Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Overview

Consisting of ridge upon ridge of endless forest straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the Eastern United States. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, and the depth and integrity of its wilderness sanctuary, the park attracts over nine million visitors each year. Once a part of the Cherokee homeland, the Smokies today are a hiker's paradise with over 800 miles of trails. In addition to hiking, the park provides opportunities for horseback riding, bicycling, automobile touring, wildlife observation, nature photography, picnicking, and camping. From waterfalls to black bears, the Smokies are full of new things to discover and new adventures to have.

The park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years--from the prehistoric Paleo American Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century. The park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home.

Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No other area of equal size in a temperate climate matches the park's amazing diversity of plants, animals, and invertebrates. The park is the largest federally protected upland landmass east of the Mississippi River. In recognition of the park's unique natural resources, the United Nations has designated Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an International Biosphere Reserve.

Map

Seasonality / Weather

Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide range of activitie year-round. The park's moderate climate makes it a favorite getaway for millions of people each year. Many visitors are now taking advantage of the reduced crowds and subtle beauty of late fall, winter, and early spring months. Some prior planning and weather-wise clothing will help ensure an enjoyable visit during any time of the year.

Keep in mind that elevations in the park range from approximately 875 feet to 6,643 feet and that the topography can drastically affect local weather. Temperatures can easily vary 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit from mountain base to top, and clear skies lower down do not guarantee equally pleasant weather at higher elevations. Rainfall averages 55 inches per year in the lowlands to 85 inches per year at Clingmans Dome.

Directions

Driving: 

Several major highways lead to the park. The following routes provide access to the three main entrances. In Tennessee: 1)From I-40 take Exit 407 (Sevierville) to TN Route 66 South, and continue to U.S. 441 South. Follow U.S. 441 to Park. 2.) From I-40 in Knoxville - Exit 386B U.S. Highway 129 South to Alcoa/Maryville. At Maryville proceed on U.S. 321 North through Townsend. Continue straight on TN Highway 73 into the park. In North Carolina: From I-40, take U.S. Route 19 West through Maggie Valley. Proceed to U.S. 441 North at Cherokee into the park. From Atlanta and points south: follow U.S. 441 and 23 North. U.S. 441 leads to the park.

Flying: 

The nearest major airport in Tennessee (McGhee-Tyson, TYS) is Alcoa, 45 miles west of Gatlinburg. North Carolina's, Asheville Airport is 60 miles east of the park.

Public Transport: 

There is no train or bus service accesses the park.