Camp

I’m saying it from the start: I am not a hiker. Or a camper. I think I like to hike and camp. I think I like being in the wilderness and communing with nature. I think I like to be without technology and modern day conveniences like running water. But when push comes to shove, I like it for about a day.

So here’s the disclaimer: I spent one day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I want to be up front: you could spend weeks- months- inside this national park that spans over 500,000 acres across two states (Tennessee and North Carolina). But I know my limitations, and I knew at the start of an almost four week road trip it was going to be a marathon and not a sprint, so I couldn’t get burnt out right away. I researched the Great Smoky Mountains and found the most manageable places to explore that would still give me the sense of accomplishment of hiking/camping/communing with nature. Here’s what I recommend if you want to get a feel for the mountains without camping for days:

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Acadia National Park, Maine

I may not be a huge hiker or camper, but I am a huge fan of the water, especially the ocean water, and love any view that involves water or mountains. I’m also a HUGE fan of the National Parks Service system and have been visiting historic sites, monuments, museums, and parks for years, learning all about our country’s history and collecting stamps for my National Parks Passport. So, it seemed logical to put Acadia National Park in Maine on my bucket list. This summer, I helped to plan a family reunion in York, Maine (post coming next week) and I seized the location and added a visit to Acadia National Park.


Acadia National park is a 47,000 acre park (the only National Park located in New England) It’s located on Mount Desert Island, right next to the beautiful village of Bar Harbor. Acadia is unique in the sense that there is no one, defined entrance and exit site. There are multiple spots to enter and the park weaves in and out of the community. There are sections that require a park pass, which for 2017, was a $25 fee for a week pass for a noncommercial vehicle. Lucky for us, the Every Kid in a Park program allows fourth graders, and their families, to receive entrance to all National Parks all year long, so we got in for free! There is SO much to do in Acadia, it would take days to cover it all. Here are some of my family’s top spots:

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