This film Tennessee Wonderland documents the old Wonderland Hotel annex and vacation homes located near the popular Elkmont area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

About a mile up an unnamed gravel road inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is the back way into an abandoned neighborhood and hotel, some of which was originally constructed more than 100 years ago.

In my film, “Tennessee Wonderland,” I explore the houses and the remains of what was once referred to as the Wonderland Club.

I’ve applied color correction, balanced audio levels, cut everything down to the essentials without sacrificing interesting moments and most importantly, I made sure to place importance on including a proper ending.

I have also put together several of my stills for viewing, all of which give a static view of a moment in this peaceful setting. Feel free to click this link to view the photos and use the left and right arrow keys to flip through the album.

Additional Links:

Previously, I explored an abandoned island resort on Cayman Brac. I am excited to have more urban exploration videos on the way in the future.

Update (Sept. 20, 2013): I’m happy to report that both The Huffington Post and Yahoo News have picked up this story. Thanks to everyone for all your support!

Update (Oct. 7, 2014): While I’m glad so many people have now watched my short film “Tennessee Wonderland,” I am disappointed that several media organizations have spread misinformation that Elkmont “hasn’t been inhabited for 100 years.” There are also a lot of people who misinterpreted me saying I “discovered” the Wonderland Hotel. This, of course, is laughable since the hotel is right next to a well-traveled road. When I said “discovered” I meant that I made my own discovery. “Stumbled upon” might have been clearer. Further, the end of my film makes clear some of the homes’ leases did not expire until just a few years ago. I lived in Tennessee for 26 years and love vacationing in the Smokies, and hope everyone can understand. Thank you.

Old Comments

The following are comments originally posted under this article before this website was moved to its new location. I copied and pasted these comments in May 2024, so the number of years reflects that time period.

Michael Posey – 3 years ago

Just ‘stumbled’ upon your video exploration, nicely done! I remember wandering through the Wonderland area in early autumn of 1978, this does indeed bring back memories of the buildings still standing then, with some folks even still residing there. I remember some ‘Private’ signs posted in ‘yards’ and on a couple of houses. A Park ranger had told us then that he figured it wouldn’t be much longer before no one lived there anymore, and so it is. Your wanderings and v-log helps me recall that occasion, thanks much, Mr. Liles, travel on, Sir!

Anna – 5 years ago

Do you know if the 2017 wildfire destroyed what remains in Wonderland? I could not thank you enough for sharing, being a native Tennessean and never knowing about it! I love history and am grateful for your sense of adventure. Also, loved the video on the abandoned chair lift. Glad I found your blog!

Jordan Liles – 5 years ago

Thanks Anna. Unfortunately, from what I have heard a lot of the buildings in this video are no longer there. I haven’t been back since 2013, so you may have to be the one to tell me how it looks now, if you visit soon. Thanks for watching!

Lindsay Fallis – 6 years ago

My husband and I have so many good memories of hiking and wandering in and out of all the cabins, which have mostly now been torn down. Your blog will help when my memories get a little fuzzy. 🙂

Jordan Liles – 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing Lindsay!

Megan – 8 years ago

Is it still there? Is it legal to go to?

Jordan Liles – 8 years ago

Hi Megan. It is still there, except the large white building just burned down less than a month ago. Unless the grounds are closed due to the fire, you should be able to walk around and look at everything from the outside. It’s a really peaceful place!

Susan Duncan – 8 years ago

And now it’s lost forever. So sorry to read about the fire. It’s incredible that you were able to document it when you did.

No Name – 10 years ago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderland_Hotel

Dan – 10 years ago

and, before you idiots correct my grammar, i meant “discover” and looking.

Dan – 10 years ago

These people are all idiots Jordan. You did “discovered” this place as you hadn’t ever been there before. Pay attention people and stop giving him such a hard time. Geez. Do you people just troll the internet looked for people to give a hard time to? Lame.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks Dan. I’m just glad that my video has been giving more people an opportunity to learn about just a small part of one of the best parks in the country.

Deana – 10 years ago

I live in Tennessee just about 2 hours from Elkmont, and am very glad for your video. I am always looking for new places to hike and explore and am very excited to go to the Wonderland. I have been to the Elkmont campground but had never heard of this place until now. If you could please tell me which or where the road is to get to this place it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and have a great day.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi Deana. Sure. Since you’re familiar with the Elkmont campground, this shouldn’t be too difficult. After driving through Gatlinburg, turning right at the Visitor’s Center, passing the Laurel Falls parking area and turning left toward Elkmont, the Wonderland area will be a ways up the road on your left after a long left curve. If you reach the campground you’ve gone too far. Note that the stone steps will be overgrown with tree limbs so it may be hard to spot across the street from the flowing stream. I hope you enjoy your hike!

JULIE – 10 years ago

Mr. Liles – thank you for this wonderful look into the past for those of us that don’t get the opportunity to explore and DISCOVER new things! I’m sorry there are so many narrow-minded people out there that can’t see past one word to appreciate the fact that you are only trying to bring history to people who might not necessarily get the chance to experience it first hand. I live in GA and have been to the Great Smokey Mountains many times, but never new this historical place existed. I loved the still photos showing the past compared to present day. Keep up your good work!

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

I’m glad you enjoyed watching it Julie. You’re very kind!

Allan – 10 years ago

I find it hilarious that people are dogging you for the use of the word “discovered”. I’m absolutely baffled that people could hold contempt for you when it’s MORE THAN CLEAR in your short video that people still inhabited and enjoyed Wonderland within the last 14 years, which clearly means this was a “personal discovery” to you as someone who enjoys exploring historical places and documenting the experiences. I, like most recent commenters, just stumbled upon the Wonderland story via some random Facebook post as well, and could tell almost immediately that you did not actually discover the old site and I took your meaning as you had originally meant it. It’s sad that people are so quick to jump all over you. I commend you sir and really enjoyed the video. I thoroughly enjoy “exploring” these types of places as well, although I’ve never taken the time to document my experiences as you have, so I thank you for doing so, your videos, blogs and still shots are amazing. Please keep up the good work, you have a fan in me. Thanks and keep on keeping on, never mind the naysayers!!!😉

Allan,
Ottawa, ON, Canada.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks Allan. I added an update to the article above to help clarify.

KD – 10 years ago

You are such a liar! You never “discovered” anything. The Elkmont area is one of the most visited in the Smoky Mountains! Shame on you for trying to fool people!

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi KD. I’m sorry that several media organizations have over hyped my use of the word “discovered”. Of course I wasn’t the first to find anything. All I meant by the word is that I made my own discovery. I hope you see my comments below and understand. Thanks.

william – 10 years ago

sorry you felt the need to delete my post but as i’m sure you have seen i am not the only one today or the next few days from tennessee you will be hearing from. the story about you aired on the local news here today and i am sure offended more than just me. you seem to be a very smart person from what i have seen so it is hard for me to believe that this was some form of mistake in the wording you used. anyway i hope in the future you take more care in describing the places you VISIT and care for the feelings of the people who have heritage there and call that place home.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi William. I’m very sorry that you’re upset. I finished this short film more than a year ago. Last week Daily Mail and other news outlets picked up the story and started spreading misinformation that the Elkmont community hasn’t been inhabited for 100 years. This, of course, isn’t true. Then it started trending on Facebook and some people didn’t like the phrasing of the sensationalist headline created by news media. And now news websites have found a way to create a second story about “did this hiker really ‘discover’ anything” which only gives the news sites more clicks and revenue. I’m not quite sure why these news sites think I claim to have been the first to find Elkmont’s Wonderland area. Some people are pointing to my use of the word “discovered”. I have been at home in Tennessee visiting my parents for the last few days, and this morning “discovered” that they have honey in their pantry. That, of course, doesn’t mean I was the first to find the honey. I know the example is simple, but I hope you can understand that I created this film because I have a passion for the Smokies and lived in the state of Tennessee for 26 years. I sincerely hope you have a nice rest of your week!

Stephanie Richer – 10 years ago

As a local here in East Tennessee, I think it would be appropriate – if not ethical – for you to issue a correction your site rather than burying an apology in the comments. I notice you are quick to credit the attention that Huffington Post and Yahoo are giving you, not to mention the UK Mail, thus furthering the insane perception that you somehow stumbled upon a long-forgotten site.

You did not discover Elkmont.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi Stephanie. I added an annotation to the beginning of the video, at about the 20 second mark. Also if you see above the Huffington Post and Yahoo links are from last year when they did a fairly good job on covering the story. For some reason Huffington Post decided to cover the story a second time last week. Not sure why! Daily Mail butchered the story. Sorry if you’re upset. Thanks for watching though.

Ryan – 10 years ago

By no means am upset. Just astonished that there are reports that it was discovered when clearly it wasn’t. But you have a great video and I would hate to see it overshadowed by false claims. I saw your clarifications after i found your Twitter but that was after I wrote on here. I do apologize for the quick trigger on rushing to judgement.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

It’s ok. No worries.

Ryan – 10 years ago

It bothers me that you are saying you discovered Elkmont when we who live in TN have known about it for a very long time. It was added to the NRHP in 1994 for crying out loud.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi Ryan. I’m sorry that so many news media sites are acting like the town has been “untouched for 100 years”. And if I used the word “discovered” it was definitely a poor choice of words. I simply saw it from the road below, then 1-2 years later brought a camera to document it. Sorry you’re upset and I hope you can still enjoy the video.

Randy McClendon – 10 years ago

Jordan,
Those “electrical boxes” are actual a telephone crossbox(junction box) for that area. Enjoyed the video, thanks for sharing.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hey Randy, thanks. That’s interesting. I assume those boxes are serviced every now and then since they look fairly new. I assume they lead to the campground.

aidawedo – 10 years ago

Jordan I think people would love for you to take them on tours of these old forgotten places. It’s a kind of time travel; and you could charge a lot of money for your expertise. I know that I would invest in such a business. Best of luck to you.

Jennifer – 10 years ago

I have lived here my whole lifelife and used to camp there.

Jenifet – 10 years ago

The wonderland hotel was being used in 1992. The ghost towntown wasn’t recently found. It has been a tourist area. There are signs up everywhere telling about it. Some of the cabins have central heating and air which shows it isn’t that old.

toadboy65 – 10 years ago

For those of us descended from families that were forcibly evicted to make room for Great Smoky Mt. Park, these homes are not forgotten. You should read some of the excuses used at the time for such evictions.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

I hope that my film has helped more people around the world learn about what happened in Elkmont. It’s such a beautiful area with an interesting history. Thanks for commenting.

Donell Thomas – 10 years ago

Elkmont was not abandoned. The families were FORCED out.

Matthew Noel – 10 years ago

Hi Jordan, my name is Matthew Noel I here to ask you a lot of questions. my first question is, when you went to abandoned hotel that has a dry out swimming pool, when you were in the bathroom did you actually see a ghost if so please tell what did the ghost look like when did you did see the ghost. My second question is what’s motives you to do all these video’s you made because I seen every one you made and it looks pretty cool what you do keep up the good work. and my last question is this, All I ever wanted to do is go to the places you been, I was wondering maybe for next video will you take me with you for my 17th birthday because if you say yes, that will be a honor to meet you and my email is matthewnoel723@yahoo.com just email me if you say yes, I will have to ask my mom or dad, then if they say yes then I can go with you on your next video. Also I am sorry for writing this page because as you can tell I am a huge fan of what you do, And I thank you for all the video’s you and your crew has made. By the way my birthday is this summer in June 3, so please I am begging you may I please come with you on your next video please will you think about. Have a great day, if I cannot not come with then I will still be happy because you make great video’s 🙂 , keep up the good work guy’s and girl’s

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks for commenting. Here are some answers for you:

For your first question you must be referring to the Cayman Brac video. I didn’t see a ghost, but it was a pretty eerie place to be, even with the sun shining brightly.

You watched them all? That’s very cool. My motive is basically to take something I find interesting and enjoy doing, and try to share that joy with others using video and the internet. I don’t know what it is specifically about abandoned places. I think it’s a mix of the places feeling like the world has ended, plus there’s interesting history sometimes and it’s just fun to explore. How often do we get a chance to explore in life? Not very often. It might be a primal instinct.

I actually don’t know where my next video will be, though I do usually go alone. Not that I wouldn’t want you to come along! You should do some safe exploring around your own town. One thing you can do is visit your local library’s website and see if you can find old photos of places that still exist today. Then go out and take photos of those places and match up the old ones to the new ones. It’s fun to see what’s changed over time.

Hope you enjoy your birthday!
Jordan

Jan – 10 years ago

Jordan, you’ve done a wonderful job on the video and commentary of these abandoned houses and the hotel. I currently live in Memphis, but years ago I lived in Cleveland, TN and made trips into the Smokies almost every weekend. I believe that area is probably the most beautiful spot in our country when it comes to wooded nature trails. Thank you so much for sharing this adventure with all of us!

abe – 11 years ago

where in the campground is this area? how do you get there from the campground?

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

Hi, it’s on the left before you reach the campground. Coordinates are 35.662988, -83.588770. You can copy and paste into Google Maps to get a better idea.

Jeff Chandler – 11 years ago

I’ve been to the Smokey Mountains Twice now but I don’t think I’ve ever traveled around the Elkmount area. I plan on going back for a third time next year and I’m going to try and find this place to check it out for myself. Great video.

Bob Jarrett – 11 years ago

The road is paved. You can buy food at the store there. Steps up to the old club house are very user friendly. Where has the author been? Did the author walk up the old Townsend Railroad bed to the top or visit the several graveyards with all those babys’ graves?
Late and lost !

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

True. I went in the back way since the park rangers were conducting a target practice exercise out front, and they didn’t want anyone to park nearby since they were using firearms. Near the end of the video before the music completely takes over, I mention that little bit about parking my car at the back. Thanks for commenting.

Emily Paine – 11 years ago

When exactly were these photos taken?

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

Hi Emily. I took these photos and shot video between May 7th and 11th earlier this year.

Loleta Hammontree – 11 years ago

My husband and I have been visiting the area 2x year since before the hotel was demolished. I hate that it is gone. I always have to wander around in the area, including that beyond the Appalachian Club to see how “my houses” as I call them are doing. I really enjoyed your video, especially the before and after photos at the end. Thank you for your work on shooting & posting it.

Ben Wadsworth – 11 years ago

Jordan,
You captured America in a more innocent and simple time. When I was a child, there were literally thousands of places like the Wonderland Hotel, in its prime, all across the country. Change came rapidly. Over a period of about twenty years, starting around 1970, nearly all of these magical, wondrous places shut down and were abandoned. Once abandoned, the vast majority were torn down, vandalized, or burned to the ground. I believe that our abandonment of places like the Wonderland Hotel is a symptom of our loss of community and wonder and even worse, our loss of appreciation for simple things of beauty. For an old man, these are heartbreaking times.

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad to have been able to take you back to a simpler time with my project.

Bob Fisher – 11 years ago

Jordan your pics and videos are great. I have a great interest in history and archeology. keep up the great work as I will return from time to time.
Thank you for sharing all of these.
Bob Fisher, Torrance, CA

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

Sounds good Bob. I have more projects that I’ve been lining up for the past several weeks and months. Currently, I don’t release a new one every week or month or with regularity, but I usually have new content when I’m satisfied with the level of quality. Have a nice weekend!

Debbie – 11 years ago

I watched your video, that was really cool,

Alex J Armond – 11 years ago

Thanks for Post,
Have been having a Lodge in Gatlinburg for 20 yrs and never really looked around the Elkmount area other then to Fish. Now something new to explore .Again thanks

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

It’s a great area to spend the day. Take the Jakes Creek Trail for a nice afternoon hike, and watch for the signs to Avent Cabin, a great little spot across the river along the trail. The Wonderland Club site is nearby. Park rangers should be able to point you in the right direction.

JP in OC – 11 years ago

Love It, Thanks for sharing

Nathan – 11 years ago

Wonderful photos! My family stayed there during its last year of operation, and the feeling the photos brought back were wonderful. My family is from that corner of NC/TN, and my dad went there when ye was young as well. There’s nothing quite like some of the old vacation homes in the Smokies. The Wonderland was superb. Thanks for this!

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

I’m glad I could bring back some memories and hopefully make your day more enjoyable. Have a good weekend Nathan.

Greg James – 11 years ago

A great job documenting, in a respectful and beautiful way, the real history makers — the “ordinary” places that create memories for generations. Thank you for taking the time to return to the Tenn. Wonderland and add, in a more fixed media, to those memories and re-kindle those in the mind’s eye.

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

I always treat the areas I explore with respect, and I’m glad you noticed. Thanks Greg!

Michele Goshorn – 11 years ago

What would be awesome is if someone fixed it back up. I am sure that a lot of people would stay there.
Nice pictures!!

Micki – 11 years ago

I enjoyed viewing your footage. Great Job. Love exploring and the suspense of whats around the next corner.

Catherine – 11 years ago

Excellent job!!! Thank you.

Lori B. – 11 years ago

This was very interesting to look at. Thank you. My husband and I just moved to this area a year ago and it is always cool to read this kind of information. We will have to take a hike and check it out! (Even if it is a tourist spot now.)

Jordan Liles – 11 years ago

It’s actually not like you might think. 99% of the people that drive into the Elkmont area pass the Wonderland site and instead spend time near the Elkmont homes and campground. The Wonderland site is on the way to the campground, and most people don’t even know they’re passing it. I’ll be surprised if you see anyone there while you explore, and I hope you both have a good time doing so!

No Name – 11 years ago

I enjoyed watching this footage and believe you did a great job on it and appreciated the commentary. I’m looking forward to seeing more work you do. 🙂

Gregory Allistaire – 11 years ago

Very nice. Kind of weird feelings watching the last quarter……….man thinks they are the supreme intelligence while they are here……..then you watch the Earth take back what man worked so hard to put up…..the Universe just keeps on keepin’ on, recycling everything……including us. I used to get that same weird feeling while black tip reef sharks would circle around when diving…….knowing they are looking at me as food. Great job.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments