Newfound Gap Overlook
September 18, 2023

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is full of so many great things to see, from natural scenery to historical structures. If you are wondering what sights you need to make sure you see while you’re here, check out this list of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains! If you’re looking for a fun vacation activity, use this list as a Smoky Mountain scavenger hunt and see if you can find everything listed here during your trip!

1. Clingmans Dome

A winding path leads to the top of the observation tower at Clingmans Dome.

One of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome. This iconic spot is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it a must-see landmark. You can’t visit the Smoky Mountains without taking a drive up to Clingmans Dome! From the parking lot you can see breathtaking views, but even better views can be enjoyed from the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. To reach the observation tower, you can take a half-mile paved hike up to the top.

2. Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap Road is a popular scenic drive that travels from Gatlinburg, TN, to Cherokee, NC. Along the drive, you’ll get to see beautiful mountain scenery. There are also a few places to stop and breathe in the fresh mountain air. One of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains can be found on this road, and it’s Newfound Gap itself. This overlook offers gorgeous views of the mountain landscape and offers a chance to learn some history. After all, this is the spot where President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

3. Mingus Mill

Mingus Mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you want to take a step back in time and learn more about life in the mountains, then Mingus Mill is another one of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains. Mingus Mill is located near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center just north of Cherokee, NC. This mill was the largest grist mill in the Smoky Mountains, and it still functions today! You can learn about how the mill works and why it was essential to early settlers in the mountains. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to watch a demonstration of the milling process!

4. Smoky Mountain Fall Foliage

If you visit the national park in the fall, then one of the absolute best things to see in the Smoky Mountains is the colorful fall foliage. In the fall, the mountains are covered in vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges as the leaves prepare to fall. There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by breathtaking fall scenery all around you! Whether you take a scenic drive or go for a hike, bring a camera to try to capture the natural beauty of the Smokies in fall!

5. Mountain Farm Museum

Mountain Farm Museum building with fence

A great way to experience Smoky Mountain history is by visiting the Mountain Farm Museum behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. This is one of the most unique things to see in the Smoky Mountains. This open-air museum consists of a collection of authentic farm buildings that have been relocated from their original locations throughout the park. This is an excellent way to see how early settlers lived! You’ll even have the chance to see demonstrations of historic farming and gardening practices!

6. Grotto Falls

There are a lot of beautiful waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, one of the most unique, must-see waterfalls is Grotto Falls. You can find Grotto Falls on the Trillium Gap Trail located off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The reason why this is a must-see waterfall is because it is the only waterfall in the national park that you can walk behind! You can see this natural wonder up close and personal and feel its mist on your face. This is an experience you will never forget!

7. Smoky Mountain Wildflowers

Lady Slippers Wildflower

If you visit the Smoky Mountains in spring or summer, you should keep an eye out for Smoky Mountain wildflowers! In the spring, the Smoky Mountains come alive with blooms of over 1,600 species of flowering plants. There are so many colors and shapes of flowers to see, so try to find as many types as you can! These wildflowers have become so well known as one of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains that this national park has become known as the “Wildflower National Park.”

8. Wildlife

The Smoky Mountains are well-known for being home to diverse wildlife. Some of the most popular wildlife you’re likely to see in the national park include birds, deer, salamanders, elk, and black bears. You’re most likely to see Smoky Mountain wildlife early in the morning or in the evening when they are most active. If you want to increase your chances of seeing a variety of wildlife, explore Cades Cove. This section of the national park is known as being a great place for wildlife viewing. See how many different species you can spot during your visit!

Explore the Smoky Mountains on Foot

These are some of the best things to see in the Smoky Mountains that you should try to find during your trip. One of the best ways to explore the Smokies and see all sorts of natural beauty is on foot along the many hiking trails in the national park. Check out these must-visit Smoky Mountain hiking trails that you should definitely try!