A large and rugged country requires a large and rugged vehicle.
With COVID-19 shutting down most things around us or at least applying rigorous restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus, a lot of activities we would normally do with our family are off the table. Luckily, we’ve always loved family road trips, and packing up a car with enough supplies to survive a few days without visiting restaurants and/or other places has been our jam for years.
As such, we decided to head south of Indy to Tennessee and visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a place we’d always heard about, but had never visited despite its relatively close proximity to our home.
Helping us make the drive from Indy to Sevierville, Tennessee would be the all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. After all, visiting the steep mountain roads and rugged trails would require an equally rugged vehicle, so our test Tahoe in Z71 trim was more than ready to rumble.
The roughly seven-hour trip down south was a breeze, with the Tahoe’s plush suspension and light steering making sure we arrived in good spirits and ready to relax in our cabin. And speaking of cabin, we found a great unit on Airbnb called Beary Viewtiful, so you can guess that, yes, it was bear-themed. And yes, had a beautiful view!
Beary Viewtiful was a two-level cabin that overlooked the side of a mountain right in the National Park. Sunsets and sunrises were gorgeous, especially hanging out in the hot tub with the kids. The place had a fully equipped kitchen and outdoor grill, which was perfect because we brought food and ingredients to eat three meals a day (plus snacks) for every day were there.
After taking two days to relax and just not be bound by schedules or to-do lists, on our third day we ventured out to explore the park and the town’s many attractions. Downtown Sevierville looked like the definition of a tourist trap, with everything from $1 souvenir stores to Medieval-themed restaurants, dozens of go-karting places, all-you-can-eat buffets, and just about every kind of cheesy attraction there can be. We were there to bond with nature and stay away from crowds, so those were never an option for us, but I can see how some folks would want to do something a little different. Whatever floats your boat.
Just driving around the Smoky Mountains National Park many roads is breathtaking. There are waterfalls, enormous trees, BEARS, and because we went right in the fall, the red and orange foliage of the trees. It was all stunning. One of our favorite spots in the Park was Clingman’s Dome, though I have to say, it’s definitely not for everyone.
For starters, the drive to reach the Dome’s parking lot—pay attention here, keyword parking lot—is at least one hour from the valley below (if there isn’t traffic). Then once you park, you have what’s approximately a one-mile hike at a ridiculous incline to actually reach the spiral structure that offers you the highest view in all of the Smoky Mountains. I recommend having a LOT of patience getting there and making sure your kiddos know what they’re about to face. That hike up is no joke, and some of us in our family actually bailed out halfway.
Despite the ambient temperature not being higher than 45-ish degrees, we came back to the Tahoe absolutely covered in sweat from the hike up to the top of the Dome (which isn’t actually a dome). So, again, bring water and snacks for the hike. Thankfully, the ventilated seats in the Tahoe were a welcome feature, where we relaxed for a few minutes before beginning the hour-long descent to the valley of the Smoky Mountains park.
In a nutshell, we highly suggest visiting the part of the country if it’s within reach. The more we are faced with restrictions due to the pandemic, the more we feel blessed to live in such a centrally located city like Indianapolis, with so many nature-centric states and cities nearby. We are roughly three hours away from Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan to the north, and less than that to Cincinnati, Ohio and Lousiville, Kentucky down south. Drive an extra hour, and you can reach Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cleveland, Ohio, and Nashville, and Memphis, Tennesee.
As for the Tahoe, it proved to be the perfect road-trip machine. Much like its predecessors, it has the power, the comfort, and the right luxury features to make it a family-friendly ride. Whether you’re shuttling kids in town or hitting the road on family vacations, it’s a proper family SUV.
Safe and happy travels.