A diverse set of experiences await you in the most visited National Park in the US.
Don’t miss the immensely popular Cades Cove with its collection of historic homesteads, preserved buildings like Cable Grist Mill and churches. The scenic valley is also one of the best and most reliable areas to see wildlife, including bears.
Crossing the park using Newfound Gap Road, you’ll enjoy that typical mystical scene from Newfound Gap with the blue fog rising from the valleys – the reason why they’re called the Smoky Mountains. Enjoy a side trip to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park, and take the short but steep hike up the walking trail to the flying saucer-style viewing platform.
The 5.5 mile one way loop Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail leaves from right in Gatlinburg and features lush, hardwood forest, Rainbow Falls and the Place of a Thousand Drips, as well as more historic cabins like Noah “Bud” Ogle’s, grist mills, and other preserved buildings.
No matter what your hiking ability or level of enthusiasm is, the Smokies has a trail for you. Maybe one of the short and easy Quiet Walkways is your style. Moderate choices include the Grotto Falls Trail where you maybe lucky enough to see the llamas hauling supplies to LeConte Lodge trekking behind the waterfall.
Or perhaps it’s a steep challenging trail like the Chimney Tops hike that’s on your list.
Hear stories about the hardy pioneers and founders of the Park, wondrous wildlife and stories about Cherokee Nation culture and museums, all while you explore Great Smoky Mountain National Park at your own pace.
Gatlinburg, Cherokee, or Townsend
In a single day you’ll be able to visit the highlights of Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove. If you have an extra day, consider saving Cades Cove for its own day and add Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail. With more time available, stop to enjoy hiking opportunities and time in the towns.
There are 145 miles of touring inside the Park
More than 12 million annual visitors make Great Smoky Mountains National Park the most visited of America’s National Parks. Spreading across the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers hikers, wildlife lovers, photographers, waterfall chasers and campers a 522,000-acre playground where they can reconnect with nature.
Summer and Fall are the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s high seasons. Summer sees visitors flocking here for high-elevation hikes and in Fall the mountains turn into patchwork quilts of color as the leaves change.
Conversely, Winter and Spring see fewer visitors. During Winter, some facilities will be closed, but hikers will have trails to themselves and can experience the park in a way few visitors do. Spring begins to see visitors return, drawn by wildflowers, warming days and wildlife.
Driving Newfound Gap Road is a highlight for many visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This 33-mile road passes a number of scenic overlooks and trailheads including Clingmans Dome where the views are impressive. Other popular highlights include Cades Cove Loop and the Roaring Fork Motor. Nature Trail.
Most visitors can experience Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 3 days, visiting pockets of the park like Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap, Cades Cove, and the areas around Sugarlands and Oconaluftee Visitors Centers; getting in a couple of short hikes; and finding a waterfall or two where they can rest and recharge.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is open daily, year-round, with some facilities closing for the slower, colder winter season. Clingmans Dome Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail close to automobile traffic in late November and reopen in early April, and inclement weather causes the temporary closure of some roads like Newfound Gap Road during winter.
The Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the home to a rare sight: a colony of synchronous fireflies. For two weeks from late May through early June, they rise from the grass in a field near the campground to blink out their mating call message. Each spring, a lottery for parking passes and access to the synchronous firefly field takes place. It’s only $1 to put your name in the hat for a chance at one of a few thousand passes.