The Great Smoky Mountains are a pinnacle of American beauty.
What’s the best way to see this gigantic gem?
By visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, of course!
Spanning over 800 square miles of diverse terrain, this park is easily the busiest in the nation. Over 60,000 tourists visit the park each day during the summer.
Why is this park so popular?
The spectacular smoky mountains offer scenery and wildlife unmatched in other parts of the country. The deciduous forest growing in the region is one of the oldest and most well-preserved in the world.
Because of the unique biodiversity of the site, it has been designated an international biosphere reserve, and is considered an important research site as well as a recreational destination. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So what can you do to experience the best of the Smoky Mountains National Park?
The Great Smoky Mountains has Activities for Everyone
Pick up a Great Smoky Mountains National Park map at one of the park’s Visitor Centers and get to exploring!
Get Your Hike On
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the Great Smoky Mountains. With over 150 trails, the mountains offer something for all tastes.
It doesn’t matter when you go — every season offers up its own special rewards. Winter brings an icy wonderland of frozen falls and fresh snow, while summer provides the chance to cool off and splash around in the brooks and streams.
Trails here meander through pockets of wildflowers, rise steeply over challenging cliffs, and plunge you right into the heart of nature’s awesome power.
You’ll find all levels of hiking difficulty here. To figure out which trail is right for you, visit the Smoky Mountains National Park hiking page.
Fish the Great Smoky Mountains
The Park is a destination for fishermen around the country, offering up 2,900 miles of streams.
Fishing is permitted in every part of the park, though you must obtain a license from either Tennessee or North Carolina. Both licenses can be used throughout the entire park.
Fishing is a year-round activity here, and many of the streams are filled with delicious trout and bass.
Waterfalls to Lift the Spirit
The park is home to vast quantity of waterfalls, thanks to over 85 inches of rain which fall in the mountains every year. And that’s just the average!
Some peaks receive as much as 8 feet of rain, which in turn form some of the most beautiful waterfalls around.
The popular Mingo Falls is over 120 feet tall, and one of the highest falls in the area. You can visit dozens of waterfalls across the park free of charge and without reservations.
The Great Smoky Mountains has Wildlife that Can’t be Missed
For viewing wildlife, the Great Smoky Mountains are without equal.
You’ll see elk, black bear, white-tailed deer, turkeys and other animals. You may not ever have the chance to see these creatures again, so why not take advantage of what the park has to offer?
Visit the historic valley of Cataloochee in order to see a herd of elk peacefully grazing away. For the best experience, go early in the morning or in the evening when the animals are out in droves.
Cades Cove is the destination to see black bears, deer and turkeys. Make sure you don’t get too close, and treat animals with respect and dignity in accordance with federal rules and regulations when you visit.
Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains
You’ll probably want to stay at least a few days in this natural wonderland. There are several options for those wishing to stay overnight.
Lodging in the Great Smoky Mountains
The one lodge located inside the park itself is the LeConte Lodge. Accessible only by foot, this lodge sits atop Mount LeConte and offers a stunning view.
Make sure you allow yourself enough time to get there, as the hike is pretty long. You’ll have to trek between 5 and 8 miles to reach this gem, but it’s worth the effort!
Camping in the Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains National Park camping is some of the best in the country.
800 miles of trails provide a perfect backcountry camping experience for both amateur and experienced campers. These sites are primitive, without electricity or water, and are usually far from roads accessible by car. Make sure to get your permit before you go!
Frontcountry camping is available nearer to the main roads. These sites have electricity, running water, flush toilets and picnic tables.
Most campsites require reservations to be made ahead of time. Make sure to check the park’s camping page to see which sites are available and see about reserving them.
The Great Smoky Mountains are Fun for Everyone
The Great Smokey Mountains and the park which protects them are a haven for everyone, and a sight you have to see at least once in your life.
But be forewarned.
Once you visit the mountains, you may not want to leave.
(If you love exploring national parks like the Great Smoky Mountain, you may also want to check out these 5 Can’t-Miss National Park Activities for an Experience of a Lifetime.)”