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fall at Clingmans Dome in the great smoky mountains

Why America’s Most Visited National Park Is The Great Smoky Mountains

Did you know the Great Smoky Mountains are within a short drive for over half of the U.S. population? Spanning parts of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over a half million acres, including a 70-mile stretch of the iconic Appalachian Trail. It’s the perfect escape to nature during any season of the year. Keep reading to find out why the Great Smoky Mountains continues to be the most visited national park in America: 

History of the National Park

newfound gap in the fallIn the early 1800s, settlers arrived in the Great Smoky Mountain area, and it became a populated area for families, loggers, and farmers. During the Depression in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps was founded to provide jobs for the unemployed, and the work to establish the national park began. The very next year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened, and people started coming to the area to take in its natural beauty. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the park on September 2, 1940, and a memorial monument was erected, which you can now see off of Newfound Gap Road. 

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open year-round, though some trails and areas may be closed at times due to bad weather or increased bear activity. Entrance to the park is free, but parking passes are now required for vehicles parked longer than 15 minutes. 

What to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains

Whether visitors come for a day or a week, there are a variety of places to explore. The unspoiled scenery is breathtaking! Mountains, meadows, forests, rushing streams, clear pools, and cascading waterfalls preserve a vision of America as it once was, and there are numerous lookouts where visitors can pause to enjoy the panoramic vistas such as Clingmans Dome, Rocky Top, and Andrews Bald. In the spring and summer, thousands of wildflowers bloom, while October and November bring vivid autumn foliage and crisp, cool weather.

Exploring Historic Sites

Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s collection of historic structures includes cabins, barns, schools, churches, and even a working grist mill! You’ll learn a lot about Smoky Mountain history at places like the Walker Sisters Cabin, the Little Greenbrier School, and the Dan Lawson Cabin, as the park is one of the few places in the country to see preserved buildings in the natural settings they were built for. 

Scenic Drives & Wildlife Viewing

entrance sign to Cades Cove.Cades Cove and Roaring Forks Motor Trail are favorite spots for observing the park’s large populations of black bears. There are also 40 types of salamanders, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, turtles, owls, and 200 other bird species you may catch a glimpse of during your time in the Great Smoky Mountains. 


There are over 850 miles of trails, with routes ranging from easy walks and half-hour roundtrips to challenging hikes and multi-day backpacking treks. A few Smoky Mountain hiking trails we recommend are the Middle Prong Trail, Porters Creek Trail, Alum Cave Trail, and Ramsey Cascades Trail. 

Other Popular Activities

The Great Smoky Mountains offer many additional activities, such as picnicking and camping. Biking along the Cades Cove Scenic Loop and trail rides on horseback are also popular. For fishermen, more than 2,000 miles of streams are open for angling and feature abundant populations of wild trout and smallmouth bass.

Top Vacation Spots: Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

Within a few steps of the main entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors find themselves on the main street of Gatlinburg, well-known for its live music, shows, restaurants, shops, arts and crafts community, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ober Mountain’s Aerial Tramway, and Anakeesta. A few miles north of Gatlinburg is Pigeon Forge. It’s the home of Dollywood, the Titanic Museum, the Country Tonite Theatre, outlet stores, and more restaurants and shops.

Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains

big sky view cabin in the great smoky mountainsThere are many Smoky Mountain lodging options to consider. From campgrounds to cabin rentals, we are the best place to find the best one for your family or traveling group. Whether you need an affordable place to stay for a night or two or require a large cabin rental that can accommodate many guests. Browse our extensive selection of places to stay in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. We can’t wait to welcome you to the Great Smoky Mountains! 


  • Avatar for Lynn

    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. My ancestors settled in Cades Cove. (the Oliver family) I grew up in East TN, but never knew about the Oliver Cabin and my ancestors, until I had moved clear across country, to Idaho. I always knew I was drawn to Cades Cove, and now I know why.

    March 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm
  • Avatar for Stephanie Lundberg

    I have always been drawn to the Smokies ever since I was a child. I never grew up there or had family there. But my folks and I decided to visit there from Illinois because of my childhood hero. We just wanted to see these sights and things, and ever since the time I remember the mountains and the crisp clean air. The beauty and the nature was breathtaking. Ever since then, I have been all around the world, but the Smokies is what I think of most. For one, it is a lot like up in the northern parts of Sweden, of which I live now and upon first sight of the mountains there, I was again and again reminded of the Smokies as a child. 🙂

    March 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm

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