It's not hard to see why this is America's most-visited National Park; it's a quick trip from many major cities in the South and Midwest, the Appalachian foothills are gorgeous, and it's free. Drive or bike the serene hidden valley of Cades Cove, explore the ghost town of Elkmont, or take in the views from Clingmans Dome during the day, and bask in the folksy kitsch of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge at night. Oh, and did I mention that the park is totally, 100% free?
“America's most visited National Park”
Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park. Snow falls infrequently in the park's foothills, but at high elevation, snow is more common. Feel the cool spray of a waterfall. Camp under the stars. Explore a historic grist mill. There's plenty to see and do in the park! Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years-from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century. The park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home. Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which encompasses over 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park's amazing diversity of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Over 17,000 species have been documented in the park: Scientists believe an additional 30,000-80,000 species may live here. Why such a wondrous diversity? Mountains, glaciers, and weather are the big reasons. The park is the largest federally protected upland landmass east of the Mississippi River. Dominated by plant-covered, gently contoured mountains, the crest of the Great Smokies forms the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina, bisecting the park from northeast to southwest in an unbroken chain that rises more than 5,000 feet for over 36 miles. Elevations in the park range from 875 to 6,643 feet. This range in altitude mimics the latitudinal changes you would experience driving north or south across the eastern United States, say from Georgia to Maine. Plants and animals common in the southern United States thrive in the lowlands of the Smokies while species common in the northern states find suitable habitat at the higher elevations. The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world, formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago. They are unique in their northeast to southwest orientation, which allowed species to migrate along their slopes during climatic changes such as the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. In fact, the glaciers of the last ice age affected the Smoky Mountains without invading them. During that time, glaciers scoured much of North America but did not quite reach as far south as the Smokies. Consequently, these mountains became a refuge for many species of plants and animals that were disrupted from their northern homes. The Smokies have been relatively undisturbed by glaciers or ocean inundation for over a million years, allowing species eons to diversify.
If anything can be said about the Smoky Mountains, it's that they're beautiful no matter what time of year you visit. Some of the best blooms in the spring and a gorgeous, bright orange fall.
Head to Cade's Cove if you want to take in some wildlife in the forest, or for a really spectacular view, head to Clingman's Dome. At almost 7k feet up, it provides absolutely stunning scenery.
Loads of great hiking to get a workout and swimming holes to cool down. The best part? The park is FREE. Fun fact: The Smoky's are the most visited National Park in America. One visit and you'll understand why.
People on here keep saying you can't pick a bad time to go, but you can pick the BEST time to go: the fall. Sure, it'll be busy, but it'll be beautiful. Let me clue you in on a secret place to visit: Elkmont. It's an abandoned resort/campground within the park. There's also a few abandoned cabin villages to explore that are super creepy and fun!
The Great Smoky Mountains National park is a beautiful example of America's astounding natural scenery. Although there really isn't a bad time of year to visit, I would highly recommend visiting in the fall when the trees start to change. The fall colors are amazing, and you really feel like you are stepping back in history to a time when this country was less populated and more natural and wild. You can enjoy just a day trip driving through and taking in the natural beauty from your car, or you could easily spend several days camping and exploring some of the hidden gems of the park. If you really want to get the full sense of the majesty of the park, I'd recommend visiting the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point in the park. Stunning views! There is even a paved path that is a relatively easy hike. Cades Cove is also definitely worth visiting, with many historical log cabins, barns, churches, and other buildings.
I climbed one of the peaks in the smokies when I was in high school, with a church group, and I've gotta say, the majesty of church didn't stick with me, but the majesty of the mountains and the mist certainly did.
The Smoky's are amazing! From natural to man made wonders, these mountains are something every real American should visit.
I grew up in the Smoky mountains in the 70's before big time commercialism took over. It was a spiritual place for me. As a family we camped and hiked there. There is nowhere more beautiful than Rocky Top or Clingmans dome in this world.
Cades Cove...one if the best places in the US to feel like you have been transported back in time.
Honestly, you can't pick a bad time to go. In summer the whole park is lush and green. In the fall, it's covered in fiery foliage. In winter it becomes a blanked white wonderland. And in spring, the flowers bloom. If you want to see fall colors the best viewing times are between the last week in October and first week in November. To see wildflowers, best to visit between April and May. The Smoky Mountains are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they are incredibly awe-inspiring. If you happen to be staying in Gatlinburg (which is about an hour away), DEFINITELY make the trek to the Smokys! You won't be disappointed.
GSM was one of the best trips I've taken. Went in August and saw signs of autumn. The views from Alum Cave Bluff, Mt. LeConte and Clingman's Dome are breathtaking! I was to go back in the fall.
I absolutely love the Smokey Mountains park. It's beautiful anytime of year.
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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Good for bird watching, cycling, and 10 more activities. Has a Scenic vibe.
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- National park
Campground, Parking, Dining