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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, and it’s not hard to understand why. Part of what comes along with being the most popular national park in the country is having big crowds. On any given day throughout the year, you’ll find full parking lots in the Smoky Mountains! However, if you’re trying to avoid big crowds of people on your visit, we can help. Here are 5 ways to avoid crowds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
1. Visit During Non-Peak Months
While the Smoky Mountains are a four-season destination, there are certain times of the year that are busier than others. July and October are the two busiest months in the Smoky Mountains. Weekends in October are especially busy because everyone wants to see the fall foliage. If you’re trying to avoid crowds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we suggest visiting during the non-peak months. The “slower” season in the Smoky Mountain area tends to be January through early March, before the spring break crowds start to come. You can still enjoy the best of the park during these months, from scenic drives to hikes! Keep in mind, however, that some roads close seasonally, like Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Clingmans Dome Road.
2. Visit Early Mornings / Evenings
Another way to avoid crowds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is to visit early in the morning or in the evening. Coincidentally, this is the best time to see wildlife as well. We recommend watching a Smoky Mountain sunrise or sunset from an overlook on Newfound Gap or the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, or going for an early morning hike before everyone else arrives at the park! If you visit in the evening, be sure to plan your time carefully so that you’re not out on the trails once it gets dark.
3. Avoid Popular Trails / Areas
There are some spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that tend to be more crowded than others, like Cades Cove and Laurel Falls. While they’re the most popular spots in the park for good reason, it’s probably best to avoid these areas if you’re trying to avoid big crowds. With over 800 miles of trails in the Smoky Mountains, there is no shortage of things to explore. Some trails and areas we recommend visiting are Baskins Creek, Porters Creek and Greenbrier. You can also use the Wears Valley entrance to the park instead of the popular Gatlinburg entrance!
4. Explore Hidden Gems
If you haven’t taken the time to explore some of the hidden gems in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, now is the time! These less crowded spots are ones you don’t want to miss on your vacation. You can hike to the House of the Fairies in the Twin Creeks area of the park, or find the Walker Sisters Cabin off the Little Brier Gap Trail. For more hidden gems in the Smoky Mountains, read our blog, “5 Hidden Gems to Uncover in the Smoky Mountain National Park.”
5. Stay in a Smoky Mountain Cabin
One way to avoid the crowds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you may not think of right away is to stay in a Smoky Mountain cabin. There are cabins that put you just minutes away from the national park, so you can be one of the first people to arrive in the morning. While most people are grabbing breakfast in town before making their way to the park, you can prepare breakfast in your cabin’s full kitchen and beat the crowds to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Cabins also have other incredible benefits, like hot tubs, mountain views, plenty of space and more. After a fun time in the park, you’ll love the short trip you have back to the privacy of your cabin.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wants Your Opinions!
Have you been to the park recently and experienced all of the crowds? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park wants to hear from you! The park is seeking public input on solutions to overcrowding and any park damage that results. The park’s superintendent, Cassius Cash, said they are looking forward to working with visitors to address any growing challenges that come with high visitation. To give your opinion, you can sign up to attend an online workshop, during which you’ll learn about the current state of park visitation and be given the chance to provide input. You can also send in your comments online or by mail!
Plan Your Visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Now that you know how to avoid crowds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we bet you can’t wait to plan your visit! Learn more about things you can do to avoid crowds, then come visit us in the Smokies!