The most visited national park in the United States, the Smoky Mountains boast over 9 million visits per year! This subrange of the Appalachian Mountains stretches along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
Home to approximately 187,000 acres of natural beauty and tons of fun sights and activities for all ages, the smoky mountains are the perfect destination for your next trip! Here are some of the most popular sights in the national park.
Probably the highest rated sight in the Great Smoky Mountains, Clingman’s Dome is not for the faint of heart! The Dome is not only the highest place in the Smokies, but it is the highest point in all of Tennessee soaring 6,684 feet above sea levels. A half-mile hike brings you to the 54-foot observation tower located along the state-line ridge separating Tennessee and North Carolina. On clear, pollution-free days, the view can reach over 100 miles and seven states. Wow!
Before it became part of the national park we know today, Cade’s Cove was home to a community of farmers who worked the land. The Cove is an isolated valley nestled in the Smokies and is one of the most popular destinations in the park. All 11-mile, one way loop circles the Cove – perfect for leisurely drives, bike rides, or even a hike! One of the best locations for wildlife viewing in the park, woodland creatures such as white-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, and even the occasional coyote or black bear can be spotted year-round. Rent a cabin or pitch a tent!
The single most popular attraction in the park via trail, this 80-foot high waterfall is named after mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub that can be seen along the trail in bloom in May. Make sure to pack your hiking boots because this steep trail, although paved, is 2.6 miles roundtrip and is considered “moderate” in terms of difficulty. Bicycles and pets may be prohibited, but keep your eyes peeled for the black bears that are often active in this area!
In Appalachian vernacular, a “gap” is a low point in a mountain range. Because it is nearly a mile high, the Gap is significantly cooler than its surroundings (often by 10˚F!) and receives much more snow (on average, 69 inches worth!). It is for this reason that the Newfound Gap road earned the title of one of “America’s Best Winter Drives.” There are plenty of pull-offs along the road, perfect to snap a few pictures and take in the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains!
“Roaring Fork” is a fitting name for this exuberant, fast-flowing mountain stream. The 5.5-mile, one way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail invites visitors to slow down and enjoy the rich history of the Smokies. Highlights along the trail include a plethora of wildflowers, as well as well-preserved mills, log cabins, and other historic buildings!
These sights are sure to make your next trip to the Smoky Mountains Great! Which are you most excited to see?