Gorgeous blue mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and a prime location within driving distance of the Eastern Seaboard make Great Smoky Mountains National Park the most visited national park in the United States. Come to camp, hike, and explore for an adventure-filled vacation, or stay and enjoy a mountain retreat away from it all.
From chasing waterfalls to sleeping under the stars, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers plenty of activities that please nature lovers. Take a guided hiking tour to top waterfalls and vista points, get onboard a white-water rafting trip on the Pigeon River, or learn about the area’s early settler culture on a historical Smoky Mountains tour. Or, take it easy and road trip the 400 miles (640 kilometers) of scenic drives through forests, meadows, and mountains. Popular park landmarks include Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap, and Laurel Falls.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Hiking trails range from easy to difficult; plan accordingly.
- Multi-day hikes through the Great Smoky Mountains and backcountry camping are also popular.
- This is a kid-friendly location that’s ideal for families.
- Park entrance is free.
How to Get There
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Though there are several entrances, the two most popular are the Sugarlands entrance in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Oconaluftee entrance in Cherokee, North Carolina. Many visitors also choose to stay in Pigeon Forge, roughly 20 minutes from the park.
When to Get There
There are always parts of the park that are open to visitors 24 hours a day, though some areas are closed during the winter months. Visit during the fall for stunning fall foliage, or spring and summer for the nicest hiking weather.
The Appalachian Trail
The popular Appalachian Trail runs through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Though the total hike covers 2,180 miles (3,500 kilometers) from Georgia to Maine, Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains 71 miles, making for a memorable backcountry camping trip.