Visit the Smokies with the Family Dog
A 3-day Adventure to the Smokies
Our first road trip to the Smoky Mountains with our dogs, Rukia and Saki was unforgettable. It was the kind of adventure like the road trips we remember as a child, except back then our siblings were in the back seat instead of the family dog. Rukia had just turned 3 and Saki was two months shy of her 3rd birthday. They had only experienced the warm tropical climates of South Florida. So, the mild temperatures and cool evenings would be a welcoming change. In late 2015 we discovered the town of Bryson City, located in the foothills of Western North Carolina. Surrounded by lush landscapes and the Smoky Mountains, wanderlust quickly set in and we made plans to share the adventure with our family dogs.
The trek from Miami to Bryson City and back during the span of three days was not easy. But, when you are drawn to an area that you love so much, time stands still and so the journey becomes an adventure. It was Memorial Weekend 2016 and we had three days with the dogs to find adventure in the Smokies.
The Smoky Mountains National Park: A Natural Wonderland
Although we didn’t quite make it to the park on the first trip, there were other pet-friendly places we visited in the area. Since 2016 it has become more evident to see dog parents with their furry family members around town. The Smoky Mountains National Park and its surrounding areas is the perfect getaway for you and the family dog. Located about 10 miles from Bryson City is the pet-friendly trail in the Great Smoky Mountains where you can hike along the Oconaluftee River Trail. The trail begins just behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, located roughly 2 miles north of Cherokee, NC. Once you reach there, you can breathe in the crisp and fresh mountain air and take in a view of ridge upon ridge of forest land, rivers and lakes. The mountainous forest region straddles the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Smoky Mountains have renowned the world over for the sheer diversity of its unique flora and fauna as well as the spectacular beauty of its ancient mountains. It is here that you will be able to see and explore some of the last surviving remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. In fact, venturing just 13.3 miles heading toward the Nantahala Outdoor Center leads to the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail, which winds through Graham County. All of these aspects combined serve to make the Smoky Mountains America’s single most visited national park.
The American Black Bear is the endearing symbol of Smoky Mountains National Park or the Smokies, as it is fondly referred to by area residents. This bear is arguably the single most famous resident of the park. There are over 65 mammal species that have also been documented in the park. Groundhog, little chipmunks, white-tailed deer, some squirrel and bat species are common in the area.
If you are an avid birdwatcher or outdoor enthusiast, you are in for a treat of a lifetime. There are well over 200 bird species that are regularly sighted in the Smokies. You will want to explore the place with your family for that outdoor vacation experience. But, there is also an abundance of surrounding beauty if you prefer to slow things down a bit. If its your first time traveling to a natural destination with the family dog, its important to pack the proper gear to keep your dog safe at all times. Early on we learned that Shiba Inu’s require a secure harnesses as an added safety precaution. So every time we travel, I pack extras of their harnesses, leashes and collars just to be extra safe. It’s no doubt that the Smoky Mountains are a great destination, but bringing the family dog makes it an adventure.