Top Places to Visit When You Spend a Day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beautiful view of the Smoky Mountains at Newfound Gap.
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With more than 11 million visitors each year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country. When you visit the area, take a day to explore the park and admire the natural beauty of the Smokies! To help you plan your trip, we’ve come up with the top places to visit when you spend a day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For Hiking:

One of the best ways to explore the park is to go hiking! With over 850 miles of hiking trails, there is plenty of opportunities to see the beauty of the mountains up close. Here are two of the most popular trails you can hike:

Laurel Falls

Stunning photo of Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Laurel Falls is a family-friendly trail that takes anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to complete. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall and back is 2.6 miles. The waterfall itself is 80 feet high and divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Visitors love it because they can actually cross over the waterfall!

Alum Cave Trail

The Alum Cave Trail to the Alum Cave Bluffs is another scenic hike you should try when you visit. It’s 4.4 miles to the bluffs and back, and along the hike you’ll have opportunities to stop and admire stunning views. About 1.3 miles from the trailhead you’ll reach Arch Rock. The trail actually runs underneath the arch. About 2 miles along the trail you’ll reach Inspiration Point, where you’ll have stunning views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge and Myrtle Point. After 2.2 miles, you’ll reach the Alum Cave Bluffs. During the warmer months, water drips off from the ledges above. During the colder months, the droplets turn into icicles.

For Lunch:

You’re sure to work up quite the appetite after your hike! Be sure to pack a delicious picnic lunch to enjoy in one of the many picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here are some of the best options for where you can eat:

Cades Cove Picnic Area

Picnic basket on a tableThe Cades Cove Picnic Area is located right at the entrance of the Cades Cove Loop Road. If you don’t feel like packing food for your trip, you can pick up hot dogs, burgers, or ice cream at the campground store. Each picnic site has a table and a grill. The picnic area also has restrooms for your convenience.

Greenbrier Picnic Area

The Greenbrier Picnic Area is located along the Little Pigeon River and is one of the most scenic sections in the national park. It’s one of the smallest picnic areas in the park with just 12 picnic pads. There is a table and grill at each picnic pad.

For an Afternoon Drive:

After lunch, go for a nice afternoon drive! The national park is home to scenic roads that let you take in the views from the comfort of your car. Here are some of the best scenic drives:

Cades Cove Loop Road

There is no Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance fee at Cades Cove.The Cades Cove Loop Road is the most popular scenic drive in the park. If you have lunch at the Cades Cove Picnic Area, it only makes sense to make this your next activity! It’s an 11-mile, one-way loop road that lets drivers sightsee at a leisurely pace. Along the road, you’ll see gorgeous views, historic sites and structures, and even some wildlife. Large numbers of white-tailed deer are often seen, as well as some black bear, coyote, and turkey sightings.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail features 6 miles of scenic twists and turns. The drive begins at the Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead, where you can take a walking tour of historic buildings and pick up a map of some roadway sights. Toward the end of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, you can see the Place of a Thousand Drips, one of only two waterfalls in the park that are accessible by car! Keep in mind that Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is closed during the winter months.

For Spending the Night:

After a fun day exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we bet you’re ready for a good night’s rest! You can either set up camp at one of the many campgrounds in the area or book a beautiful cabin.

Smoky Mountain Campgrounds

camping in the smoky mountainsThere are a number of Smoky Mountain campgrounds you can choose from for your stay. You can go traditional tent camping, or even take it up a notch and go glamping in the Smoky Mountains during the spring! There’s not a better end to your day than a stay underneath the starry Smoky Mountain sky.

Smoky Mountain Cabins

If you prefer to stay indoors, book a beautiful Smoky Mountain cabin! There are cabins available for everyone, from couples to groups. Cabins come with all the necessities for a comfortable stay and more! End your night relaxing in the bubbling hot tub or getting warm by the fireplace. Some cabins come with bonus amenities for you to enjoy as well, like pool tables and theater rooms.

Now that you know all the best places to visit during your day in the park, you’re ready for a fun-filled trip! Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and start planning your visit.

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