Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an abundance of rich scenery, wildlife and diversity. This area is world renowned for its wide range of plant and animal life, along with the majestic scenery, mountain range, and its Southern Appalachian culture. Bring your camera cause you just might see elk grazing in a pasture beside the road or a black bear with its cubs in Cades Cove.
There are between eight to ten million visitors each year, which makes the Great Smoky Mountains National park, the most visited national park in the United States. The park is open year round; however, some campgrounds, secondary roads, and facilities are closed during the winter. There are no fees to enter the park but donation boxes are placed throughout the park.
Start off your journey in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park by visiting the Sugarlands Visitor Center. You can pick up a map of the park, purchase guides and books with tons of information about the Smoky Mountains. A park ranger may be available to answer any of your questions. Simply anything you may need to learn about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Sugarlands Visitor Center can help and inform you.
The Smokies are considered to be a "tourist paradise" with all the great things visitors can enjoy. Auto and motorcycle tours, touring the spectacular sights of this beautiful land, camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife and flora viewing are some of the most popular activities.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park reaching at 6,643 feet. This is a great seven mile drive to its end, and there are several scenic pullouts with gorgeous views of the valleys and ridges, expanding over 100 miles on clear days. The road leads to a large parking area where a 0.5 mile trail leads to its summit. This is a paved trail, but is quite steep, and its destination is an observation tower where tourists can enjoy the amazement of the beautiful Smoky Mountain views.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, which marks the highest point for hikers along their journey on this trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Clingmans Dome is open year round, however, due to weather conditions it is closed from December 1 - March 31.
At 5,048 feet, Newfound Gap is a beautiful drive any time of the year as it is covered with lush pine, northern hardwood, and a vast amount of forest area. It considered to be located at the center of the national park. The Tennessee and North Carolina state line runs through the observation overlook at Newfound Gap where the Appalachian Trail cuts straight through the road and it is a lovely viewing area for hikers and auto tourists as well.
With over 800 miles of maintained trails ranging in difficulty for hikers, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has so much to offer. Hiking in the Smokies is available at so many points throughout the park to fulfill any hiker's desires. There are some beautiful waterfall trails that are not that difficult to find and easy to get to.
Mount LeConte at 6,593 feet above sea level is the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States and the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mt LeConte has a spectacular summit and can only be conquered by hiking one of the five trails that access the mountain's peak. The Lodge at Mt. Leconte on the top of the mountain is the highest accommodating lodge for visitors in the Eastern United States. It typically opens from March to November depending on weather conditions. Reservations are required.
The Chimney Tops are also an excellent trail for hikers in the Smokies. The trail is a challenging and steep four-mile round trip trek. There are amazing Smoky Mountain views, overlooks, and summits when resting on the Chimney Tops. A hiking adventure worth traveling!
Abrams Falls Trails, named after the Cherokee Chief Abram who once settled miles downstream lays the beautiful twenty-foot high waterfall. The pool at its base, covered with large boulders is quite a lovely scene. The hike is five miles roundtrip and the trail leading to the falls is very picturesque with an abundance of lush forest surroundings.
Another popular Smoky Mountain destination for campers and hikers is Elkmont. Elkmont is primarily a campground within the Great Smoky National Park. The peacefulness you will find there is truly unsurpassed. Elkmont began as a logging town and gradually evolved into a haven for socially prominent and wealthy members of Knoxville, Maryville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Try to visit Elkmont in mid June to view the Synchronized Fire Flies.
Besides being known for its cultural and historical significance, Elkmont is also known for having many wonderful trails. One of the most popular trails is the Laurel Falls Trail. If you enjoy fishing, you'll have to visit Little River. It is widely known for its great trout fishing. Elkmont is open to campers from the second week of March to December 1st each year.
The most popular and heavily visited area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is Cades Cove. Cades Cove offers it visitors camping, hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding, picnicking and a host of other fun outdoor activities.
One of the unique features of Cades Cove that makes it so popular, is the 11 mile loop road that circles the valley floor and allows those that might have physical restrictions to enjoy the natural splendor of the park close up without even getting out of their car. While driving the loop and getting an up close view of nature, visitors will see streams, historic cabins, low lying woods, barns, deer and even an occasional black bear with her cubs crossing the road.
Because of its majestic beauty, many people say Cades Cove is the perfect setting for a wedding. It's also the perfect setting for a romantic and relaxing picnic. Picnics are one of the most common activities throughout the park.
Another extremely popular area for a picnic is at the Metcalf Bottoms picnic pavilion. The Metcalf Bottoms picnic pavilion is located on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is about 11 miles from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In the summer Metcalf Bottoms has plenty of swimming holes and is a great place to go and relax in the river floating on tubes.