Registrations for this event have reached the capacity limit for the parking area.
Leader: Joe Rentz
Meeting Place: See Revised Directions below.
The “Missing Link” section of the Foothills Parkway opened to the public in mid-November 2018. It’s an extension of the Foothills Pkwy West section that’s been there for a long time, and goes 16 miles from near Walland to near Wears Valley. There are spectacular views of different things at different elevations. I’ve found a good pull over for sunrise. If conditions are right, a thick blanket of fog forms over the Little River, which runs along the base of the mountain, and the fog is visible from several pull overs. There’s a panoramic view of Clingman’s Dome, Mount LeConte, Rich Mountain and more, with Townsend down below. There’s a long curved bridge (similar to Lynn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway) that I think is actually 5 bridges joined together. Many like to use the bridge in their compositions.
After shooting from the Pkwy, we will decide on the option to go to Elkmont (Little River Trail) for stream photos.
Take what you have. I recommend something fairly wide for the vistas (I’ll use my 24-70mm). I’ll also take my 70-200mm for zooming in and closeups of leaves and woods. I’ll even take my 200-500mm. On a clear day I’ve gotten a photo of the Clingman’s Dome structure from there, and at the Wears Valley end there’s a view of Little River coming down from the mountain. But my all purpose 28-300mm lens would do just fine, as will a good smart phone. A polarizing filter is a great idea, as it knocks the glare off the leaves and enhances color. A tripod is recommended.
Do not rely on GPS to get you there. From Maryville, take U.S. Hwy 321 (Lamar Alexander Parkway) about 10 miles to the Foothills Parkway entrance on the right. It’s about ½ mile past the Walland Post Office. Turn LEFT to get on the new section of the Parkway. Go about 10.5 miles and there’s a good sized pull off on the right with a big boulder. That’s where we’ll meet and shoot sunrise. (A landmark is, about a mile before that, there’s a big pull off on the left, Caylor Gap, that may have a sign. None of the other pull offs are named). From Wears Valley, Take U.S. 321 toward Townsend and go a mile or two to the Foothills entrance. I’m guessing the pull off with the boulder is about 5 or 6 miles.
Revised directions. When you turn right off U.S. 321, go to the stop sign and turn left (right takes you to the old section of the Parkway). There is a Parkway entrance sign. Distances are from the sign. Caylor Gap (not marked) is about mile 9. There's a long curved bridge there, starting with rock wall on one side then a long curved steel railing. Heads up when you get there. We will meet at the pullover at mile 10.5. There's a grass island separating the road from the parking area. The parking area has 5 brightly marked (in white) parking spaces that face one direction and 5 more plus a handicap spot that faces 45 degrees from the other. The "boulder" is more like a rounded rock no taller than a car bumper. Just past the meeting pullover is a small Park mile marker 28 down low to the ground. If you see that, you've gone too far. From the Wears Valley end of the Parkway, we meet at the first pullover on the left, about 3.5 miles in. Hope that helps! I did have ATT cell reception the entire way, so call if you can't find it.
There are no restroom facilities on the parkway. It’s not too far from Walland or Wears Valley though. We will practice social distancing, or masking if we are closer together than 6’. Due to Covid, I will not be carpooling. If you plan to go, please click the Register button on the web page, or click the Yes button on the email announcement. Sunrise is at 7:50am that day so I set the time for 7:20am.
Registrations for this event have reached the capacity limit for the parking area. For an alternative, you may register for a similar event titled, “Morning on the Foothills Parkway and GSMNP.”