Join Chuck Schmidt, travel host and go touring Dandridge, Douglas Lake and Cosby TN. Learn about different things to do on the other side of the park from waterfall hikes to boating to scenic drives. Discover the history of Dandridge, the recreation of Douglas Lake and the outdoor opportunities of Cosby There’s a ton to do on the other side of the Smokies, don’t miss it!
Dandridge- Founded in 1783, Dandridge, TN, named after Martha Dandridge Washington, the First U.S. President’s wife, is the state’s second oldest town. When the Tennessee Valley Authority started construction of the Douglas Dam in the 1942, The construction of Douglas Dam in 1942 flooded much of the best farmland in Jefferson County, and threatened to flood most all of downtown Dandridge, which was situated below the proposed reservoir’s high-water mark. Residents of the town successfully petitioned then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, pointing out that Dandridge was the only town in the United States named for the wife of George Washington. They were successful a stone and earth dike was built to keep the rising waters from flooding the town.
Douglas Lake is probably the main attraction. The lake is a beautiful 33,000 acre area, approx 30 miles long and 525 miles of shoreline. The lake attracts more than 1.7 million visitors each year.
Lots to do there: quiet coves for swimming, boating, jet skis, kayaking, fishing. There are rental properties right on the lake there is also RV parking and camping sites available.
There are wonderful places to have a picnic with views of the dam and inspiring views of the Smokies as your backdrop.
There is a beautiful scenic overlook of the lake the dam and the Smokies that’s not to be missed.
They drain the lake in September and refill it again in March. To prepare for the winter, TVA lowers the water level to make room for the runoff from winter storms. When there is a storm, TVA holds the water back by reducing releases from the dam, and when the rain stops, TVA gradually lets the water out to prepare for the next storm. In the summer when there is less risk of floods, TVA keeps lake levels higher to support recreation. In a year with normal rainfall, Douglas Lake’s water level varies about 44 feet from summer to winter.
The downtown of Dandridge is a registered National Historic District that has boutiques, antique shops and restaurants. The best way to go touring Dandridge is on foot. Make sure to stop by the 1820 coach house that is now the town’s Visitor Center to pick up a a self-guided walking tour map that features 21 sites of historic interest downtown as well as 17 sites that are just a short drive away. The historic district comprises Dandridge’s downtown area. Significant properties in the district include the second Jefferson County courthouse, a Greek Revival building completed in 1845, as well as four of the town’s original taverns, Roper Tavern, Hickman Tavern, Shepherd’s Inn, and Thomas Tavern.
Cosby is one of the least visited side of the Smoky Mountains National Park. There are several great hiking trails in this area.
Porters Creek Trail – The first mile of the Porters Creek Trail is actually an old gravel road, which meanders through a lush forest of moss covered trees and rocks as it follows along the banks of Porters Creek. If you happen to have the opportunity to hike this trail during the spring you’ll likely be treated to an absolutely awesome display of yellow trillium near the trailhead.
Roughly two-thirds of a mile from the trailhead several old stone walls will appear on your right. These are remnants from the farmstead, who settled in the Porters Creek community in the early 1900s. Also on your right, just past the stone walls, is the Ownby Cemetery, which also dates back to the early part of the 20th century.
Roughly one mile from the trailhead, after crossing over a footbridge, hikers will reach a fork in the road. The spur trail on the right leads to an historic farm site. A short hike of roughly 250 yards will take you to the John Messer farm site, which includes a cantilevered barn that was built by John Whaley around 1875. There’s also a cabin on this site that was built by the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club in the mid-1930s.
At roughly 2 miles hikers will arrive at the 60-foot Fern Branch Falls, which drops off the ridge on the left side of the trail. During high water flows this can be a fairly spectacular waterfall.
The Porters Creek Trail is also an excellent choice when snow makes foot travel difficult in the higher elevations, or when it forces the closure of roads throughout other parts of the park. 4.0 miles, 5.4 DR
Hen Wallow Falls –This was a fun hike but as with all hikes it depends on your abilities. I’m 57, a tad overweight and I love to hike. This hike is definitely moderate in difficulty. Tons of roots, lots of rocks and a very steep decent for .1 down to the falls. If it’s raining that decent down to the falls would be slick and treacherous. Bring lots of water because you will work up a sweat on the uphill trek. Hiking poles and hiking boots are recommended. Total hike time to the falls for me was 1:18, and as I said I’m not the fastest hiker on the trail so the 3-4 hour estimate is spot on. 4.4 miles, 6.2 DR
Ramsey Cascades – Be prepared and know what you’re getting into, adhear to that and enjoy a great hike. The first 1.7 miles is essentially a pleasant nature trail, if your not ready for a long hike turn around here and head back to your car. This is where the old logging road ends.
From the sign at 1.7 miles to the first foot bridge at 2.1 miles the trail narrows and the road is now gone and trail difficulty increases slightly. You’ll cross the second foot bridge at 2.9 miles, once crossing that bridge ratchet up the difficulty to the next level.
At this point tree roots and rocks are much more abundant. Rock stairs pop up from time to time. What’s nice about this trail are the scattered level sections to hike. It’s not like a solid accent at Baskins Creek Falls, there are plenty of places to catch your breath on this trail.
During the 2.9 mile to the 3.5 mile stretch you’ll hike away from the water and into the woods. Once you start hearing the water again you’ll be getting close to the end. The final approach to the fall will include climbing over large boulders at this point keep your eyes open and you’ll catch a glimpse of the falls to come. One last steep climb and you’re there and the falls are some of the best in the Smokys. 8.0 miles, 12.38 DR
Hopefully you found this Episode 008 Touring Dandridge, Douglas Lake and Cosby TN helpful.
Are you planning a visit to the Smokies and are wondering how to fit it all in? Check out our sample itineraries: https://wordpress.com/post/dancingbearfoot.blog/53
If this is your fist time coming to the Smokies and renting a cabin check out out blog post in what to look for when renting a log cabin.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to learn more about our cabin or other great things to see while visiting the Smoky Mountains please visit us at Dancing Bearfoot.com.
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