National Parks
Fun and Exciting Things to Do Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fun and Exciting Things to Do Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park stretches from the Pigeon River to the Little Tennessee River. Among the prominent peaks are Clingman’s Dome, Mount Chapman, Mount Collins, Mount Sterling, Mount Guyot, Thunderhead Mountain, Blanket Mountain, Mount Cammerer, Mount Le Conte, Old Black Mountain, Shuckstack Mountain, and Chimney Tops.

great Smokey mountains

They earned the name “Smoky Mountains” due to the natural fog that envelops them, creating the illusion of smoke plumes when viewed from afar. This fog arises from the warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico, which cools quickly at higher elevations, especially in the mornings or after rainfall. These majestic mountains span the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Geography of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province, the International Biosphere Reserve, and are a World Heritage Site containing the largest old-growth forests east of the Mississippi River, unique Appalachian Mountain cove forests full of high populations of wild animals, the largest Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests, a wide variety of wildflowers, the largest black bear population in the eastern part of the country, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most popularly visited Park in the United States.

National Register of Historic Places

Seventy-eight Appalachian buildings including Roaring Fork, the community of Elkmont, the Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church, the Beech Grove School, an assortment of well-known cabins, springhouses, museums, corncribs, hogpens, and other Appalachian life structures, nine industrial locations, and five historic districts scattered among the mountain’s valleys and coves, are found on the National Register of Historic Places.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park rattlesnake

White-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, European Bears, Indiana Bats, Northern Flying Squirrels, elk, river otters, wild turkeys, hummingbirds, chickadees, Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, warblers, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, whippoorwills, woodpeckers, owls, rattlesnakes, copperheads, five of the world’s thirty-one species of salamanders, including Jordan’s Redlegged Salamanders that are only found in the Smoky Mountains, rainbow trout, darters, shiners, bass, and several other animals can all be found in the Smokey Mountains.


With settlements known to have existed at Chilhowee, Tallassee, Tanasi, Chota, and Kittowa, believed to be their oldest village, Oconaluftee, their only permanent settlement that was located within the boundaries of the National Park area, and many other locations, Native American Cherokee Indians have lived in the Smoky Mountains since Prehistoric times and given several mountains Cherokee names including Duniskwalgundi, meaning “forked antlers,” for Chimney Tops, Tsitsuyi, meaning “rabbit place,” for Gregory Bald Mountain, and Kuwaiti, “meaning “mulberry place,” for Clingman’s Dome.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

One of the most favorite sights to see in the Smoky Mountains National Park, and known for the echo the Roaring Fork stream makes on the surrounding mountain ridges, the eight-mile long Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail passes by the 1800 to 1810 Roaring Fork Historic District.

roaring fork motor nature trail
Photo Credit: Hiking In the Smoky Mountains

The first permanent European settlement in the White Oak Flats area of Gatlinburg, a National Register of Historic Places site, the Ephraim Bales farm site and dog-trot cabin that remains largely intact from the way it was built in the early 1900s, the Jim Bales farm, the first historic stop on the Nature Trail, the Alex Cole cabin, the last remaining Sugarlands community structure, the Alfred Reagan farm, and sawboard cabin, one of the most famous historical buildings in the Smoky Mountains, the Noah Ogle saddlebag cabin with the last remaining four-pen barn, and last remaining tub mill, found in the Park, and the Junglebrook Historic District.

Cades Cove Driving Tour

Found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s western section near Townsend, the Cades Cove Driving Tour is an eleven-mile-long loop that can take as many as six hours to complete depending on the time of day and the volume of tourists on the one-lane one-way road, that typically exceeds two million of them each year enjoying the historic buildings, abundant wildlife, and scenic beauty of the route.

Clingman’s Dome

Standing 6643 feet tall Clingman’s Dome, on the Appalachian Trail, is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and contains panoramic views in all directions, a summit full of Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests, two sub-peaks, Mount Buckley and Mount Love, the headwaters of the Little River and the Tuckasegee River, and the base of the Sugarland Mountain, the Forney Ridge, the Mountain-to-Sea, and the Forney Creek Hiking Trails.

Grotto Falls Trillium Gap Trail

The Grotto Falls Trillium Gap Trail, behind the twenty-five-foot high waterfall of the same name, provides a cool, damp three-mile roundtrip hike through a hemlock forest from Gatlinburg to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, with five stops along the way, and is the only walk-behind waterfall trail in the Park.

Laurel Falls

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Laurel Falls
Photo Credit: Tripadvisor

Named for the mountain laurels that grow abundantly in the area, and containing a two-and-a-half-mile long roundtrip paved hiking trail, the eighty-foot tall Laurel Falls, found in the Cherokee National Forest, and one of the most popular locations in the Park remains full of tourists all year round especially on weekends and in the Summer.

Alum Cave Trail

Considered the shortest, steepest, and most scenic of the five hiking trails leading through old-growth hemlock and yellow birch forests to the summit of Mount Le Conte, the Alum Cave Trail possesses several famous landmarks including Inspiration Point, the Eye of the Needle, a round, see-through hole in the side of Little Duck Hawk Ridge, the natural Arch Rock, Gracie’s Pulpit, the LeConte Lodge with its ten rustic cabins, the 4950-foot tall Alum Cave Bluffs with views of West Point, High Top, Cliff Tops, that is famous for watching sunsets, Mrytle Point, that is well known for seeing the sunrise, and the Dolly Parton Peaks.

Mount Sterling

Crowning Mount Sterling’s seven-mile ridge from Big Cataloochee Mountain to the Pigeon River Valley, with a summit of Southern-Appalachian spruce-fir forests, the five-mile long Mount Sterling Ridge Trail between Laurel Gap and Mount Sterling, the Baxter Creek Trail, the Pretty Hollow Gap Trail, and the Swallow Fork Trail, Mount Sterling is famous for providing some of the most scenic views in the Smoky Mountains including those of Mount Cammerer, Mount Guyot, Mount Le Conte, Low Gap, Cataloochee Mountain, and Baxter Creek.

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Tail of the Dragon Scenic Drive

Found along the Tennessee and North Carolina state line, the Tail of the Dragon Scenic Drive at Deals Gap, one of the most popular motorcycles and sports car routes in the United States, is full of bears, wild turkeys, wild boars, and famous features such as The Hump, Cattail Straight, the Fugitive Bridge, the Cheoah Dam, the Tabcat Creek Bridge, The Slide Curves, and the Crossroads Of Time.

Chimney Tops

Offering scenic views of Mount Kephart, Mount Le Conte, Sugarland Mountain, the Sugarlands Valley, and one of the Park’s most popular hiking locations, Chimney Tops is a double-capstone, bare rock summit on Sugarland Mountain’s eastern slope that resembles deer antlers, and features the Road Prong Trail, one of the oldest in the Smoky Mountains, and the Chimney Tops Trail, the most commonly accessed way of reaching the mountain’s peak.