50 Things You Didn't Know About the Great Smoky Mountains
You’ve driven Newfound Gap Road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, strolled through the world’s longest underwater aquarium tunnel at Ripley’s Aquarium, rode the Gatlinburg Sky Lift to the top of Crockett Mountain, watched ostrich races at Dixie Stampede and even experienced the infamous Thunderhead wooden roller coaster at Dollywood. You’ve done it all, right? Actually, the Great Smoky Mountains encompass all of the above and much more!
1. The Smoky Mountains are located within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the country’s population.
2. The Cherokees referred to the Smoky Mountains as the “Land of the Blue Mist.”
3. Established in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest national park East of the Rockies.
4. With more than 10 million visitors annually, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also the most visited national park in the United States.
5. Designated an International Biosphere Reserve, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 4,000 plant species and 140 tree species, as well as approximately 600 black bears.
6. A 70-mile stretch of the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail winds through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
7. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park features more than 850 miles of hiking trails.
8. Cades Cove – a 4,000-acre scenic valley that features preserved pioneer homesteads, a campground and hiking trails – is the most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
9. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, followed by Mount Guyot (6,621 feet) and Mount LeConte (6,593 feet).
10. The Rockefeller Memorial along Newfound Gap Road marks the spot where President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.
11. 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 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that ends at the mouth of a tunnel.
12. More than 13,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians live in the 56,000-acre Qualla Boundary Reservation, the Eastern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
13. Open 24 hours a day, the 90,000-square-foot Harrah’s Cherokee Casino boasts more than 3,500 video-based gaming machines.
14. Fishing is permitted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which features more than 700 miles of streams and rivers (a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required).
15. Opened in 1986 and co-owned by country music legend Dolly Parton, Dollywood attracts approximately 2.5-million visitors annually.
16. A unique store and museum that lies along the Parkway in Gatlinburg, Cooter’s Place is owned and operated by Ben “Cooter” Jones and features interesting exhibits and memorabilia from the hit TV series, “Dukes of Hazzard.”
17. Billed as “Gatlinburg’s No. 1 Scenic Overlook,” the Gatlinburg Sky Lift attraction transports visitors to the top of Crockett Mountain, which towers approximately 500 feet over Gatlinburg.
18. Founded in 1937, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is today the largest organization of independent artisans in the country.
19. The only ski resort in the Gatlinburg area, Ober Gatlinburg sits atop Mount Harrison and doubles as a year-round amusement park.
20. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies lies in downtown Gatlinburg and boasts the world’s longest underwater aquarium on a 340-foot glide path.
21. The Star Cars Museum in Gatlinburg is home to a great collection of automobiles such as General Lee from the “Dukes of Hazzard,” Drag-u-la from “The Munsters” and the 1981 DeLorean from Back to the Future, among many others.
22. The “Death Car” (a 1974 Corvette) of legendary “Walking Tall” sheriff, Buford Pusser, can be viewed at Carbo’s Smoky Mountain Police Museum in Pigeon Forge.
23. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving in Pigeon Forge features a vertical wind tunnel that generates winds up to 115 miles per hour.
24. Built in 1830 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge is one of the most photographed mills in the United States.
25. Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville is one of approximately 8,350 caves that have been discovered in Tennessee.
26. The Smokies are home to a Class AA minor league baseball team, the Tennessee Smokies – an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs – that competes in the Southern League of Professional Baseball.
27. Sevier County encompasses 592 square miles – one-third of which makes up part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 28. The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport is actually located in Sevierville.
29. Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer daily trolleys with more than 100 stops each and trolley fares that run from 25 cents to $2.
30. Gatlinburg was originally called “White Oak Flats” but the name was changed in 1860 to honor local merchant Radford Gatlin, who provided space at his store for the post office.
31. It takes a 5.5-mile hike to reach the rustic LeConte Lodge on Mount LeConte, which was built in 1924 and has no electricity or running water (reservations are usually made up to a year in advance).
32. The Great Smoky Mountains are known as “The Wedding Capital of the South” – you can even schedule a “Hillbilly Wedding” performed by an “ordained, bearded, hillbilly minister”!
33. The Hard Rock Café in downtown Gatlinburg even offers its own chapel for those couples who wish to opt for a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Wedding.”
34. In the mood for pancakes? The Gatlinburg area boasts at least a dozen pancake restaurants with names like Pancake Pantry, Little House of Pancakes, Atrium Pancakes, The Pancake Palace, Log Cabin Pancake House and Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin, among others.
35. The former Louise Mandrell Theater has been transformed into The Miracle Theater, “a stunning musical re-creation of the life of Christ.”
36. Built in 1896, the Sevier County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a statue of country music legend and hometown hero Dolly Parton on its front lawn.
37. Elvis Presley’s first limo is just one of the many unique vehicles on display at Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville.
38. For a glimpse of the “World’s Largest Private Collection of Elvis Memorabilia,” including Elvis’ legendary “TCB” ring, check out the Elvis Museum in Pigeon Forge.
39. Dollywood serves as the home of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum, which attracts approximately 1 million visitors annually.
40. Billed as “The World’s Largest Knife Showplace,” Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville features 40,000 square feet of knife displays and exhibits.
41. The Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual in Cherokee displays the work of more than 300 Cherokee craftspeople – making it the largest facility of its kind in the United States.
42. The Great Smoky Mountains are known as the “Salamander Capital of the World” since approximately 30 species of salamander can be found here.
43. Nestled along the Southwestern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 480-foot-tall Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States.
44. A 19th-century farmstead known as the Mountain Farm Museum lies adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
45. Known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” Townsend, Tennessee, serves as a low-key entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is home to several attractions, including Little River Railroad Museum and Tuckaleechee Caverns.
46. Popular day trips from the Great Smoky Mountains include Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Chimney Rock Park in Chimney Rock, Knoxville Zoo, Lost Sea Caverns in Sweetwater and Rock City in Chattanooga, among others.
47. Defunct theme parks and attractions that once stood on the site of Dollywood include Rebel Railroad (1961-1965), Goldrush Junction (1966-1976) and Silver Dollar City Tennessee (1977-1985).
48. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to approximately 1,500 species of wildflowers – more than any other national park in the country.
49. Ripley’s operates six attractions in Gatlinburg, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Moving Theater and Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf.
50. The Great China Circus acrobats perform amazing stunts and feats of strength in Sevierville that have been passed down from the Han Dynasty – more than 2,000 years ago.
Escape to the Smokies, the most comprehensive online guide to the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, also provides discount Smoky Mountains attraction tickets, Smoky Mountains discount hotels and Smoky Mountains discount vacation packages.