Friday, June 16, 2017

Excellent Picnic Locations

Lavender catawba rhodo bloom on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Excellent Picnic Locations 

  One of my favorite things to do over the course of my entire life is to have picnics.
I have wonderful memories of family reunions, cookouts, romantic picnics with Kenny,
fun picnics with friends. My earliest memories are of my own birthday parties when I was a baby still
in a playpen out in the yard. I was under the huge aspen tree.  The sky was blue. The Summer air soft and warm.  The birds singing. Family talking and laughing.  The rustling of those silver green aspen leaves above my head.  I remember lying down in the play pen just to look up at the sky and tree leaves.   The best part of a birthday was the family together in an outdoor setting.  The great food and
presents were just bonus to me.   I grew up with parents who took me on picnics. They took me to friends wonderful hunting camps out in the country.  They took me to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We went to the beach on the Outer Banks back before it was at all commercialized.  I was going to love outdoors and picnics. How could I do otherwise?
Photo of me in diapers about 1966.  You can see the aspen tree out the living room window! 

          I thought recently of what kind of magazine article or guidebook I'd like to see?
One of the things I would enjoy and find helpful is something that gives suggestions and advice on
great places to have picnics.  The romantic kind. The family fun kind.  The kind with friends and activities.  All are good.  I have even done this solo but it is not as much fun unless it is just solitude I'm needing.    I will be posting this blog entry here since it pertains to outdoors, but I am also posting it on my Kügler Haus blog since it pertains to family and food.  I will try to stick to locations I have actually visited and picnicked. I will include some location suggestions for places I plan to go.
You know I always have a dream list.  The result of me composing this article is going to be that I will keep up with this topic as an ongoing thing and update the location base.  I can pretty much count on the fact that now I will want to revisit every single place I've been before.. The list will double. I'll have to live thirty seven lifetimes now to do it all. 😀  The spur of the moment nature of the idea means I will not have photos of each past event or location. I'll try to at least provide links to the locations.

        Excellent Locations

Max Patch

  One of my favorite places to picnic is Max Patch, North Carolina.  It is located off Interstate 40 at the Harmon Den exit #7 .  The area taken as a whole rides the line between Tennessee and North Carolina.   Know when I state "Max Patch" I am not only speaking of the bald itself but the surrounding area.   Once you leave the exit you turn North onto Cold Springs Creek Road.  Stay on this road for 3.25 miles to an T intersection. Bear right onto an un-named road and go 0.1 miles further. The picnic area will be on your left.  Plenty of parking here. I've never seen anymore than my family and two other family groups there at a given time. Usually we have it to ourselves. The picnic area is in a grassy lawn type clearing with a creek running by at the edge.  Picnic tables are here, but if you need a grill you will have to bring your own.  Also be prepared to pack out any trash you bring in.  No restroom facilities at this location or potable water.

      Max Patch has a picnic area at the bottom of the mountain with tables on flat ground or if you prefer you could picnic up on the summit of the bald and enjoy the view.   Be prepared to tote all your stuff up to the summit if you do. It is a 0.2 mile trek to the top uphill.

   The scenery is great in either place.  Down at the picnic grounds you are near Little Fall Branch Falls. It is a short, easy hike. It is almost level to a gorgeous waterfall. It is about 0.25 miles one way.
Just out from the picnic area past the Horse camp on the left. You will see a creek flowing down and under the road. Follow the trail up over the bank just to the right of the stream.

 Looking back across the picnic area toward the parking spaces and tables. Nice flat ground in a lawn or park like setting. Great to lounge around or for kids to run around and play. Creek to play in and cool off.

 Though there are no grills at Max Patch we brought our Coleman grill. It is great.  Easy clean up. Very compact.  Folds up nearly flat.
 Kenny grills some outstanding hamburgers.

 Little Falls Branch is right next door to the picnic area.

Or picnic up on the bald to have a view like something out of The Sound of Music!
Spring is a good time to bring kites to fly and see the best display of Spring wildflowers anywhere.
Fall has great Autumn colors and Fall wildflowers.  Down the dirt road from the summit is a fishing pond with a dock.  Max Patch is a great place for a family picnic, friends picnic and has potential for a romantic picnic. It is usually very busy on the summit though. It can be hard to find parking much less solitude especially on weekends.


  The most unique, beautiful and least visited picnic area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Heintooga.  The Cherokee name for the place Heintooga means" place of refuge. " It is located at the end of the Heintooga Ridge Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC.  It is within the bounds of the national park. The road is usually gated from November through the end of May.  During mild weather the road can be opened early.  It is a great high elevation spot to find cool during Summer.   It tends to be as much as twenty degrees cooler since you're more than a mile high.
The picnic area here is a good one for solitude, romance, or families.   It has restroom facilities, water, trash receptacles, grills, walking trails, great scenery, a couple benches with a grandstand view.
One end of Flat Creek Trail is at the back of this area. The other end is just off the road a few miles before you got to this point.    It is on the left.  If you walk to the bottom of the hill there you reach a nice creek for kids to splash around in.  It is a great place to see Spring or Summer wildflowers.
Elk are sometimes seen here as well as turkeys. Remember..  you are in bear country so keep an eye out for them.   I would like to get our whole family up here to spend a long day. Just eat like Elvis and hang out. Play in the creek. Soak up the views. The forest here is what I call a Red Riding Hood Forest.  It is perfection. The drive out to it is one splendid view after another.

 You have quite an assortment of picnic spots up here at Heintooga.

Benches provide a sitting spot for the following view

View from Heintooga Overlook.  Hard to top.

Hooper Bald 

The Cherohala Skyway runs from Tellico Plains to Robbinsville.  It is a popular destination.  You can get a free map of it at the visitor center in Tellico Plains.  Starting there you will be on Hwy 165 but when it crosses into North Carolina at Beech Gap it changes to 143.   Several miles past the state line on the right hand side is a picnic area signed Hooper Bald.  It is a great place to picnic for friends or families. You have to pass Stratton Ridge Picnic area on the left on the way there. It is about 2 miles back.    There are picnic tables at both.  Vault toilets at Hooper are currently out of service but usually are in working order.  The ones at Stratton Ridge are porta potties, but they are in working order and clean.   No running water at either.  No streams at either. Hiking trails at Hooper Bald. Mid June is a great time to go and hike the short 1/2 mile up to the open bald and see stunning native azaleas and mountain laurel.  Great views all along the Skyway.   Autumn is also nice and in the first two weeks of October you can see beautiful Fall colors.   You may see a few people there or you may have it all to yourself.
 Hooper Bald azaleas and mountain laurel in mid June.
 Open grassy meadow year round.. open spaces!
Hooper Bald has some beautiful Fall colors and Fall wildflowers. New England Asters bloom there.

Fires Creek Recreation Area

Directions to Fires Creek Rec. Area

  Fires Creek Recreation Area is another extremely scenic, lightly used place for picnics.
It has virtually unlimited possibilities.   It has restrooms, tables, grills, trash receptacles, plenty of parking.  It has a river with areas that are shallow and some deep enough to swim.  It has a rocky shore to play for small kids. It has a waterfall and hiking trails. It has great Spring and Summer wildflowers.  The atmosphere is a little slice of Heaven.  No fees.  It is also a great place for tubing. 
If you want to take a scenic drive you're in the right place. Come prepared to stay the day.  You will not want to leave. You will keep seeing pretty things and spots along the creek and in the forest. 
Dogs are allowed.   The very first time I ever visited here I was not too impressed, but I did not give up and I am so glad I hung in there.  Great place for tent camping nearby too!
 Leatherwood Falls is directly across the stream from the picnic area.

A young boy and his dog in Fires Creek enjoying a swim.  This is right by the picnic area too.

Andrews Bald

  Andrews Bald is an easy to moderate hike out to a grassy bald with a fantastic view.
During the mid June it is peak season for catawba rhododendrons and native azalea to bloom.
Restrooms available at the start of the hike at Clingman's Dome. Ample parking.  No fees.
Drinking water at Clingman's Dome.   Go to the Clingman's Dome parking area and head down the
Forney Creek Trail to the left.  It is a 2 mile hike out to Andrews Bald.  If you go in late June or early July you'll still see some native azaleas, purple fringed orchids, rugels ragwort and tall turks cap lilies!  Great Summer wildflowers. Hiking options.  and scenic views.  Take along your backpack picnic and a blanket and lounge for a spell.  It is a romantic location, but also not a bad family destination. Not as much to keep kids occupied.  Pets prohibited.   While in the area you can hike up to Clingman's Dome tower and take in the view from there.  The drive out Clingman's Dome road is beautiful.  Restrooms also available at Newfound Gap and drinking water.
 Views from Andrews Bald
 Our you tote it picnic backpack.  I paid $25 for this thing. It keeps stuff warm or cold.  Totes wine or beverages.  Has plates, forks, knives, salt and pepper shaker, napkins, table clothe. Glasses.  Between this and the other backpack we can take along lots of stuff for a picnic.
Turks cap lily blooming on Andrews Bald 

Verble Hollow Falls

  Verble Hollow Falls used to be on private property and inaccessible to the public.
Now it is located on Belle Ridge Retreat  and you can access it far more easily and legally.
They charge a small fee for ATV riding and/or dayhiking.  It is affordable to bring your own machine there and especially to dayhike.   You could pack a picnic in a backpack or on your UTV/ATV and go have a picnic right beside Verble Hollow Falls.  They have free trail maps in the office.  They have restrooms at the office and running water.  They also have ample parking in a secure location.
They have picnic tables and grills right by the 110 foot dream like Verble Hollow Falls.
Springtime will have you there to witness one of the best displays of forest scenery and wildflowers anywhere.   Nearby are caves to explore and yet another falls just around the corner.  You won't want to leave this place. You will probably come back again because for 10 miles of riding or hiking trails you cannot see it all in a day.  It is another one of those spots that is a little slice of Heaven on Earth.
They will soon have tent camping, RV camping, and cabin rentals available also.  Swimming facilities .  Great scenic views from a gazebo. Can't say enough about this dream destination.
Verble Hollow Falls emerges from a cave in the bluff and drops back into the ground at another cave.

Picnic tables and grills in a very romantic and inspiring location.  We had it to ourselves the entire time we were there.  Saw very few people the rest of the day, but that will probably change.

The scenery from the picnic tables .. the bluff above Vanishing Falls.. aka Verble Hollow Falls

Great Spring wildflowers are all around your table in April.

Frozen Head State Park 

   Frozen Head State Park please follow the link to directions and info about Frozen Head. It lists the picnic pavilion fees and policies on the site.    Frozen Head State Park is located in Morgan County, Tennessee.  It is a beautiful area and far less visited than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It still gets busy during weekends, but the traffic and crowds are nowhere near what you cope with in the park.   During the week you may be the only person hiking a given trail.  Parking is ample. The state park has picnic pavilions, tables, grills, restrooms, trash receptacles, visitor center with info.
It is situated in a lovely area with easy hiking trails for families or individuals to a couple nice waterfalls.  Lots of creeks for kids to splash around in.  During Spring it has one of the best wildflower displays in the state.  They have playground equipment for children in a grassy setting.
It is a safe, family environment.   I have taken my grandson here for a picnic and a play date and hike.
It would be a nice romantic location or great for friends or families.

 DeBord Falls is an easy 0.6 mile hike with no turns until you drop off the trail to the right to reach the base of the falls on a set of steps.

Summertime flows on DeBord Falls are less but the creek is always a fun place to splash and play and look for critters.  My grandson Michael the day of our picnic.   He played here with two other little girls!

Frozen Head has a wonderful display of Spring AND Summer wildflowers.

Chimney Tops Picnic Area 
Chimney Tops Picnic Area  Find directions and info here.
   The Chimney Tops Picnic Area is one of the nicest ones in the park. It is not a place I'd go for a romantic picnic. It is a great place for families, friends, and individuals who are not seeking solitude.
If you just want to be in a great area with lots of other folks in a good mood and having fun this is the place to go.  I have picnicked here with family, solo, with friends and with Kenny.   It has never been a disappointment.  It is usually busy, but parking is good and the place is huge so it is not hard to find a spot. There are restrooms, drinking water, bear proof trash bins, tables, and grills.  You have a creek to play in here.  It has pretty scenery all around you.  It has an easy hiking trail around the Cove Hardwood Nature trail. It Spring it is one of the premiere wildflower trails in the park. It has benches along it for resting.  The recent fires have not ruined it.  There is also a walking trail at the very back of the picnic grounds.  Just a short out and back for a little exploring.  You could bring your hammock or lawn chairs and hang out for the day.  Many folks do just that.  It is right at 5 miles from Sugarlands Visitor center on the right hand side of the road.   The drive out takes you through pretty scenery and past a few quiet walk ways.  
Below are two photos of some of the prettiest spots along the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail.
Here is a link to an entire gallery of photos of that trail.  Cove Hardwood Nature Trail in Spring-Chimney Tops Picnic Area
 A large swath of great white flowered trilliums, wind flower, yellow violets, canada violets,
Bench along the nature trail surrounded by fringed phacelia like a carpet of snow.

Lilly Bluff
 Morgan Co. hiking, swimming, views, facilities.
Directions: From Wartburg  Take Rt. 27/62 for 3.25 miles and bear LEFT to stay on Rt. 62 Nashville Hwy.  for 4.25 miles to a LEFT turn onto Ridge Road.  Stay straight on Ridge Rd. It will cross the Clear Creek at 3 miles. Continue straight for another 0.6 miles to a LEFT turn into the parking area for Lilly Bluff Overlook and picnic area.  Lilly Bluff Area Info Here
The overlook picnic area has an observation platform that provides magnificent views of the surrounding terrain including out over Clear Creek and the plateau.  It has restrooms, trash bins, ample parking, and picnic tables.  It is close to some great hiking as the Cumberland Trail goes past here.  It is fun to hike out to The Point and the Lilly Bluff Arch.  A short hike down at the base of the bluff where you came in will bring you to the beautiful double drop of Melton Mill Branch Falls!
We had a Winter picnic here.  It was great fun.  It is good in any season.  Here is a link to a gallery of
images from that Winter trip.  Winter Picnic at Lilly Bluff Pix
Any repeat trips for us I will give away some place near I want to include... Gordon Branch Falls
 Lilly Bluff Overlook
 Bringing along the coleman stove for a Winter picnic with hot chili and corn bread.
 Melton Mill Branch Falls frozen in Winter.  Hiked to this today. It was easy.

Looking out from the Lilly Bluff Arch. 

Nemo Bridge Picnic Area on the Obed River 

Directions to Nemo Bridge: From Sonic in Wartburg along Hwy 62/27 go right and after 700 feet turn right onto Main St. go 3/4 mile on Main St and where Main St. splits and heads right stay left for another 0.1 mile.  Turn left onto Catoosa Rd.  Stay on Catoosa Road as it winds thru the countryside for 5 miles ending at Nemo Bridge.   The picnic area is down on your right. You cannot miss it.  

    Nemo Bridge is a section of the Obed Wild and Scenic River.  It has a fine picnic area.
It has tables, restrooms, grills, shade, swimming hole, rope swings, fishing, and hiking.
It would be a good place to spend the day. You could let the kids pitch a small tent to play in.
You could hang a hammock for the day.  Nearby is the old abandoned railroad tunnel.  Beautiful scenery and not many people out there.   You may not have it all to yourself, but  you wont have a lot of company.  It is a great place for families and friends. Not so much romance.
While it is a good place for kids you'd have to watch them around the water as the rivers are deep and fast moving.  Not little creeks.  

 Rope swing and swimming hole on the Emory River.
 You don't have to camp all night in a tent to enjoy it. Bring them along for kids on picnics.  Make a day of it.
Old historic Nemo Bridge now for foot traffic only.  The new bridge you can see beside it.

Brewster Bridge

Brewster Bridge Directions from Allardt: From Allardt at the intersection of Rt. 296 and Rt 52
drive 1/2 mile east and bear right on Rt 52.(Rugby Pike)   Stay on 52 for 9.25 miles and turn right into the first entrance of the Brewster Bridge loop road.  You will see the old Brewster Bridge first.
Then continue to the far end of the road and you'll see the picnic area on your right next to Clear Fork.   Map of Brewster Bridge Location
You'll most likely have this spot to yourself even on a busy weekend. Great place for  families or romance.  It is isolated and quiet. Very tranquil.  Lots of shade. Great swimming hole with a rope swing.  Steps right down to the water.  Picnic tables and grills.  I cannot recall if there were trash bins or restrooms. I don't think there were either.  Parking is ample.  Area is clean and neat.  It has a canoe launch area.

Brewster Bridge swimming hole along the Clear Fork 

Wish List for Me

Here are the two spots I'm hankering to check out soon.
Craggy Gardens Picnic Area

Humpback Picnic Are off Blue Ridge Parkway, VA

Honorable Mentions

Listed here are several spots I did not address this blog entry but they are quite worthwhile.
All of them I have visited and picnicked already. Some more than once. 

Whigg Meadow --Pull up with your vehicle and carry stuff out onto the meadow or hike in from Mudd Gap.  Google Map to Whigg Meadow
Great views. Wide open spaces. Beautiful any time but especially early Fall.
No facilities.  Remote and isolated.
Colorful Whigg Meadow under blue skies.
Autumn views across Whigg Meadow

Coker Creek
 Coker Creek Trailhead Directions
To get to the picnic area along Coker Creek follow the directions to the trailhead.
Right at the parking for the hike are two picnic tables by the stream.  It is beautiful and quiet, but falling into disrepair. No restrooms here or trash bins. Pack out what you bring in.
Hiking to the falls is easy and fun from here or play in the creek.
Coker Creek 013
One of many drops of Coker Creek Falls.

Quinn Springs Recreation Area 

Quinn Springs Directions and Info

This area has restrooms, running water, pavilion, tables, grills, parking.
It has access to walking trails, great scenery, near proximity to Lowry Falls, marvelous Spring wildflower displays, and the Hiwassee River.

Springtime view of the Hiwassee River near Quinn Springs.

Standing Stone State Park

Standing Stone State Park is located in Overton County, TN.
It is  a great place to hike, fish, camp or picnic.  It has a fabulous display of Spring wildflowers.
One of the premier destinations on Blue Shoe Nashville for Spring wildflower hikes in fact.
A Springtime picnic here would be dreamy.   

Pavilions, tables, grills, restrooms, access to walking paths, creek to play in, historic dam structure, ample parking. Secure family type setting. Beautiful scenery any time of year.  

 Standing Stone State Park pavilions and picnic area in Spring are heavenly.

Dam was constructed by the CCC workers long ago.
Historic dam  is a man made falls!

   I have enjoyed writing this blog entry reviewing a collection of great picnic spots.
I will make it an ongoing project. It will be fun trying out the places. Visiting new spots and revisiting old favorites to update folks on them.  I can't lose!   Use your imagination and I'll try to use mine more to improve picnicking and relaxing, wholesome pursuits for our family.
Take a hammock. Take a tent.  Take games. Take along your fire pot. Build a camp fire. Take along your portable grill. Bring the lawn chairs.  Life is good.
 Arani fire pots help provide light and repel bugs and mosquitos

 Build a camp fire where permitted.
 Portable grills are great to take on picnics if there are no charcoal grills.
 Have fun playing in the water.
 Take those chaise loungers to the woods and use them outside!

Below is a playlist I call picnic tunes.
It is smooth, happy music for good times.

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