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  1. #1

    Default Pre-Memorial Day RT St. Louis to the Smokies


    It looks like we will be able to get out for the week prior to Memorial Day. We will be traveling with a 10 mo. old.

    We are starting in St. Louis and were thinking of heading to the Smokies and a little ways up the Blue Ridge and then back through Kentucky (stopping in Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Falls, maybe Mammoth Cave). We are interested primarily in nature and hiking (although we are limited in how ambitious we can be with a 10 mo. old in tow) and my wife has a weakness for shopping, especially for local crafts and the like.

    We were thinking of seven days (six nights). Since we will need to stop fairly often, I was looking for people's ideas. I have done some searching in the Forums threads and they have been very helpful, but I was just wondering if I could pick your brains a little bit more directly.

    I am assuming that the area will be a madhouse over Memorial Day weekend. Do you all think this is a decent time to see the area?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Good time

    I think that is one of the best times of the year to get out on the road. It's still considered "pre-season" by most accounts, but the weather is usually cooperative. As an added bonus, rooms should be easy to come by.

    I have been to the Cumberland Falls area a couple of times (and to Kentucky several), and while it is a popular place, I did not find it overly crowded, even in the peak Summer tourism season. Mammoth cave has several different types of tours - if you didn't have a young one in tow, I would suggest the lantern tour, which is an interesting way of seeing this natural wonder. There are several short tours that will give you a good glimpse of the cave.

    The Cave City area nearby has retained that kitschy feel of highway attractions of yore (any place that has a "Golgotha Fun Park" has to make you wonder). There are several other caves in the region as well - none quite as spectacular as Mammoth, but fun in their own right.

    The Cumberland Gap itself is a short hike from a parking area (at least on the Kentucky side). There is also a side hike from here where you can be at the corners of VA, KY, & TN, though from what I remember, there are some steep areas on this hike.

    I also recommend, if you have the time for it, the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Naturally

    I love the basic premise of your trip, and you have more than enough time to take it at a very leisurely pace. You'll only need to average about 200 miles a day, letting you mix and match moderate hikes, short drives, picnics, and window and other shopping.

    I looked at a general route for your trip and I didn't see but a couple of stretches where you're going to be farther than 25 miles from a national park, state park, forest or wildlife refuge. So I don't think that you're going to have any problems finding beautiful places to enjoy nature. Tim has pointed out a few specific possibilities, and as he has noted, many of these will be surprisingly uncrowded even on a big holiday weekend as the bulk of travellers will be heading for the most popular destinations. Wherever you end up stopping, be sure to check in at the visitor's center and ask for trails that are appropriate to your child. I think you'll be pleasantly amazed at how many parks will offer paved or graded trails where you can take a stroller.

    As far as shopping for crafts goes, it's a little bit out of your way as you work across southern Kentucky, but Berea is a commercial center for crafts, and Kentucky does have a program to help you locate crafts people as does North Carolina, and you can check out the Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Tech in Smithville between Nashville and Great Smoky Mountain park


  4. #4


    Thanks a lot to both of you! I have done some browsing and the Red River Gorge area looks especially fascinating. We are currently thinking of a routing something like:

    Day 1: St. Louis to Mammoth Cave. Poke around a little. Maybe look to overnight in Corbin.

    Day 2: Cumberland Falls in the morning, then Cumberland Gap. To the Smokies. Stay in Townsend(?)

    Days 3-4: Smokies

    Day 5: Blue Ridge Parkway to ? (probably somewhere near the VA/NC border -- Play this one by ear)

    Day 6: Start heading home. Poke around the Red River Gorge. Overnight somewhere in KY East of Lexington. (Any suggestions?)

    Day 7: Home to STL.

    Does this look reasonable on a time perspective? If we head out on 5/20 (Sunday), this means we will be hitting the Smokies Tu/We and the Blue Ridge on Th. I was scheduling 7 days to make it home before the onslaught of Memorial Day, but I think that we will be missing the worst of it.

    Thanks again for your help. It has given me some more info to go on and places to look.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Lexington

    The Lexington area has plenty of places to stay, though I don't have any specific suggestions. I do suggest that you take some time to travel on any of the local roads, but specifically I have found US-460 and US-68 to be nice roads traveling through horse country, past the large horse ranches. These roads have pulled me back to the area at least three times.

    One place there that I have yet to go to, is the Kentucky Horse Park, which looks like it might be enjoyable for all, if you have the time to stop there.

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