The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most exciting destinations in the North Carolina and Tennessee region. It embraces an amazing diversity of life, not to mention the picturesque points of interest that nature lovers and those who appreciate a change in scenery will truly appreciate. It is not surprising that this is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most visited national park in the United States with more than 12 million visitors in 2020. Let us give you 10 amazing reasons to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park right now!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park General Information
Office Address: Great Smoky Mountains National Park 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Operating Hours: 24 Hours
Contact Number: (865) 436-1200
Let’s start the list with the Clingmans Dome. Known as Kuwahi in the Cherokee language, which means mulberry place, the Clingmans Dome towers with an elevation of more than 2000 meters and is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Despite its high elevation, it is the most accessible mountain top in the region, thanks to the Clingmans Dome Road, which make things very convenient for aspiring campers and hikers who would like to bask under the sky against the spruce-fir forest. Don’t forget to drop by the 45-foot observation tower, which gives you an unobstructed, 360-degree view of the surroundings.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Experience the marvel of underwater adventures through majestic aquatic animals that come in all shapes and sizes! From the fascinating jellyfish, to barracudas and stingrays, to sea turtles and penguins, the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has something for every visitor. A great destination for families, this property allows safe hands-on experiences, including behind-the-scenes and, of course, touch tanks.
Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg,TN 37738
Operating Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Fridays to Sundays, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Contact Number: (865) 436-1200(865) 430-8808
For those who love prairies and open fields with the opportunity to see wildlife in their natural habitat, Cades Cove is a must. Get a glimpse of various sightings, such as ground hogs, racoons, coyotes, turkeys, and even black bears or the famed white-tailed deer. This valley is just so serene, and if you want a peaceful day with nature, Cades Cove awaits your visit.
Operating Hours: 8:00 a.m. – to 5:00 p.m. (Overnight Camping via Reservation)
Contact Number: (877) 444-6777
Laurel Falls Trail
The Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most popular destinations in the entire Great Smoky Mountains because this is the trail that leads visitors to the breathtaking Laurel Falls. You will notice that the Laurel Falls trail is perhaps the most worn down trail path in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and recent developments required the segment trail to be paved with concrete to ensure safety and prevent erosion. Visitors who choose to trek this path will be rewarded with the amazing sight of the Laurel Falls – an approximately 80-foot multi-level waterfall that looks like something straight out of a postcard. It is truly magnificent and should not be missed!
Abrams Falls Trail
Abrams Falls Trail is another popular trail that starts in Cades Cove and leads you to Abrams Falls. Interestingly enough, Abrams Falls is only approximately 20 feet high. However, what it lacks in height, it compensates with volume, offering its visitors a magnificent view of a deep pool at the base. The Abrams Falls is named after the Cherokee chief whose village was located downstream years ago.
Towering beyond 6,500 feet, Mount Le Conte is the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fondly known as LeConte, this mountain is one of the most exciting destinations to visit, especially for hikers, regardless of experience. In fact, even children can appreciate this location because there are several trail options that can make the hike more manageable. Another exciting thing about Mount LeConte is that it is the mountain with the highest inn for visitors who wish to embark on an adventure in the Eastern United States.
Alum Cave Trail
The Alum Cave Trail is an 8-kilometer trail that ascends Mount LeConte. While it is considered as an intermediate level trail, hikers will be rewarded with amazing landmarks, such as Inspiration Point, Cliff Top, and Arch Rock. At the final section of the trail, which leads to the Mount LeConte’s pinnacle, there are even more landmarks, including the very famous Gracie’s Pulpit, named after a courageous lady, Gracie McNichol, who hiked the trail on her 92nd birthday. Truly inspiring!
Rainbow Falls Trail
Another trail interconnected with Mount Le Conte and its surrounding points of interest, such as LeConte Creek and the Rainbow Falls, the Rainbow Falls Trail is a moderately challenging trail that spans almost 10 kilometers. The falls after which this trail was named, Rainbow Falls, is the highest plunge of water inside the vicinity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This trail is recommended to be visited from Spring to Fall, so you will be able to get a glimpse of the Appalachian Mountains and its awe-inspiring panorama.
This mountain pass cannot be missed. It is the home of the Rockefeller Memorial, an iconic landmark that is a must visit when you’re in the region. The Newfound Gap is a crossroad of several small hiking trails and the Appalachian Trail, and what’s interesting is how it lies along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Newfound Gap road is almost always accessible all year round, although we recommend checking out the forecast first because it has a history of rare but very heavy winter snows.
The Mingo Falls is one of the highest and most absolutely stunning waterfalls in the Appalachians. Although it has one of the shortest trails at a mere 0.4 miles, it is one of the more challenging trails that should be traversed only by experienced hikers. However, once you get there, you will be mesmerized by the waterfalls that drop a show-stopping 120 feet. That alone makes the trip worthwhile and worth checking out at least once.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the continental United States’ gift to visitors who wish to reconnect with nature. From amazing trails of varying difficulties and iconic points of interests to the flora and fauna that awaits visitors, it is not surprising why this national park is one of the best out there.