Going for a hike in a national park will usually lead to Instagram-ready vistas, abundant wildlife, or swimming holes. But explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as one photographer did, and you’ll find the decayed remains of an exclusive hotel and empty logging town that surrounded it.
Jordan Liles hiked through the historic Elkmont Historic District of eastern Tennessee last year and captured some eerie photos and video of the remaining buildings – some on the verge of collapsing, others safe enough to walk into. The centerpiece of the ghost town is the Wonderland Club Hotel, which first opened in 1912 to the general public but became a private club soon after.
All that’s left of Wonderland is one boarded-up two-story building, and nearby is an exposed fireplace with a few stairs that lead to nowhere.
The town of Elkmont is abandoned today, but it wasn’t all at once. The cottage owners were given lifetime leases in the early 1930s after the park was established, but in 1992 the National Park Service refused to renew them. The population gradually died out, and by about 2001, it was all empty.
Liles told Yahoo Travel that he wanted to emphasize that last fact, as a common misconception to his photos is that the town hasn’t been inhabited in 100 years. He also wanted to point out that he didn’t discover any of the structures — they’re well known to east Tennessee locals. “I just brought a camera. That’s all!” Liles said.
Click through the above slideshow for a photo tour of the area, and see Liles’ video for a guided tour.