Most of your forays into Great Smoky Mountains National Park will happen by car, driving certain roads purely for their stunning scenic beauty, and also to get to various places to park and immediately immerse into nature, whether taking a trail or hitting a picnic site or other attraction. This guide will help you navigate those roads.
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Here is a brief guide to several distinct areas in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, useful for the new visitor to get oriented to some of the special places and scenic natural features. Visitors to the Smoky Mountains return year after year, and discover their favorite places, gradually learning many of the countless things to do and to see in the Gatlinburg area. Here are some of the more notable.
As summer temperatures heat up, this is a great time to look for ways to stay cool. Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding area provide plenty of opportunities to go swimming for fun, relaxation and an escape from the heat. When you visit the park, keep in mind that there are more than 2,000 miles of streams, as well as creeks near hiking trails, picnic areas and scenic drives.
It’s a good idea to bring dry socks, towels and plastic bags for wet clothes when you go hiking in the park. You’ll also find waterfalls with swimming holes in the park, but you should always check for warning signs first to make sure they’re safe. Avoid swimming in any areas where warning signs are posted.
Most people only have a few days to explore the lifetime’s worth of things to do and see in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Gatlinburg and the surrounding area, so here are the hot spots and highlights of the national park to save you time and point you to the best.
The most visited national park in the United States is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the bustling town of Gatlinburg serving as its principal gateway. The national park is recognized internationally as a unique biosphere, and is home to over 100 species of trees, some in old-growth forests, as well as a vast array of wildflowers, wildlife, and scenic attractions.
With more than 2,000 miles of streams and flowing waters, including many magnificent waterfalls, the park offers abundant fishing and rafting opportunities. The more than 800 miles of hiking trails afford access to achingly beautiful mountain vistas and natural scenic views, while practically every drive in the park and surrounding area constitutes a lovely scenic drive in its own right.
Even with a world of entertainment and relaxation right there in your vacation cabin, if you want to get outdoors and explore, there are many easy ways. You can get close to many scenic wonders and still remain in your car, as well as sample many easy walks and other ways to enjoy Great Smoky Mountains National Park without a lot of effort – and all of it is free of charge.
So here’s our Big List of outdoor adventures in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.
Local broadcaster WBIR Channel 10 News has footage of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a recent story showing the dramatic recovery of the forests, following the wildfires of 19 months ago in the Gatlinburg, TN area. As the interview with the park’s fire ecologist Rob Klein makes clear, this is a great example of how quickly forests can snap back and regenerate with new life following a wildfire.
According to the story, 70 percent of the areas affected by the fires of November, 2016, are recovering very rapidly. Hundreds of brand-new Table Mountain Pine trees have already shot up to around 2 feet in height. Within a couple more years, says Klein, it will be difficult to see that these areas were even burned. In fact, entire areas will become transformed into new forests over the next decade.
This is all good news, and it’s quite astonishing to see the images of before and after in various parts of the national park.
On August 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will occur, moving on a path across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, and passing through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee around 1:30 in the afternoon. If you want to watch the eclipse, either in person or by live stream, here’s everything you need to know.
The entire western half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park falls within the travel of the eclipse, and rangers have organized some optimum-viewing areas inside the park. There are also numerous opportunities in other parts of the park and the region to catch this rare event, not seen in the U.S. since 1979.
Saturday night, October 8, 2016, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is allowing people into Cades Cove for a special Star Gazing evening. Normally the Cove is closed at night, but it opens up for a Star Party! Cades Cove has the lowest ambient light level in the area – one more thing that makes it special – and there’s a lot of sky that can be seen.
The cloud cover should be all gone and the stars should be amazing. Experts on hand with telescopes will show you a sky you may never have known. Check the Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society Facebook page for updates, and call 865-448-4104 Saturday to confirm the event is on – last minute weather changes can cancel these events suddenly.
Ugh. The situation in the Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge area on this October 1, 2013 morning is that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed. Highways: US 441 remains open. The Spur and Gatlinburg bypass remain open. The Park itself is still accessible to drive through. (more…)
Cute shot of an old scene at Cades Cove… (more…)