- Steam Engine off Grapeyard Ridge Trail
Lying in the shallow water of Injun Creek the engine has remained here since the 1920's. There are multiple stories of how this Nichols and Shepard Steam Tractor Engine ended up here. The one we read most about was that the driver was drunk and accidentally drove it off the side of the mountain and rolled down into the creek. Another we heard was after a small miscalculation on the driver's part, the engine slid off of the road (trail) and tumbled into the creek. The driver jumped clear and no one was injured by the mishap. We are not quite sure of the true story but nevertheless, you can view the 100-year-old remnants about three miles down Grapeyard Ridge Trail.
How to get here: About 3 miles down Greenbrier Road is the Grapeyard Ridge Trailhead to Campsite 32. Take that trail 2.8 miles and you should easily be able to locate the steam engine. It is hard to miss.
2. White Oak Flats Cemetery
Established in 1830, this cemetery boasts the graves of Wiley Oakley, and several of Gatlinburg’s early settlers as well as several unmarked graves.This is the resting place of many of the ancestors that started Gatlinburg which was originally known as White Oak Flats. Find out more here.
How to get here: The best way to get there is to go through The Village. Walk toward the back, and take the walkway beside the restrooms and go up the hill. There is a roadway that you follow and it takes you to the entrance.
3. Road to Nowhere
In the 1930s and 1940s, Swain County gave up the majority of its private land to the Federal Government for the creation of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fontana Lake is actually a reservoir for Fontana Dam, which was built as a TVA project during World War II to produce electricity for ALCOA aluminum plants in Tennessee as well as for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manhattan Project. Hundreds of people were forced to leave the small Smoky Mountain communities that had been their homes for generations. With the creation of the Park, their homes were gone, and so was Old Highway 288 the road to those communities. The old road was buried beneath the deep waters of Fontana Lake. The Federal government promised to replace Highway 288 with a new road. But Lakeview Drive fell victim to an environmental issue and construction was stopped, with the road ending at a tunnel, about six miles into the park. Construction was never resumed.The legal issue of whether to build the road was finally resolved in February, 2010 when the US Department of Interior signed a settlement agreement to pay Swain County $52 million in lieu of building the road.
How to get here: Take Lakeview Drive from Bryson City all the way until you reach the parking lot. From the parking lot, you can walk to the tunnel.
4. Abandoned Plane Crash off Browning Knob
On November 24, 1983, a Cessna 414 crashed into the side of Browning Knob in western North Carolina. Both the pilot and passenger died in the crash. The remains of the wreckage remain at the site.
How to get here: Take the Watterock Knob and Browning Knob Trail. Hike the 0.5 mile path to Waterrock Knob, almost to the top. Just before you reach the last stretch of trail to the top, you should see a fairly obvious trail leading off to the left, marked by a rock with a blue arrow spray painted on it. Take this trail. It will quickly descend and it’s not always easy to traverse. Careful foot placement. There are a couple of places where you’re hugging the side of the mountain and a fall down the hill could result in some injuries. This may not be the best trail for kids. Eventually you’ll crest Browning Knob and have a beautiful view on a clear day (you’ll even see the Waterrock Knob parking lot). On Browning Knob’s summit, look for a trail to the left (heading North). It should be marked by another rock with a blue arrow. Take this short trail down a hillside and you will see the wreckage very quickly.
Please be respectful of this site. Both men in the plane lost their lives in this crash, and it is sobering to think of their final moments.
5. Ghost Town in the Sky - Abandoned Theme Park
This mountaintop Wild-West themed amusement park was wildly popular in the 70s and 80s. It opened in 1961 and closed in 2002. There have been multiple attempts to reopen over the years but with no success.
How to get here: Address: 16 Fie Top Rd, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
6. Steam Engine off Forney Ridge Trail
Under Clingman’s Dome lies an old logging Norwood boiler. Before 1926 the Norwood Lumber Company clear-cut the south side of Clingman’s Dome. This boiler was used to create steam to operate a winch to pull logs up the mountain to the train cars. This old boiler has been lost in time on the mountainside.
How to get here: Take Forney Ridge Trail from Clingman’s Dome parking lot. Take the trail about 1.5miles down to the junction of Andrews Bald and Forney Creek. Take the Forney Creek trail. About ¼ mile down the trail you will step down from a big boulder about 300 feet from the boulder on the right side of the trail is what looks like a small animal path and there should be a rock cairn/stack indicator. Take that off-trail “trail”. This area is very dense in the Summer and off trail hiking is not recommended. It can be dangerous to go off-trail. Here is an AllTrails recording of a hike to the boiler.
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