There are no real words to describe this place, called The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was established in 1934 and has been described as a living mountain range as it is continuously shaped by the forces of nature – wind, water and erosion. The natural beauty of the mountains, the tranquillity of the woods and the wildlife here makes this, one of the most visited natural parks in America, drawing over 200,000 visitors per year – a Park that continues to ‘live’ in a time capsule of the 1800s.
The Foothills Parkway
The Foothills Parkway gives you easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from a road corridor that is outside the Park, providing you of magnificent views.
Our visit here was before the New Leg of the Parkway was open, in early autumn. (The New Leg takes you from Townsend, TN, to Wears Valley, with a short ride into Pigeon Forge, TN, and Gatlinburg, TN – from US 129 to US 321 in Walland).
Crisscrossing of the Ancient Mountains is a sight to behold…
The beauty of the mountains comes through as you drive up…when you see, as far as you can, ridge upon ridge of endless forest. It was one of the prettiest sights, that I had ever witnessed – the crisscrossing of the mountains in the distance as it blends into the blues of the skies, which makes it particularly picturesque.
There are many ‘pull-over’ areas throughout the drive that gives you breath-taking views of the mountains. Stop as many times as you can – we, stopped at every pull-over site, because no two sites were the same and it afforded great photo opportunities.
Capture the sights of the Wildflowers – The Great Smoky Mountains Natural Park is home to approximately 1600 species of flowering plants.
These are not just mountains…there is an air of tranquillity here which you must simply experience yourself.
This mountain range is also covered with the ever-present morning fog which gives it the name, “Smokies”.
The importance of the Great Smoky Mountains was aptly described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was quoted as saying:
“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.”
This ancient mountains with its ancient wonders provide a myriad of activities for both young and old. There are many reasons why one would visit this ancient wonder and I have listed my top 10 reasons below.
10 Reasons Why you should Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- The Smokies has a long history of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, specifically a community of native Americans called, Cherokee. (I will write about our visit to Cherokee on another blog post soon).
2. The ancient mountains are also a habitat to a huge diversity of wildflowers, plants and animal life which are not found elsewhere.
3. Wildlife – Home to a wide variety of animals.
~ approximately 1,500 black bears. We did not see a bear on our visit, however, it is said that the chances of seeing a bear is highly likely in Cades Cove, (on the western side of the park) and Cataloochee Valley, (on the park’s east side).
~ Spring and Summer are the best months to see the bears, especially in the early morning and at dusk.
~ The bears live throughout the Park and federal law requires all visitors to properly store their food in the trunk of their vehicles and place all garbage and food scraps in bear-proof trash cans.
Elks – an animal associated with the American West. Sightings of these are rare – we were fortunate to see them on our way to Cherokee, North Carolina.
4. Wildflowers – The Smokies is home to approximately 1600 species of flowering plants.
~ During the spring months (mid-April to mid-May) and early summer (late May to mid-July), are the best times to see wildflowers here such as rhododendron and flame azalea.
~ The Mountains are also covered with healthy shrub flowers on higher elevation which we were able to capture on our visit.
~ Wet and humid climates, as well as a broad elevation range, are two of the most important reasons for the park’s renowned diversity.
5. Fishing – For the fishing enthusiasts, there is about 700 plus miles of fishable streams in the Park which offers a selection of brook, brown, or rainbow trout.
6. There are many waterfalls throughout the Park with larger falls such as Grotto, Laurel and Rainbow which are well worth a visit.
7. For the hiking enthusiasts, there are several hiking trails to explore – part of the Appalachian Trail is here.
8. The Smoky Mountains has the highest point of elevation of the entire Appalachian Trail at 2019 metres (6625 feet) – near Clingman’s Dome.
9. Camping – From backcountry to horse campgrounds. Backcountry camping requires a permit and reservations in advance. Backcountry campers are also advised to check weather conditions against their itinerary before arrival. Bear activity, in addition to weather, can cause sites, roads, trails and shelters to close. The park can accommodate large groups of campers (minimum party size of 7) at several sites. Group campers must use tents only and they must reserve a spot in advance.
10. There are about 90 historic buildings in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A collection of log buildings, houses, barns, churches, schools and grist mills have been preserved. Best places to experience these are at Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Oconaluftee and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park sits on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. It has two Visitor Centres – one in Sugarlands and the other in Oconaluftee.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
107 Park Headquarters Road
- Weather at The Great Smoky Mountains:
- It has four distinct seasons.
- March through May – Spring;
- June through August – Summer;
- September through November – Fall;
- Mid-November through February – Winter.
**The weather here includes severe storms—tornadoes, strong winds, and hail—that can occur especially during the spring and summer months with March having the widest temperature swings. You can expect snowfall at any time during this month.
**Great Smoky Mountains National Park weather is also dependent on elevation. The base of a mountain can be 10 – 20 degrees warmer than temperatures at higher elevations, so prepare accordingly.
- Bring a Great Smoky Mountains National Park map and ask Great Smoky Mountains park rangers for additional safety tips when hiking or camping.
This is not a sponsored post and all opinions expressed are my own. All photos are my own and are all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce them. All prints are available upon requests.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog and my adventure here will inspire you to travel to this ancient wonder. Please leave a ‘like’, a comment and return to visit this page regularly as I update it with information for upcoming blogs. Stay in touch by subscribing to my blogs, so it goes straight into your inbox – a link is available on the sidebar.