Just back from a one-week trip from St. Louis through Kentucky and Tennessee with a 10 month old.
This was my first time in this part of the country (aside from a pair of in-and-out trips: one to Memphis and one to Nashville).
Day one was a straight shot to Mammoth Cave. We weren't there in time for an evening cave tour (other than the Lantern Tour which we couldn't take the baby on), so we walked around up top and then came back for the New Entrance Tour the next morning. Normally I take difficulty descriptions for hikes given out by the Park Service with a grain of salt, but this was a little more strenuous and tight than I was expecting. An older gentleman on our tour had some difficulty with the climbing and stairs and I had a little difficulty with carrying the baby in some of the tighter spots (even with a sling). Still, very worth it -- the most spectacular part to me was the Drapery Room below Frozen Niagara. This can be visited with the very easy Frozen Niagara tour, so even if you are not in good shape, at least do this -- just take your time on the stairs.
Day two we pushed on to Townsend, TN just outside Great Smoky Mountains NP. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Standing Rock State Park in TN at the very pleasant picnic area under the dam. Despite it being Mother's Day and all of the pavilions being taken, we got a table rather easily and spent some time just relaxing. The highlight of the day was simply driving the state highways from Cave City down to I-40. They were scenic and, for the most part, in wonderful shape.
The next few days we based out of Townsend and explored the GSMNP. On reflection, while I enjoyed the hikes up Clingman's Dome and to Laurel Falls, if I were to do the trip again I would spend less time here and push on to the Blue Ridge -- maybe spend a single night at Pigeon Forge (because of the surfeit of cheap hotels) and then hit a hike or two in the NP on the way over to a stay somewhere low on the Blue Ridge Parkway the next night. I would probably avoid the Cades Cove Loop unless I had my bike with me and it was Wednesday or Saturday morning when the road is closed to cars. I will say that there is some gorgeous driving there. US-129 (the Tail of the Dragon) is spectacular even if you feel like you will be overwhelmed by motorcycle traffic at times. And the road between Pigeon Forge and Townsend is quite beautiful in its own right.
Afterward, we headed up to Cumberland Gap (I encourage you all to take the short drive up to the overlook - beautiful view) and spent the night in Corbin (after a visit to the Sanders Cafe). The next day was to Cumberland Falls (very nice) and a side hike to Eagle Falls. The walk to Eagle Falls is a bit over a mile and has a good bit of up and down with a short rock scramble at the end. The falls are very worth it though. Following that was lunch at the Dairy Bar in Whitley City (thanks to the poster who mentioned it here -- it is indeed a good place to stop for lunch) for excellent cheeseburgers, onion rings, and malts.
Our final half-day was spent in Frankfort with tours of Rebecca-Ruth candies (awesome bourbon balls) which is so small you can't believe they really do the production there -- alas we were there on a Saturday and they weren't running the line -- and Buffalo Trace Distillery which was my first distillery visit. Frankfort is a cute little town and well worth a half-day or more to explore.
Anyway, lots of folks here were a great help in planning this trip so I thought I owed you all a follow up on how it went. Next trip we are looking at will be in August and probably only a couple of days. We are thinking of North up the Mississippi from St. Louis.
Thanks to everyone,