America’s most visited national park offers blue mountain ridges, forested hiking trails, a variety of wildlife and bits of Southern mountain history.
The beauty and diversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park explain why it is the most visited of the U.S. national parks. Enjoy nature, wildlife and the quiet peace of endless forests.
Come to Cades Cove to use modern visitor center services and see historic community buildings. Look for churches, a grist mill and a newlywed “weaner cabin.” Drive the 11-mile (18-kilometer) loop road to see wildlife and historic structures.
Hiking is one of the park’s most popular activities. Hike to Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls and Ramsey Cascades. The Appalachian Trail runs through the park, making a climb to Clingmans Dome. Hike or drive to this spot, the park’s highest elevation at 6,643 feet (2,025 meters). Walk the last steep 0.5-mile (0.8-kilometer) sidewalk and spiral ramp up an observation tower. Your 360-degree view over the park may stretch to 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a clear day.
Enjoy the park’s year-round colors of flowers, trees and shrubs along the Oconaluftee River Trail and a dozen other easy mapped walking paths. Before the snow is completely melted, spring ephemeral flowers poke through the ground. In late April, join the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, an exploration of flora and fauna that has been held in the park annually for more than 60 years. Return in autumn for exquisite fall colors.
The park abounds with wildlife. Go birding to spot some of the 200 species here. Walk quietly through the forest to look for over 65 species of mammals, including deer, flying squirrels and an estimated 1,500 American black bears. The park’s 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) of streams have more than 50 native fish species. Notice some of the 30 species of salamander scurrying past your feet.
Nearby Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer boundless tourist opportunities for dining, drinking and entertainment. The park remains open year-round; however, the central highway may close during winter storms, requiring a much longer outside drive to travel between the Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina entrances.
U.S. national parks offer visitors great, affordable adventures. Enjoy your adventure in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.