About Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Nestled along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest national park east of the Rockies. Its peaks are thought to be some of the oldest in the world, and their famous haze – the Cherokees once referred to the region as The Land of Blue Mist – is the result of water vapor and hydrocarbons released by the park’s myriad trees, though the affect is now accentuated by air pollution.
Designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve, Great Smoky Mountains NP is known as the Salamander Capital of the World. Sharp-eyed visitors can see dozens of species in a single day. With its rich ecosystem and deep cultural roots, the park is an ideal choice for connecting with nature and history.
To date, more than 1,600 SCA members have helped to protect and restore Great Smoky Mountains NP, and in recent years the park has hosted scores of under-represented students in SCA’s National Park Service Academy, a workforce development and diversity initiative.
Plan Your Visit
Hours & Seasons
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Winter conditions may cause closings of roads, campgrounds and other facilities so check with the park before planning your travel.
- Fall colors/leaf viewing
- Cultural resources
- Hiking (71 miles of the Appalachian Trail)
- Horseback Riding
Things To Do
Horseback Riding: Over 550 miles of trail are available. The park offers guided horseback tours, carriage and wagon rides. Bring your own horses to the park but always stay on designated trails
Picnicking: The park has a variety of picnic areas – Big Creek, Chimneys, Cades Cove, Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Heintooga, Look Rock, Metcalf Bottoms, and Twin Creeks. Picnic pavilions are available at a fee. Remember that feeding bears and other wildlife is illegal, dangerous, and harmful to animals.
Fall Colors/Leaf Viewing: Mid-September through mid-November, the park’s trees provide a rich viewing experience of fall colors. Blue Ridge Parkway and Clingmans Dome Road provide optimal viewing by car.
Hiking: Chimney Tops Trail is a popular, two-mile uphill jaunt with a non-technical rock scramble at the end. There’s also a fabulous swimming hole under the first bridge (only a few hundred meters past the trailhead) with a small waterfall and deep pool. Heavy usage brings SCA crews back year after year.
Tackle a portion of the Appalachian Trail from Clingman’s Dome – at 6,644 feet, the highest peak in the park.
Or climb to LeConte Lodge atop Mount LeConte (make your reservation ahead of time, and obtain a permit for overnights in the backcountry.)
For less-strenuous outings, Laurel Falls is a short hike along a paved path. Further along, following a notable elevation change and a few small stream crossings, Grotto Falls Trail escorts you behind the waterfall.
Biking: Rent some wheels at Cades Cove. Trips can be made as long or short as you like – there is one big loop with two turn-offs to reduce the roundtrip. The loop road is closed to motor vehicles until 10am every Saturday and Wednesday during the summer. Cades Cove Info
Cultural resources: Park history includes prehistoric Paleo Indians as well as the tragic Trail of Tears. Visitors may tour numerous preserved historic structures and the ruins of earlier settlements. The Oconaluftee Visitors Center features a replica farm and village, including a blacksmith’s shop where kids can make their own triangular dinner bell. You may bump into one of several SCA interpretative interns working at the museum or visitor centers.