10 Reasons to Visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

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 Top 10 Reasons to Visit The Great Smoky Mountain National Park Wondering why you should pack up the family and head to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park? Besides the incredible landscapes, roaring cascades, huge rocks and chance to have a family adventure? Here are the Top 10 reasons to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park:

Morning mist covers the mountains at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Shrouded in mist: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park
  1. To go hiking. With 150 “official”  hiking trails, that’s a lot of hiking choices. Popular trails include Laurel Falls- you can get the trolley from Gatlinburg to the trailhead, Grotto Falls and Clingmans Dome. Head out early to these hikes, as the parking areas fill up fast, but don’t disregard the “Quiet Walks” signs though, they will take you on more peaceful short walks along the river. Which brings us to #2.

    Father and son bonding on the trails at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    Taking a walk on the wild side at Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
  2. To play in a creek. Who doesn’t like skipping stones across the water? Or wading through ice cool fresh running streams? Try Metcalf Bottoms picnic area for wading (they have toilet facilities there too!) There are smaller off-shoots of the main river,  where the currents aren’t as strong, for smaller kids to play. Bring a change of clothes incase you fall in, or on purpose, as in our case- The rocks can be slippery! We only did wading on our visit. Currents in the rivers and creeks can be strong, so proceed with caution & check with the visitors center for official places to swim in the area.  Fishing is permitted throughout the park, but you must have a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing permit. Get one before you come.

    Rain or shine, kids can't resist a creek!
    Cold feet-brr wading through a creek at Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
  3. To go around the backside of a waterfall. Or the front side for that matter. Grotto Falls trail allows you to see the back side of a waterfall, but we liked the front sides just as well. Check out the cascades at Chimney Tops trail- you don’t even have to climb to the top of the mountain to see them. However if you want to, that brings us to #3…

    Waterfalls were everywhere at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    Waterfalls were everywhere at throughout the park. On the trails and on the roadsides!
  4. To climb to the top of a mountain. Okay it was always my wish to sit on top of the mountain, I did that in Nepal, but you don’t have to go that far. Chimney Tops trail lets you rock climb to the top. How cool is that? However, this  extremely strenuous climb is not for small kids.

    Warning sign at Chimney Tops Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    This was the warning sign at Chimney Tops trailhead.
  5. To trek on the Appalachian Trail. With 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail winding through the park, you might just end up walking some of it, or all of it. You can pick up the trail at the top by the Newfound Gap parking area (There are toilets there but no hand washing facilities!). We also found it again during our Chimney Tops hike.

    Finding the Appalachian Trail at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    70 miles of the Appalachian Trail meander through the park. We found it- twice on our explorations.
  6. To be in two places at once. Seriously! The Tennessee/North Carolina State line runs through the parking lot at Newfound Gap. Stand in two states at once!

    Tennessee-North Carolina State Line at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    Be in two places at once- Tennessee and North Carolina at Newfound Gap.
  7. To visit an Appalachin farm. There are over 90 historic buildings in the 520,000+ acreage that comprises the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Mountain Farm Museum, a 1800’s pioneer homestead adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center by the park entrance near Cherokee. Alternatively, take the Cades Cove loop near Townsend to view the historic pioneer homes, schoolhouse and church. Mingus Mill, a working grist mill, is near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

    The Old Mill, a working grist mill in Pigeon Forge, TN
    The Old Mill in nearby Pigeon Forge is an example of a historic working grist mill of the region.
  8. To see a bear. And while you are exploring the 4,000 acres that makes up Cades Cove, you might even see a bear. The National Park has over 1,500 black bears roaming through its wild lands. I must confess, though we saw many a bear in Townsend, Gatlinburg and even Pigeon Forge, they were all carved from wood. The only bear we happened to see was at the museum in the Sugarland’s Visitor Center by the Gatlinburg entrance. (They had a cool fox there too). But not seeing a bear is not a bad thing, as the park website has warnings about the bears being particularly active this time of the year. So if you plan to stay the night, hang the food or lock it in the trunk of your car and check out #9.

    Does this bear make me look fat? The General Store, Old Mill District, Pigeon Forge
    We saw bears everywhere except in the National Park, like this one at the General Store in Pigeon Forge.
  9. To go camping. With 10 campsites throughout the park, you can bring  the camper, the pop up tent and camp near your car or even hoof it to the back country. It’s a good idea to reserve your campsite before you arrive, as this one of the most visited National parks in the United States, with 10 million visitors a year! Backcountry camping requires a permit obtainable through the National Park website.

    Camping- stock photo from AdventuresOfMom.com
    Camping out- from stock photo files of Adventures of Mom
  10. Because it’s free. Saving the best for last, this might be why they have so many visitors, also because it is incredibly accessible from so many places and unbelievably beautiful.
    So beautiful it hurts- landscapes at Great Smoky Mountain National Park
    Experience the roar of the cascades. Bridge over whitewater rapids at Chimney Tops Trail. All FREE!

    Other stories in the area that might interest you:

Riding the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad from Bryson City

Hanging out at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center)

The Epic Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, Pigeon Forge

Outdoor Gravity Park, Pigeon Forge

Riding the Rails at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge



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  1. //

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park indeed is a treasure. It’s the people’s park, because private interests (the public) bought the land and gave it to the National Park Service. It now is America’s most visited national park.

    Enjoy and treasure our national parks. The park system’s centennial is in 2016.

    1. //

      I can understand why so many people visit the park- it is breathtaking! By far one of the world’s most beautiful places! We are thinking about camping on our next trip there.

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