I have been coming here for over 3 decades. My Mom and Grandma used to bring us here as kids. Mu husband and I visited each year on our annual trip to the Smokies. Now, as sort of a family tradition, we bring our own children. They love the Chimneys Picnic area. It is one of the places they always ask to visit!
Here you park under all the trees. It is heavily shaded and a nice retreat from the heat in the summer months. There are cement slabs that create sort of outdoor patios with grills on them. There are picnic tables and locking trash cans. There are signs all around reminding visitors that they should NOT feed the bears. At the top of the picnic area, near where you enter, you will see a sign for the start of the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail.
The BEST part of visiting here is the river with the HUGE river rocks in it. The kids love climbing on them, just as I did as a kid. This is a great place to get some family photos standing or sitting on the HUGE boulders. Water can be really swift here so you need to use caution and careful footwork. Rocks can be slippery, so water shoes are probably a good idea. You can find a few areas where a boulder is blocking the current and the water is calmer. Here we let the kids wade in the water. Be prepared though as the water is ICE cold. I don't know how some people do it with the water being so cold, but I have seen people sliding down the HUGE boulders (like a natural water slide) into the water.
Overall, we look forward to visiting the Chimneys Picnic area each year. We have never actually brought a picnic lunch to enjoy here, but we have really enjoyed playing on the rocks and in the water. This year we saw a fish in the water in addition to 2 salamanders. Across the way, up on the hill, we spotted a black bear this year as well. I think that is the most wildlife we have ever seen here in all my years of visiting!! I would HIGHLY recommend and no doubt we will be back next year. The kids always look forward to it!
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