Many travelers want to know "Where is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?"
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in in Tennessee and North Carolina, and spans over 800 square miles, or 522,000 acres, and is one of the most pristine natural areas in the Eastern part of the United States.
And roadtrippers also ask "What is there to do in Smoky Mountains National Park?"
|View of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from one of many stone cliffs
The park offers visitors and endless variety of outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, climbing, bicycling, fishing, horse riding, historical sights, picnicking and involvement in ranger-led programs. Picnic areas are located at Big Creek, Chimneys, Cades Cove, Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Heintooga, Look Rock, Metcalf Bottoms, and Twin Creeks.
Ranger-led programs are scheduled in spring, summer, and fall. Other special events happen through the year, such as Music of the Mountains, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, the Mountain Life Festival, and the Festival of Christmas Past.
How do I get around in the Smoky Mountains park?
An auto tour of the park offers a variety of experiences, including panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams, weathered historic buildings, and mature hardwood forests stretching to the horizon.
As America's most visited national park, traffic and crowds should be a consideration when planning a trip. Times when visitation is highest are July 1-August 15 and the month of October (especially October weekends).
During these times, traffic congestion is frequent, especially on the Newfound Gap and Cades Cove Loop roads.
Nearby is the popular Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina
More About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park.
Elevations in the park range from approximately 875 feet at the mouth of Abrams Creek to 6,643 feet at Clingmans Dome.
Sixteen mountains peaks exceed 6,000 feet in elevation.
|Beautiful winding roads cross the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Spend a day, or more, and enjoy and explore the Great Smoky Mountains. We have visited the park several times over the years ... it is a highly recommend road trip!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina. The three main entrances to the park are in the Gatlinburg and Townsend, Tennessee, and and Cherokee in North Carolina.
There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the park. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars. Posted speed limits on most of the park's paved roads is 35 miles per hour.
There is no public transportation to the national park from major cities in the area. However commercial businesses operating in the smaller communities surrounding the national park offer transportation from cities such as Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC to the park. Information is available from local Chambers of Commerce.
The City of Gatlinburg offers trolley service from Gatlinburg, TN to Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont on the "Tan/National Park" route during summer and fall. Cost is $2 roundtrip.
The nearest major airport in Tennessee is the McGhee-Tyson Airport (TYS) located just south of Knoxville in Alcoa. This airport is approximately 45 miles west of the Gatlinburg entrance to the park.
|Sugarlands Visitor Center
In North Carolina, the Asheville Regional Airport is located approximately 60 miles east of the Cherokee entrance to the park.
Visitors to the park should begin their trip at one of the four visitor centers, where they can pick up a park map or newspaper, have questions answered, and purchase books and guides to the park.
|Oconaluftee Visitor Center
There are no motels or rental cabins located within the national park other than Le Conte Lodge, which is accessible only by foot. The lodge sits atop Mount Le Conte, the park's third highest peak, at an elevation of 6,593 feet. Hiking routes to the lodge vary in length from 5 to 8 miles. The lodge is generally open from mid-March through mid-November. Advance reservations are required.
The park offers several different types of campsites:
Included to the right is just a small sampling of lodging options and locations with hotel reviews from TripAdvisor ... there are many more!
Lodging is available in numerous cities and towns around the perimeter of the park in Tennessee and North Carolina. Visitors can choose from upscale hotels, B&Bs, inns, cabins, campgrounds, RV parks and lodges. October is a busy month in the park, so it is advisable to make hotel reservations as early as possible.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has attractions and things to do for all ages, and interests, year-round.
Some of the popular attractions include the following:
Clingmans Dome tower ... A must-see for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Top of the Smokies ... Clingmans Dome
|Clingmans Dome Trail
|View from the Clingmans Dome tower
Spring in the Smoky Mountains offers visitors a special visual treat ... Rhododendrons!
Summer in Great Smoky Mountains National Park ... miles and miles of green!
Autumn is both a beautiful and a busy time in the Great Smoky Mountains. The annual splash of fall colors attracts large numbers of tourists, especially during the last three weeks of October. Areas in the park which experience the longest traffic delays are Cades Cove and Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441).
The park usually experiences an autumn leaf season of several weeks as fall colors travel down the mountain sides from higher elevation to low ones. The fall color display typically reaches peak at mid and lower elevations between mid-October and early November.
Winter brings snow in the deep forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
What Weather to Expect in the Park
When planning a trip in the park, remember that elevations range from approximately 875 feet to 6,643 feet, and temperatures can vary 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit from mountain base to top.
Prior planning and weather-wise clothing will help ensure an enjoyable visit during any time of the year.
Not all days in the park feature clear, blue skies weather ... taking a drive on a foggy, misty morning
(Courtesy of the National Park Service)
Map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The park includes 850 miles of backcountry trails, frequented by over 400,000 hikers annually. Approximately 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the park.
|Alum Cave Trailhead
|Abrams Fall Trail
The Morton Overlook in the Great Smoky Mountains
Named in honor of Ben Morton, Knoxville mayor and member of the Knoxville Auto Club, who was a strong supporter of building park roads.
He and others did much to boost the building of the Newfound Gap Road, which today is one of the most pleasurable and scenic roads in the National Park System.
Chimney Tops Trail
The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of its length and spectacular views.
|Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The North Carolina - Tennessee State Line in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Elk, and other animals, need privacy too! View and photograph elk from a distance of at 50 yards
More Popular National Parks
More Information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Area
Stone bridge over a stream with rushing waters in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park