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On your vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s always great to stop in at a visitor center to learn a little bit about the area and pick up a few souvenirs. A very popular visitor center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Sugarlands Visitor Center, and there’s good reason for that! There’s so much to do at Sugarlands, it’s practically an attraction in itself. Keep reading to learn about it:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Museum
When you enter the doors of Sugarlands Visitor Center, you can head straight in and you will notice a small museum area that sits a little bit behind the park ranger desk. The museum is filled with information, displays and exhibits of national park wildlife and other interesting things about the national park. The museum is absolutely free; it is part of the visitor center.
(Another Must-Visit Place for Visitors: Step-by-Step Guide to the Most Popular Spots Along Newfound Gap Road)
After wandering through the museum area, you can watch a 30 minute video presentation that tells all about the history and details of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you really like the video, it’s available for purchase in the retail shop. It makes a great souvenir!
The video presentation is a great way to start a day in the national park, especially if you have kids or you are with a large group. Large groups who are planning on hiking in the Smoky Mountains will really enjoy learning a little bit before heading out to the trails.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Retail Shop
Either before or after your hike, you can check out the retail shop. Proceeds from the retail sales go directly to benefit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you can rest assured that your money is being put to great use. Since the national park does not charge any entrance fees or toll road fees, this is one way the park receives funding for maintenance and keeping up with the beauty of the Smokies.
The retail shop is stocked with pamphlets, leaflets, books, children’s toys and stuffed animals, jellies and preserves and so much more. You can find just about anything related to the national park right in this bookstore. If you’re shopping around for gifts or souvenirs, this is the perfect place to stop in. They have items that range in price from small things like postcards and magnets to nicer items like books and sweatshirts. Be sure to stop in and make a purchase when you’re visiting!
Hiking Trails Around Sugarlands Visitor Center
There are many hiking trails that are located near Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here’s a few favorites:
- Gatlinburg Trail
- Old Sugarlands Trail
- Cove Mountain Trail
The most popular of these is the Gatlinburg Trail, but keep in mind that this trail is more of a nature walk. There are informational plaques along the trail, so it’s a great walk if you’re looking to enjoy the mountains without a strenuous hike. The trail is approximately 2 miles and is a connection between Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
If you choose to go hiking this winter, make sure to check out the 5 Things You Need to Know to Stay Safe When Hiking in the Smokies this Winter.
Park Ranger Desk
If you have any questions about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while you are at the visitor center, take some time to stop at the park ranger desk. Actual park rangers are available all day to help you plan your hiking adventures and answer all of your questions about the park.
To learn about other visitor centers in the area, take a look at the National Park Service’s website here: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm
If you’re looking for other fun and free things to do in the Smoky Mountain area, take a look at these 10 Free Things to Do in Gatlinburg. You don’t want to miss out on them! We hope you’ll visit us in the Smoky Mountains!