cades cove cabin
June 15, 2023

Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the United States, and it’s no wonder! It’s stunning views and rich, cultural history make it a must-visit attraction! Here are a few more things you’ll want to know about the history of the Smoky Mountain National Park.

1. They are Between 200 to 300 Million Years Old

The Smokies are estimated to be anywhere from 200 to 300 million years old! This makes them one of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth! Prehistoric people also occupied these mountains, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that human activity started to affect the natural course of events.

2. Motorists Pushed for the Park

Newfound Gap Road Smoky Mountains

Although the idea to create a national park in the Smokies came about in the late 1890s, efforts to create it didn’t become successful until the 1920s. Motorists actually played the biggest role in the push for a national park. Many branches of the AAA were interested in developing roads so they could drive through the beautiful scenery.

3. The Land Wasn’t Easy to Buy

Joining the National Park System was far from easy for Great Smoky Mountains. Even with the money for the park in hand, the land for the park was still difficult to buy. This was mainly because it was owned by hundreds of small farmers, and a handful of large timber and paper companies.

4. Former Political Boosters Helped Raise Funds

The government was not allowed to buy land for national park use, so former political boosters stepped in to raise funds. By 1928, a total of $5 million had been raised, and The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund matched that amount.

5. The CCC Developed the Park

Many of the roads, hiking trails, and other structures, were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was established as a federal work program in 1933. It provided employment and education to young men from all over the country during the Great Depression. The CCC worked until 1942, when World War II shut the program down. Learn more about the CCC and the history and culture of the Smokies on the National Park Service website.

6. The Park Was Dedicated in 1940

mountains in the great smoky mountains national park

The park was formally dedicated in September, 1940, by President Franklin Roosevelt. The ceremony took place at the Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap, as he stood over the Tennessee – North Carolina state line. There were many dates that shaped the history of the national park. However, this was a big one because Great Smoky Mountains was dedicated as a national park for the whole world to enjoy.

7. It’s the Most Visited National Park in the U.S.

In 1941, the annual number of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park reached one million. In 2010, The National Park Service reported that it was the most visited of all 58 national parks in the United States. And after welcoming a record 14+ million visitors in 2021, the park was once again the most visited national park in the U.S. in 2022. In 2023, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated its 89th anniversary and continues to thrive while bringing in people from all around the world!

Today, Great Smoky Mountains continues to have no entry fee for visitors and only a small parking charge. It’s famous for its remnants of Southern Appalachian culture and for its diversity of plant and animal life. From hiking trails to auto tours and more, there are so many ways to experience the Smokies! Want to learn more before you visit? Read about the top 10 things to know about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!