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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates 80th Anniversary

The Great Smoky Mountains have a rich and evolving history of memorable homesteads and breathtaking landscapes. On June 15, the  Great Smoky Mountains National Park anniversary marks that history with 80 years of education and innovation as an established park, nature preserve and family vacation destination.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, share your favorite memory from the Great Smoky Mountains in the comments section below.

Bordering North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States. With more than 9 million visitors per year, the park has overcome economic, political and cultural struggles to be one of the most beloved vacation destinations in the United States.

(See Related: How Vacationing in the Smoky Mountains Can Benefit Your Health)

As one of few National Parks without an admission fee, the Smokies are within a day’s drive to nearly two-thirds of the U.S. The 800 square mile park features more than 80 hiking trails, 342 historic structures, 11 picnic areas and 384 miles of roads. Those are some pretty big numbers for a National Park that was once nothing more than a dream for the National Park Service and private mountain citizens.

In 80 years as a National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains have welcomed millions of visitors from around the world, not only because of the stunning views of mountain ridges, but also the rich history.

Visit My Smokies has put together a timeline of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park anniversary milestones through the years, highlighting some of that rich history. Check out some of our favorite moments from the park’s history below.

view of mountains1927: John D. Rockefeller Jr. pledged $5 million for land to develop the Great Smoky Mountains National Park once matching funds are raised.

1934: On June 15, 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is officially established by the U.S. Congress.

1940: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the park, from the Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap.

1951: The first annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is held in Gatlinburg.

1959: The concrete tower at Clingmans Dome is completed, making it the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1960: Sugarlands Visitor Center is dedicated, becoming the first park structure built strictly to help visitors plan their trips.

1963: Roaring Fork Motor Trail is open to the public. Within a month, more than 3,000 vehicles had toured the Loop Road.

1976: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in recognition of the park’s unique and diverse natural resources.

1977: Brook trout restoration begins by recovering trout habitats in areas including Lynn Camp Prong and Sam’s Creek.

historic cabin1983: The park is named a UNESCO World Heritage site, having outstanding cultural and universal value.

1984: The National Park celebrated its 50th anniversary with special events and concerts.

1993: The Blizzard of ‘93 dumped more than 9 feet of snow in the higher elevations, closing much of the park for a week.

2001: Elk are released into the Cataloochee Valley, making these the first elk in the Smoky Mountains since the 19th century.

2010: The National Park Service reported the Great Smoky Mountains as the most visited of the 58 National Parks with more than 9.4 million visitors per year.

2014: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates 80 years of exploration and education as an established National Park.

To find things to do in the Smoky Mountains, the National Park Service offers trip guides, current conditions and park regulations.

gatlinburg and clingmans dome signsWant to learn more about what makes Great Smoky Mountains so special? Be sure to check out our Great Smoky Mountains National Park tab. Dedicated solely to all things Smoky Mountains, you can find fishing tips, historic sites, hiking information and more!

Don’t forget to share your favorite memories from the Great Smoky Mountains in the comments section below.