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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The largest national park East of the Rocky Mountains, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2009, encompasses approximately 244,000 acres in Tennessee and 276,000 acres in North Carolina for a total of 520,000 acres or more than 800 square miles. Often called the “Crown Jewels of the Appalachian Mountains,” the Smokies were also referred to as the “ Land of Blue Mist” by the Cherokees.

The Most Visited National Park in the United States

Full of breathtaking scenery and a multitude of recreational opportunities, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States, drawing more than 10 million visitors annually (in comparison, less than 5 million people visit Grand Canyon National Park each year). The park, which has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve, lies within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the country’s population.

Established in 1934 and officially dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts 140 native species of trees, 4,000 species of plants, more than 850 miles of scenic hiking trails (including a 70-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail), and 700 miles and rivers. An estimated 1,500 black bears live within the park's boundaries (your best chance of seeing a black bear is at open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley). Other animals that inhabit the park include the Eastern cottontail rabbit, red wolf, groundhog, red fox, coyote, bobcat, river otter, white-tailed deer and wild boar.

Abundance of Recreational Activities in the Great Smoky Mountains
An abundance of campsites, hiking trails, waterfalls, picnic areas and historic sites can be found throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fishing is permitted year round - a valid North Carolina or Tennessee fishing license is required. Guided horseback rides are available in season. Scenic drives through the park include Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441), Cades Cove Loop Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Little River Road and The Foothills Parkway, among others. Popular campgrounds within Great Smoky Mountains National Park include Cades Cove, Cosby, Elkmont, Look Rock, Balsam Mountain, Deep Creek and Smokemont. All campgrounds are open from mid-May through October (weather permitting). Approximately 100 backcountry campsites are also spread throughout the park (a free permit is required).

Plan Your Visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Before you embark on your exploration of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit one of the three visitors centers within the park’s borders: Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Cades Cove Visitor Center near Townsend, Tennessee; or Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina.

Note: No fee is charged to enter Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (certain secondary roads, campgrounds and visitor facilities are closed during the winter).

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK HIGHLIGHTS
Appalachian Trail
Cades Cove
Cataloochee Valley
Clingmans Dome
Fall Foliage
Hiking Trails
Mount LeConte
Mountain Farm Museum
Newfound Gap Road
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
The Road to Nowhere
Sugarlands Visitor Center

For more information about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit www.nps.gov/grsm.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Video, 1936



Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trivia

  • Established in 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest national park East of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses approximately 244,000 acres in Tennessee and 276,000 acres in North Carolina for a total of 520,000 acres or more than 800 square miles.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (although certain secondary roads, campgrounds and visitor facilities are closed during the winter).
  • With approximately 9-10 million visitors annually, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also the most visited national park in the United States.
  • In contrast, Grand Canyons National Park receives less than 5 million visitors annually.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few major national parks that charge no admission fee.
  • A 32-mile stretch of road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park that connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina, Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) features scenic overlooks, picnic areas, mountain streams, and the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers.
  • Designated an International Biosphere Reserve, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 4,000 plant species, 140 tree species and an estimated 1,600 black bears.
  • Other animals that inhabit Great Smoky Mountains National Park include the Eastern cottontail rabbit, red wolf, groundhog, red fox, coyote, bobcat, river otter, white-tailed deer and wild boar.
  • A 70-mile stretch of the 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail winds through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • In addition to the Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park features more than 850 miles of hiking trails.
  • Some of the most popular hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park include Abrams Falls Trail (5 miles round trip), Alum Cave Trail (11 miles round trip), Andrews Bald Trail (3.6 miles round trip), Boulevard Trail (16 miles round trip), Chasteen Creek Falls Trail (4 miles round trip), Chimney Tops Trail (4 miles round trip), Grotto Falls Trail (3 miles round trip), Hen Wallow Falls Trail (4 miles round trip), Indian Creek Falls Trail (2 miles round trip), Laurel Falls Trail (2.5 miles round trip), Ramsey Cascades Trail (8 miles round trip) and Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail (3,000-foot loop).
  • Cades Cove – a 4,000-acre scenic valley that boasts preserved pioneer homesteads, a campground and hiking trails – is the most visited area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Animals that call Cades Cove home include black bears, deer, foxes, wild turkey and raccoons. Dawn and dusk are the best times to catch a glimpse of wildlife in Cades Cove.
  • Near the Abrams Falls parking area in Cades Cove, visitors can view a typical Smoky Mountain homestead, complete with a barn, smokehouse, blacksmith shop and corncrib.
  • Cades Cove is closed to motor traffic on Saturdays and Wednesdays until 10 AM from May to September, giving bicyclists and pedestrians free reign of the road. Bike rentals are available from April through October and again in December.
  • Horseback riding is available at Cades Cove Riding Stables. Cades Cove also offers hayrides during evenings from May through October.
  • At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, followed by Mount Guyot (6,621 feet) and Mount LeConte (6,593 feet).
  • Clingmans Dome is also the third highest mountain East of the Mississippi behind Mount Craig (6,647 feet) and Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet).
  • A short but (steep!), 0.5-mile hike along a paved walkway takes visitors up to Clingmans Dome’s 54-foot-tall observation tower for spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its 2,178-mile journey from Georgia to Maine.
  • Clingmans Dome was named in honor of North Carolina Senator Thomas Lanier Clingman, who helped measure it in 1858.
  • A total of 16 mountains within Great Smoky Mountains National Park reach elevations higher than 6,000 feet.
  • The Rockefeller Memorial along Newfound Gap Road marks the spot where President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Great Smoky Mountains National Park on September 2, 1940.
  • "There are trees here that stood before our forefathers ever came to this continent; there are brooks that still run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this Park, we shall conserve these trees, the pine, the red-bud, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the thrush for the happiness of the American people."
    - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Planned as a second entrance into Cades Cove during the 1940s, the so-called Road to Nowhere is today a 6-mile scenic drive in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that ends at the mouth of a tunnel.
  • More than 13,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians live in the 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary, the Eastern gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
  • Fishing is permitted in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which features more than 2,115 miles of streams and rivers (a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required).
  • It takes a 5.5-mile hike to reach the rustic LeConte Lodge on Mount LeConte (reservations are usually made up to a year in advance!).
  • The LeConte Lodge, which was built in 1926, has no electricity, telephones or running water.
  • Other than LeConte Lodge, there are no rental cabins, motels or hotels within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Five hiking trails lead to Mount LeConte: Boulevard Trail (16 miles round trip), Alum Cave Trail (11 miles round trip), Rainbow Falls Trail (13.4 mile round trip), Trillium Gap Trail (13.4 miles round trip) and Bull Head Trail (14.4 miles round trip).
  • The Great Smoky Mountains are known as the “Salamander Capital of the World” since approximately 30 species of salamander can be found here.
  • Nestled along the Southwestern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 480-foot-tall Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States.
  • A 19th-century farmstead known as the Mountain Farm Museum lies adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mountain Farm Museum includes a farmhouse, barn, apple house, hen house, springhouse and blacksmith shop.
  • About 1 mile down the road from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center lies Mingus Mill, a working grist mill that was built in 1886.
  • Known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” Townsend, Tennessee, serves as a low-key entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is home to several attractions, including Little River Railroad Museum and Tuckaleechee Caverns.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to approximately 1,500 species of wildflowers – more than any other national park in the United States.
  • Often called the “Crown Jewels of the Appalachian Mountains,” the Smokies were also referred to as the “ Land of Blue Mist” by the Cherokees.
  • Once a thriving farm community, the remote Cataloochee Valley section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to abundant wildlife, including deer, wild turkeys, black bear, elk and red wolves, as well as historic structures, campsites and numerous hiking trails, including the popular, 7-mile Boogerman Loop Trail.
  • The busiest times to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park are during the summer months and the month of October - the peak season for fall foliage when the park comes alive with a blaze of brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves.
  • J. Ross Eakin, the first superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, held the post from 1931 to 1945.
  • In 1941, visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park topped 1 million for the first time.
  • John D. Rockefeller, Jr. contributed $5 million for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the United States government added $2 million and private citizens from both Tennessee and North Carolina pitched in to assemble land for the park, piece by piece.
  • Throughout the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Progress Administration and other federal organizations created trails and fire watchtowers, and made other infrastructure improvements to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976.
  • The AAA magazine, Going Places, published its 2009 list of the “Top 10 U.S. National Parks,” which includes Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as Yosemite National Park in California, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Everglades National Park in Florida and Acadia National Park in Maine.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds an annual “Music of the Mountains” festival each March , in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains Association.
  • In 1983, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Elk were released in Cataloochee Valley in 2001 as part of an experimental program to reintroduce them to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Approximately 550 miles of the hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are open to horses.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park features five drive-in horse camps: Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom and Towstring.
  • Picnic areas are located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Big Creek, Chimney Tops, Cades Cove, Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Heintooga, Look Rock, Metcalf Bottoms and Twin Creeks.
  • Waterfalls that can be viewed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park include Abrams Falls, Grotto Falls, Hen Wallow Falls, Indian Creek/Toms Branch Falls, Juney Whank Falls, Laurel Falls, Mingo Falls, Mouse Creek Falls, Rainbow Falls and Ramsey Cascades, among others.
  • In 2008, Backpacker Magazine listed Abrams Falls Trail as one of "America's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes." (Never climb on waterfalls!)
  • One of the most popular hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park leads to 80-foot Laurel Falls.
  • At 100 feet in height, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Before the early 1800s, Cades Cove was part of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee referred to the valley as Tsiyahi or "place of the river otter."
  • Elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park range from 875 feet to 6,643 feet (Clingmans Dome).
  • Temperatures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can vary 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit from mountain base to top.
  • More than 384 miles of road wind their way through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Dogs are allowed on only two trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Gatlinburg Trail and Oconaluftee River Trail.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park features 10 developed campgrounds: Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Look Rock and Smokemont.
  • No temperature above 80 degrees Fahrenheit has ever been recorded on 6,593-foot Mount LeConte.
  • From June through October, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts guided hikes, history demonstrations, campfires and other ranger-led programs.
  • The one-way, 6-mile-long Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail winds it way through forests and passes by overlooks, streams and waterfalls, as well as the Roaring Fork Historic District.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to two species of venomous snakes: the northern copperhead and timber rattlesnake.
  • Wildflower viewing? Generally, look for Spring Wildflowers in April, Flame Azalea in April and May, Mountain Laurel in May and June, Rhododendrons in June and fall foliage in October.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park features more than 100 backcountry campsites.
  • A free permit is required for all backcountry camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Permits are available at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Sugarlands Visitor Center and other locations throughout the park.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies within a day's drive of two-thirds of the nation's population.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains were formed approximately 200-300 million years ago, making them among the oldest mountains in the world.
  • A total of 78 historic structures can be found throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Cades Cove, Elkmont, Cataloochee, Hazel Creek, Greenbrier, The Sugarlands, Noah Ogle Place, Roaring Fork, Little Greenbrier and Oconaluftee.
  • July is the busiest month at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with approximately 1.2 million visitors.
  • January is the least busiest month at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with approximately 320,000 visitors.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Video