Numerous Smoky Mountain Scenic Tours Available in 1952
A favorite pastime of my youth was going on a leisurely weekend outing with my family to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The crowds then were sparse compared to those today.
A frequent diversion was to view a black bear seeking victuals along the roadside. Gatlinburg was modest compared to the way it is today and a drive through nearby Pigeon Forge revealed a two-lane road with open fields and a few isolated barns.
I have a 1952 Gatlinburg brochure bearing the title, “Smoky Mountain Scenic Tours – See the Great Smokies and The Carolina Blue Ridge – Open Cars with Driver Guides – Daily Trips from Gatlinburg to All Principal Points of Interest.” The business offered 11 passenger-insured convertible tours ranging from $5.00 to $12.50 per person. Some deals included a hot lunch.
The Le Conte Creek Cottages of Gatlinburg operated the service under the leadership of manager Jack Reagan. The business, located adjacent to the downtown Cherokee Theatre, had two phone numbers - 404 and 86. Details of the tours were outlined in the pamphlet.
The flyer stated, “No single day and no single tour is long enough to see all the places which attract over a million visitors [annually] to the great outdoor region. To cover the area adequately and provide variety and choice, tours of varying mileage and interest have been planned for individual taste and convenience.” The business maintained an impressive number of excursions covering many miles.
Tour A (225 miles, $12.50, hot lunch) featured a view of mountains and foothills by traversing through and around the western rim of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. Main points were Little River Gorge, Maryville, Deal’s Gap, Fontana Dam, Nantahala Gorge, Bryson City, Cherokee trading post and reservation, Oconaluftee, Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome. On this tour, sightseers’ passed directly into the park, climbed Fighting Creek Gap, then trailed the winding Little River through forests for 20 miles through the park, and went on through the foothills to Maryville with the Great Smoky range in the background. The tour then swung southward and made its way back to Gatlinburg.
Tour B (231 miles, $12.50, hot lunch) extended along the north rim of the Park in Tennessee and across the boundary into the Carolina Blue Ridge, to Asheville, returning by way of Soco Gap where the route crossed the famous Blue Ridge Parkway on top of the range. It continued through the Cherokee Indian Reservation and reentered the Park on the beautiful parkway, which climbed 15 miles to Newfound Gap. After a stop there, it was back to Gatlinburg on the Parkway descending into Tennessee, through the tunnels, over the “Loop,” past Chimney Tops and Park headquarters.
Tour C (195 miles, $12.50, hot lunch) was a drive through the breath-taking “Sapphire Country” in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to Highlands, a famous resort in a region of beautiful mountains, forests, flowers and streams. It continued by way of Franklin and Bryson City, both ways over the Smokies at Newfound Gap and through the Cherokee Indian Reservation, with visits to Bridal Veil Falls, Cashiers and other points of interest.
Tours D, E, F and J were similarly priced at $12.50 and included a hot lunch. Tours G, H and I were abbreviated trips priced at $5.00 per person. Tour K was a round trip to and from Cherokee with admission to the Cherokee Indian longstanding drama, “Unto These Hills.”
Older area residents can readily recall those carefree days of yesteryear when we explored a more tranquil but equally impressive Great Smoky Mountain National Park.