mountains in the great smoky mountains national park
December 31, 2018

Whether you want to hike the trails or go for a scenic drive, the national park is filled with wonders that you are sure to love! Now you just have to decide which destination to visit first. For your convenience, here is a list we put together of the top 5 places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1. Cades Cove

Cades Cove

This scenic valley is surrounded by mountains and is one of the most visited places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! People come from all around the country to experience all that Cades Cove has to offer. You can explore the cove on foot as you hike and observe the wildlife, or you can experience all its beauty from the comfort of your vehicle with an auto tour! The 11-mile loop road gives people an opportunity to sightsee at a leisurely pace with various pull-offs where you can stop to take pictures and admire the views.

2. Alum Cave Trail

If you’re looking for unique geological features and stunning views, Alum Cave Trail is a must-try! At 1.3 miles you will reach Arch Rock, one of the trail’s prominent landmarks. This captivating feature was formed when wind and water eroded away the softer rock to create the arch. It makes for a unique photo-op, so chances are you’ll want to snap a few pictures before continuing on your way. At the 2 mile mark, you will arrive at Inspiration Point, a rocky outcrop offering breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Alum Cave itself, is less than a half mile away from Inspiration Point. From its cliffs, you can see sweeping mountain vistas and take a rest before heading back or continuing on a more challenging hike to Mount LeConte.

Alum Cave Trail will be temporarily closed on Mondays at 7 am to Thursdays at 5:30 pm from May 10, 2021 to November 10, 2021.

3. Laurel Falls

The trail to Laurel Falls and back to the main parking lot is 2.5 miles and takes about 2 hours to complete. This 80-foot waterfall is divided into an upper and a lower section with a walkway crossing the stream at the top half. If you’re looking for a great place to take pictures, this is it! This trail is paved, however, it’s somewhat rough and uneven, so strollers and wheelchairs are not recommended.

4. Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road is a scenic drive that you’ll never forget! This is one of the longest scenic drives in the Smokies traveling about 33 miles from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC. The drive takes about an hour to complete, and there are plenty of places to pull off to the side of the road to take pictures. Along the way, you’ll see northern hardwood and spruce-fir forests. If you visit during the warmer months, you might even spot some native wildlife!

5. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the national park and the state of Tennessee. Experience spectacular 360° views of the Smokies when you climb the half mile to the observation tower at the summit of Clingmans Dome. This attraction is open year-round, however, the road leading to it is closed from December 1 through March 31, and whenever weather conditions require.

Now that you know where to go when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to read up on what to pack so that you can come prepared for a fun-filled visit!