The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States! It has some of the best hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing you'll find in the U.S. We're sharing the inside scoop with you so you can plan your next trip to the Smokies.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates Its 86th Birthday!
- June 15, 2020
We want to wish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a very happy 86th birthday! It’s now been 86 years since the beautiful Smoky Mountains have been established as a national park. The government approved the creation of a national park in 1926, but it wasn’t until June 15, 1934 that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was officially established! To celebrate the park’s birthday, we want to share some of our favorite things about the park with you:
1. It’s the Most Visited National Park in the United States
That’s right — our beloved park is the most visited national park in the country! Each year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park shatters visitation records. In 2019, the park had 12,547,743 visitors! Part of the reason so many people came to visit was because of the new section of the Foothills Parkway, the “Missing Link.” More than 1 million visitors came to experience this drive in 2019! Whether it’s for the scenic drives, the hiking trails or the wildlife, visitors return year after year to experience the magic of the Smoky Mountains.
2. It’s Free!
Another one of our favorite parts about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is that it’s completely free to enter! That means everyone can come enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains! Wondering why there is no entrance fee? You can thank Newfound Gap Road for that! The road was constructed with money from the North Carolina and Tennessee state governments and stretches from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina. When the park was established, the states transferred ownership of the road to the federal government. However, in a deed that signed the rights of the road to the federal government, Tennessee included a clause that guaranteed “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed” to travel the road. That means visitors can experience the over 850 miles of hiking trails, scenic drives, wildlife viewing, fishing and more for free!
3. All the Wildlife
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to diverse wildlife. There are more than 65 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians! One of the most popular animals in the park is the black bear. There are about 1,500 black bears that call the park home, and visitors love spotting them during their time in the park! Cades Cove and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are some of the best places to spot a black bear. Other popular animals in the park include white-tailed deer, chipmunks, birds and trout. It is also called the “Salamander Capital of the World because it’s home to 24 species of salamanders!
4. Plenty of Opportunities to Explore
The thing we love the most about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is that there are plenty of opportunities for you to explore. You can journey through the Smokies on foot along one of the many hiking trails, like Laurel Falls or the Alum Cave Trail. Or, you can go for a scenic drive and see the sights from your car! Popular scenic drives are Cades Cove, Roaring Fork, Newfound Gap and the Foothills Parkway. You can also go horseback riding and travel through the winding forest trails in the park! There is a way for everyone to enjoy the beauty that the Smoky Mountains have to offer.
Join us in wishing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a very happy 86th birthday! To learn more about the park, read our blog, “Top 10 Things to Know About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Before You Go.”