Record Breaking Temperatures
It has been a crazy cold January in Tennessee! Fortunately for us though, the record breaking temperatures created a unique opportunity to witness a frozen wonderland of icicles and cascades frozen in their tracks along the tributaries of the Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Middle Prong Trail
After some major persuasion and bribery, my daughters reluctantly agreed to venture out of our warm house to witness the ice art along one of our favorite family hikes in the Smokies- The Middle Prong Trail.
The trail, an old logging road, is an easy, flat, wide trail running alongside the Middle Prong of the Little River with views of small cascades and a roaring waterfall. I like this trail because you can walk for as long or short as you’d like and retrace your steps back to the car whenever you’re ready. It’s also suitable for a jog stroller if needed.
In the summer, we generally turn around at the sign for the Panther Creek Trail at mile 2.3. A side trail at 2.1 miles leads to a rusty Cadillac leftover from the logging days in the 1920’s. A really fun relic for the kids.
On this particularly cold day, our goal was to make it the short distance to the 35 foot waterfall on the left side of the trail, less than a half mile from the trailhead. It was stunning, though not completely frozen, but the cascades along the Middle Prong itself stole the show on this outing.
My daughters, despite their initial reluctance, had a fantastic time and will hopefully always remember the day the rivers in the Smokies turned to ice.
Directions to the Middle Prong
From the Townsend Y, turn right on Laurel Creek Road towards Tremont and Cades Cove. In 0.2 miles, turn left on the road towards the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont. After 2 miles, you will pass by Tremont on your left and continue straight until the road turns to gravel. Drive 3 more miles, and park at the end of the gravel road. The trail starts at the bridge.
Tip: The Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont has the nearest restrooms and also has a small gift shop with some nice souvenirs. I picked up a CD of Appalachian bluegrass here and you'll also find good books for the kids about the Smokies.
If you liked this trail, you might be interested in our Great Smoky Mountain National Park Itinerary. Everything you need to know for your vacation in the Smokies- where to stay, eat, and play--including the best kid-friendly hikes.
You can also find this itinerary on Amazon.