Discover Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Nestled along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, this majestic wilderness spans over 500,000 acres, encompassing lush forests, misty mountains, and abundant biodiversity. As one of the most visited national parks in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wealth of outdoor adventures, cultural heritage, and natural wonders to explore.

With over 800 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the renowned Appalachian Trail, the park beckons hikers of all skill levels to discover its scenic beauty. From cascading waterfalls and panoramic vistas to historic homesteads and diverse wildlife, each trail offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the park’s rich tapestry of landscapes and history.

In addition to hiking, visitors can enjoy a variety of recreational activities such as camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, and scenic drives along the park’s winding mountain roads. Whether you’re seeking solitude amidst the towering peaks or embarking on a family adventure, Great Smoky Mountains National Park promises unforgettable experiences at every turn.


Top 3 Facts About Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Biodiversity Hotspot

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for its incredible biodiversity, boasting over 19,000 documented species, including plants, animals, fungi, and more. It is recognized as one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, with scientists continuing to discover new species within the park’s boundaries.


Most Visited National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds the title of the most visited national park in the United States, with millions of visitors flocking to its scenic beauty each year. Despite its popularity, the park’s expansive size and numerous trails offer ample opportunities for solitude and exploration.


Synchronous Fireflies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few places in the world where you can witness synchronous fireflies, a fascinating natural phenomenon where fireflies flash in unison. Each year, thousands of visitors gather in the park to witness this mesmerizing display during the firefly viewing season, typically in late spring or early summer.

Camping and transportation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in both Tennessee and North Carolina, and there are several ways to access the park depending on your starting point:

  • By Car: The most common way to reach the park is by car. The park has multiple entrances, including the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina. Major highways that provide access to the park include US Highway 441, which runs through the center of the park, and Interstate 40, which passes near the northern boundary.
  • By Air: The closest major airports to Great Smoky Mountains National Park are McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in Asheville, North Carolina. From there, visitors can rent a car and drive to the park.
  • Public Transportation: While there is no public transportation directly to the park, there are bus services available to nearby towns such as Gatlinburg and Cherokee. From there, visitors can arrange for shuttle or taxi services to access the park’s entrances.

Places to Stay Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a variety of camping options within the park itself, but there are also numerous accommodations and campgrounds available in nearby towns. Here are some places to stay or camp near Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  • Campgrounds in the Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park has several campgrounds offering tent and RV camping, including Elkmont Campground, Cades Cove Campground, and Smokemont Campground. These campgrounds offer various amenities, including restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak season.
  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Gatlinburg is a popular tourist town located just outside the park’s northern entrance. It offers a wide range of accommodations, including hotels, motels, cabins, and vacation rentals. Visitors can choose from budget-friendly options to luxury resorts, with many properties offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: Pigeon Forge is another nearby town with plenty of lodging options. From hotels and motels to cabins and condos, visitors can find accommodations to suit every budget and preference. Pigeon Forge also offers a variety of attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options for visitors to enjoy.
  • Cherokee, North Carolina: Cherokee is located near the park’s southern entrance and offers a range of accommodations, including hotels, motels, and campgrounds. Visitors can explore Cherokee’s rich Native American heritage, including the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.
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Best Time to Go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park



Summer is the busiest time of year in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, attracting visitors with long days, warm temperatures, and abundant outdoor activities. June through August offer opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and scenic drives along the park’s winding roads.

While daytime temperatures can be hot and humid, evenings offer pleasant conditions for exploring the park’s trails and attending ranger-led programs or cultural events.



Winter transforms Great Smoky Mountains National Park into a peaceful and serene wonderland, blanketed in snow and devoid of crowds. While some roads and facilities may close due to inclement weather, visitors can still enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife viewing in the quieter months.

The park’s lower elevations offer mild winter conditions, while higher elevations may experience snow and ice, creating a stunning contrast of landscapes within the park.



Spring is a delightful time to visit the park, as the landscape bursts to life with vibrant wildflowers, budding trees, and rushing waterfalls. April and May are particularly spectacular, with the reawakening of nature and the return of migratory birds.

Visitors can enjoy mild temperatures, fewer crowds, and the chance to witness the emergence of newborn wildlife, making it an ideal season for hiking, wildlife viewing, and enjoying the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

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Must-See Attractions

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Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a picturesque valley in the park, known for its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife. Visitors can explore the 11-mile loop road by car, bicycle, or on foot, passing historic homesteads, churches, and scenic views of the surrounding mountains.

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park, offering panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains and beyond. Visitors can reach the summit via a paved trail leading to an observation tower, providing stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

Newfound Gap

On the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Newfound Gap offers stunning views of the Smoky Mountains and is a popular starting point for hikes along the Appalachian Trail. The Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap commemorates the park’s dedication.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Plan Ahead

Check Park Alerts and Conditions

Before you go, check the park’s website or contact the visitor centers for current conditions, road closures, and any alerts or advisories. This will help you plan your visit and be prepared for any changes in weather or trail conditions.

Pack Appropriately

Pack Essentials

Be sure to pack essential items such as water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, a map, and a first aid kit. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather, as conditions can change quickly in the mountains.

Respect Wildlife

Be Bear Aware

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a healthy population of black bears. Keep a safe distance from bears and other wildlife, store food properly in bear-proof containers or lockers, and never feed or approach wildlife.

Stay Informed

Stay on Designated Trails

While exploring the park, stick to designated trails to protect fragile vegetation and avoid getting lost or injured. Be cautious near cliff edges, waterfalls, and steep terrain, and supervise children and pets at all times.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The park is beautiful year-round, but the most popular times to visit are during the spring and fall. Spring offers blooming wildflowers and mild temperatures, while fall brings stunning foliage colors.

No, Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not charge entrance fees. It is one of the few national parks in the United States that is free to enter.

Information about camping in the park, including campground locations, fees, and reservations, can be found on the park’s website or by contacting the visitor centers.

Some popular hiking trails in the park include Laurel Falls, Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte, Abrams Falls, and the Appalachian Trail.

Yes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a healthy population of black bears. Visitors should be bear-aware and follow proper food storage and safety precautions.

No, drones are not allowed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The use of drones is prohibited to protect wildlife, prevent disturbance to visitors, and preserve the park’s natural and cultural resources.

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