National Park sign
April 5, 2022

When it comes to visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is never too hard to find an entrance! Whether you are spending your vacation in Gatlinburg, camping in Townsend or visiting Cherokee NC, there is a convenient entrance into the park! This means that you can quickly be on your way to exploring all of the treasures in the park, including scenic hiking trails, fascinating historical structures and incredible wildlife! Here are the top 3 entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. Gatlinburg Entrance

The most popular entry point to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the Gatlinburg entrance, thanks to its convenient proximity to the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge! This entrance is situated on the north side of the park and is about an hour south of Knoxville on US 441. Since Gatlinburg is packed with shops, restaurants and attractions, it is easy to grab a meal or pick up some last minute hiking gear before heading into the park! The Gatlinburg entrance also features the Sugarlands Visitor Center, an excellent facility with extensive natural history exhibits, a bookstore and shop, seasonal ranger-led programs and more!

2. Townsend Entrance

Cades Cove Loop Road

Another one of the entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the Townsend entrance, which is located about 25 miles west of Gatlinburg. This is a convenient, quieter alternative to the Gatlinburg entrance and is ideal for those heading to see Cades Cove Loop Road. You’ll want to stop at the Cades Cove Visitor Center to see historical buildings such as the Becky Cable House and the Cable Mill, a grist mill that operates from spring until fall. The facility also features a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits of mountain life and culture.

3. Oconaluftee Entrance

The Oconaluftee entrance is situated on the south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Cherokee NC, which is about 40 minutes west of Waynesville on US 441. This entrance features the Oconaluftee Visitor Center where you can stop to pick up trail maps, talk to a park ranger about hiking recommendations, and browse through a museum with exhibits about the history of life in the Smokies. You’ll also want to visit the adjacent Mountain Farm Museum, home to an amazing collection of log structures including a farmhouse, barn and smokehouse!

Additional Entrances into the Park

Abrams Falls

You’ll also find a number of smaller entrances into the national park that may feature ranger stations, but no visitor centers. If you are staying towards the northern side of the park, consider using Abrams Creek to the northwest, Big Creek and Cosby to the northeast, and Greenbrier to the north. For those staying on the southern side of the park, some of the additional entrances include Deep Creek to the south, and Balsam Mountain and Cataloochee to the southeast.

Now that you are familiar with some of the major entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll be ready to hit some of the park’s famous hiking trails! Check out some of the most popular hiking trails in the Smokies!