sunset in great smoky mountains national park
January 30, 2024

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great tourist destination in both Tennessee and North Carolina. It attracts more than 10 million visitors each year, making it the United States’ most-visited national park. If you’re in the process of planning your first visit, read on to learn more about it! Here is a list of 3 things you’ll love about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. Easy and Fun Hiking Trails

gatlinburg trail sign

Going for a hike is one great way to see all the timeless natural beauty that the park has to offer. If you’ve never been before, the park has some great hiking trails that are short in distance and low in elevation. One of them is the Gatlinburg Trail. The route is only 3.9 miles roundtrip. Along the way, you’ll cross one of the longest footbridges in the park. Additionally, keep an eye out for some unique rock structures. It is also the only dog-friendly trail on the Tennessee side of the Smokies and one of the few trails that allows bikes. As for the North Carolina side, the Oconaluftee River Trail has a roundtrip distance of 3 miles and is also dog and bike-friendly. If you come in late April, you’re in for some beautiful sights. Over 40 species of wildflowers bloom along the trail. When choosing a route, don’t push yourself. Remember, it is all about having fun!

2. Great Scenic Drives

In addition to the hiking trails, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some great scenic drives. They are an alternative way to view the natural scenery for those who may not enjoy hiking. One of them is Cades Cove Loop Road. Cades Cove receives about 5 million visitors every year and is the most visited area of the park. Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11-mile route that is jam-packed with everything it has to offer. Some notable sights include the John Oliver Cabin. Built in the 1800s by some of the first residents of Cades Cove, it is the oldest human structure in the park. Another great scenic drive is Newfound Gap Road. It is 33 miles long and travels all the way from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC! In the fall, you get a stunning view of the changing leaves.

3. Chance to See Live Animals

black bear in the Smoky Mountains

One of the most exciting things about visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the chance to see live animals. See black bears and deer in the fields of Cades Cove, salamanders in the water of Grotto Falls, and elk grazing in Cataloochee Valley. If you see any larger animals during your visit, maintain a distance of at least 150 feet away. As for smaller creatures, such as salamanders, refrain from picking them up and do your best to leave the space exactly as you found it!

Now that you know a little more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s time to plan your visit! Take a look at some of the popular places in the park to decide where you want to go!