We are proud to report that the Great Smoky Mountains are making headlines! Business Insider recently included the GSMNP in its list of the top 10 best national parks in USA. With 58 parks to choose from, our ranking in the top tier is no small accomplishment.
To come up with their list, Business Insider rated America’s parks based on their location, accessibility, and scenery. It’s no surprise that the Great Smoky Mountains scored high on every measure. Let’s take a detailed look at what makes the Smokies so special:
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts an unparalleled location. Spanning both East Tennessee and North Carolina, the Smokies are just a day’s drive from over 60% of the nation’s population. With 9 million annual visitors, the GSMNP is the most visited national park in the United States!
The Gatlinburg, TN entrance to the national park is very easy to get to. If you’re coming from I-40, take Exit 407 to TN-66 South. When you reach the Sevierville intersection, continue on to US-441 South and follow it all the way to the park.
Here is a quick guide to how far some of America’s major cities are from the Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Atlanta, GA – 4 hours
- Asheville, NC – 2 hours
- Charlotte, NC – 4 hours
- Birmingham, AL – 4 hours, 50 minutes
- Cincinnati, OH – 5 hours
- Columbus OH – 6 hours, 30 minutes
- Chicago, IL – 9 hours, 25 minutes
- Indianapolis, IN – 6 hours, 30 minutes
- Jackson, MS – 8 hours, 20 minutes
- Lexington, KY – 3 hours, 38 minutes
- Memphis, TN – 6 hours, 50 minutes
- Nashville, TN – 3 hours, 40 minutes
- New Orleans, LA – 10 hours
- Orlando, FL – 10 hours, 20 minutes
- Tampa, FL – 10 hours, 40 minutes
For those who live too far away to drive, Knoxville, TN’s Mcghee Tyson Airport is just an hour from the Smokies.
One thing that separates the GSMNP from the other best national parks in USA is its accessibility. Whether you’re an experienced hiker with hundreds of miles under your belt or someone who doesn’t even want to leave the car, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an area that you can enjoy.
Here are just some of the varied ways visitors can experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Scenic autotours – Drive through breathtaking locations like Cades Cove, Newfound Gap Road, and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
- Picnicking – Have lunch at one of the park’s beautiful picnic areas, such as Metcalf Bottoms, Greenbrier, or Cades Cove.
- Bicycling – Bike riding is permitted in a variety of areas in the park, including Cades Cove, Greenbrier, Tremont, and the Gatlinburg Trail.
- Easy hikes – The park offers trails for beginners that are fewer than two miles, including The Gatlinburg Trail, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, and Sugarlands Nature Trail (which is wheelchair accessible).
- Moderate hikes – Perfect for intermediate hikers, moderate trails include Andrews Bald, Abrams Falls, and Porters Creek Trail.
- Challenging hikes – Excellent for experienced hikers, challenging trails include Rocky Top, Mt. LeConte, and Gregory Bald.
- Fishing – 2,900 miles of streams are open for fishing, with plenty of wild trout and other fish ripe for the catching.
- Horseback riding – A number of stables offer horseback riding, hayrides, and carriage rides in the beautiful Cades Cove section of the park.
In addition to offering something for every interest and physical ability, the GSMNP is also accessible for every vacation budget. Entrance to the national park is absolutely free – and it always will be!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open year round, and every season has something special to see. Technicolor leaves in the fall, snowcapped mountains in the winter, vibrant wildflowers in the spring, and all around great weather in the summer makes for a fantastic trip no matter when you visit.
The Smoky Mountains are often referred to as “God’s Country”, and it’s easy to see why! Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the GSMNP is one of the most scenic areas in the world.
Here is some of the natural beauty you will see when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Waterfalls – The national park is home to a number of gorgeous waterfalls, including Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, and Rainbow Falls.
- Fall Colors – The autumn foliage in the national park is simply spectacular, with a variety of reds, oranges, and yellows cascading down the mountains at different elevations.
- Wildflowers – Also known as “Wildflower National Park”, the GSMNP comes alive in the spring with over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants.
- Mountain Views – Of course, the Smokies themselves are a sight to behold and can be admired from a number of locations, such as Clingmans Dome, the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook, and Newfound Gap.
- Wildlife – The GSMNP is one of the most biodiverse regions in the country, counting black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, salamanders, and elk among its inhabitants.
For even more information about things to see and do at one of the best national parks in USA, check out our Great Smoky Mountains National Park page!