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4.7
128 votes

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738 USA

Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Fri 12a-12a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
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“America's most visited National Park”

Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.

Snow falls infrequently in the park's foothills, but at high elevation, snow is more common. Feel the cool spray of a waterfall. Camp under the stars. Explore a historic grist mill. There's plenty to see and do in the park!

Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years-from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century.

The park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home.

Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which encompasses over 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park's amazing diversity of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Over 17,000 species have been documented in the park: Scientists believe an additional 30,000-80,000 species may live here. 

Why such a wondrous diversity? Mountains, glaciers, and weather are the big reasons. The park is the largest federally protected upland landmass east of the Mississippi River. Dominated by plant-covered, gently contoured mountains, the crest of the Great Smokies forms the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina, bisecting the park from northeast to southwest in an unbroken chain that rises more than 5,000 feet for over 36 miles. Elevations in the park range from 875 to 6,643 feet. This range in altitude mimics the latitudinal changes you would experience driving north or south across the eastern United States, say from Georgia to Maine. Plants and animals common in the southern United States thrive in the lowlands of the Smokies while species common in the northern states find suitable habitat at the higher elevations. 

The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world, formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago. They are unique in their northeast to southwest orientation, which allowed species to migrate along their slopes during climatic changes such as the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. In fact, the glaciers of the last ice age affected the Smoky Mountains without invading them. During that time, glaciers scoured much of North America but did not quite reach as far south as the Smokies. Consequently, these mountains became a refuge for many species of plants and animals that were disrupted from their northern homes. The Smokies have been relatively undisturbed by glaciers or ocean inundation for over a million years, allowing species eons to diversify. 

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Reviewed by
Greg Newkirk

  • Expert
  • 316 Reviews
  • 309 Helpful
July 7, 2014

If anything can be said about the Smoky Mountains, it's that they're beautiful no matter what time of year you visit. Some of the best blooms in the spring and a gorgeous, bright orange fall.

Head to Cade's Cove if you want to take in some wildlife in the forest, or for a really spectacular view, head to Clingman's Dome. At almost 7k feet up, it provides absolutely stunning scenery.

Loads of great hiking to get a workout and swimming holes to cool down. The best part? The park is FREE. Fun fact: The Smoky's are the most visited National Park in America. One visit and you'll understand why.

16 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Austin Coop

  • Road Warrior
  • 493 Reviews
  • 392 Helpful
July 12, 2014

People on here keep saying you can't pick a bad time to go, but you can pick the BEST time to go: the fall. Sure, it'll be busy, but it'll be beautiful. Let me clue you in on a secret place to visit: Elkmont. It's an abandoned resort/campground within the park. There's also a few abandoned cabin villages to explore that are super creepy and fun!

14 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Heather.Jean

  • 5 Reviews
  • 15 Helpful
August 14, 2014

The Great Smoky Mountains National park is a beautiful example of America's astounding natural scenery. Although there really isn't a bad time of year to visit, I would highly recommend visiting in the fall when the trees start to change. The fall colors are amazing, and you really feel like you are stepping back in history to a time when this country was less populated and more natural and wild. You can enjoy just a day trip driving through and taking in the natural beauty from your car, or you could easily spend several days camping and exploring some of the hidden gems of the park. If you really want to get the full sense of the majesty of the park, I'd recommend visiting the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point in the park. Stunning views! There is even a paved path that is a relatively easy hike. Cades Cove is also definitely worth visiting, with many historical log cabins, barns, churches, and other buildings.

9 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Scott Paul Dunham

  • 1 Review
  • 7 Helpful
June 3, 2014

The Smoky's are amazing! From natural to man made wonders, these mountains are something every real American should visit.

7 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Nick Philpott

  • Road Warrior
  • 161 Reviews
  • 115 Helpful
July 11, 2014

I climbed one of the peaks in the smokies when I was in high school, with a church group, and I've gotta say, the majesty of church didn't stick with me, but the majesty of the mountains and the mist certainly did.

5 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
RhondaSamplesBelcher

  • 11 Reviews
  • 8 Helpful
September 8, 2014

Cades Cove...one if the best places in the US to feel like you have been transported back in time.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
maurah60

  • 1 Review
  • 4 Helpful
September 6, 2014

GSM was one of the best trips I've taken. Went in August and saw signs of autumn. The views from Alum Cave Bluff, Mt. LeConte and Clingman's Dome are breathtaking! I was to go back in the fall.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
BreaRose24

  • 1 Review
  • 4 Helpful
July 24, 2014

I absolutely love the Smokey Mountains park. It's beautiful anytime of year.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Tatiana Danger

  • Road Warrior
  • 1,161 Reviews
  • 595 Helpful
July 12, 2014

Honestly, you can't pick a bad time to go. In summer the whole park is lush and green. In the fall, it's covered in fiery foliage. In winter it becomes a blanked white wonderland. And in spring, the flowers bloom. If you want to see fall colors the best viewing times are between the last week in October and first week in November. To see wildflowers, best to visit between April and May. The Smoky Mountains are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they are incredibly awe-inspiring. If you happen to be staying in Gatlinburg (which is about an hour away), DEFINITELY make the trek to the Smokys! You won't be disappointed.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
sunshinepetrescue

  • 2 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
October 5, 2014

I grew up in the Smoky mountains in the 70's before big time commercialism took over. It was a spiritual place for me. As a family we camped and hiked there. There is nowhere more beautiful than Rocky Top or Clingmans dome in this world.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Chris Spinney Long

  • Tour Guide
  • 173 Reviews
  • 192 Helpful
August 31, 2014

Beautifully underrated if you ask me. As an Cincinnatian it's a shame you don't hear more about this wonderful National Park that's only a short trip away. It's also got some of the best beginner hiking trails in this here United States.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
StuffyNazelbaum

  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
November 2, 2014

The traffic in Cades Cove is terrible, the restrooms in the park are really nasty. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are a joke, if you must subject yourself to the smoky's get there via Townsend Tn and stay in Townsend.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
joy.harmon01

  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
October 6, 2014

Thank you for the inspirational words and the clarity of descriptions! I'm going

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Jei

  • 29 Reviews
  • 29 Helpful
September 8, 2014

Its breathtaking. I'll be definitely coming back to this wonderful park!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Cullen Brown

  • Expert
  • 100 Reviews
  • 115 Helpful
September 4, 2014

I'm always reminded of the last lines in Cormac McCarthy's 2006 novel "The Road" when visiting this place:

"Once there were brook trouts in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

Such a beautiful, surreal place.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
tao4mike

  • 4 Reviews
  • 6 Helpful
August 23, 2014

I return here often to recharge spiritually...

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
dmcnary

  • 10 Reviews
  • 6 Helpful
June 19, 2016

Wow! What a gorgeous park! If you're in the area, drive through it on 441 at the very least. Plenty of spots to pull over and stretch, hike, selfie, etc. Traffic, cyclists and pedestrians not ideal for someone in a rush, though. Lots of nice, clean information centers and stores for snacks and souvenirs, too.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
CarolLynnMickey

  • 14 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
August 9, 2015

I have to say... I love our trip to GSM! Pack your lunch and head to an area that the local people know about! There is much to see and do. Start early and get back late. The sunrise and sunsets are amazing!!!!!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Mr.Disc

  • 26 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
July 7, 2015

Great place for family or just to get away! Around every turn is something else to see!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
juliehart08

  • 6 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
March 11, 2015

MUST SEE! Unbelievable views and great drive... Just make sure u are ready to drive a little longer than u planned that day it can take a few hours but well worth it. Saw laurel falls and did cades cove and they were absolutely beautiful.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Agnes

  • 66 Reviews
  • 45 Helpful
October 8, 2014

The Smoky Mountains remind me of everything good in life.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Dana Newkirk

  • Road Warrior
  • 299 Reviews
  • 305 Helpful
September 30, 2014

This is my favorite drive in the country. It doesn't matter what the season is (although I prefer the fall) it is quite possibly one of the most scenic and beautiful views. Make sure not to try to get through the mountains at night because you'll miss out on seeing all the gorgeousness!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Johanna Flato

  • Expert
  • 145 Reviews
  • 95 Helpful
September 26, 2014

The Smokies are breath-taking. The mountains are considered the oldest mountains in the world. They used to be taller than the Himalayas--imagine that! They've just been weathered down.

They are also overlaid with fascinating stories and histories. The park started in 1926 and was dedicated in 1934, and much of the trails and engineering were done as depression-era CCC projects.

There is no entry fee, which is unusual. This is because there were already people living in the park. The later addition of the $4 backcountry fee/camping fee incited a bit of an uproar.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Othergeneration

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
January 18, 2017

Worth seeing during all 4 seasons. But plan your trip accordingly during the winter as some of the roads leading up and into the mountains can be closed due to ice/snow.

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Reviewed by
breneudamm2017

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
January 8, 2017

Simply some of the most beautiful scenic drives through these beautiful mountains

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Reviewed by
Tina

  • 5 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 30, 2016

Never a disappointment! The Smoky Mountains are just beautiful. They have many trails for all abilities and scenic drives. We drove the mountains through to Carolina and it was a great drive. You can't beat the natural beauty here. A must see!!!

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Reviewed by
kali.mcdaniel.37

  • 2 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
May 25, 2016

Love this place! I spent my 21st birthday there thanks to my inlaws, along with family gatherings. Absolutely loved the iceskateing and aquarium

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Reviewed by
robincoult

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
May 25, 2016

The Smoky Mountains have always been my favorite vacation spot. I hold a warm spot in my heart for them. There is no place like it. You will see why it is the most visited National Park in America when you go. There is a calm damp hush over the campgrounds. Count on at least one rain storm on your trip. sometimes one a day. But that's what makes it special... lush, mossy, streams to cross and play in. trails that can challenge you or ones that are leisrl the early 60's when my mom and dad took us on road trips there to camp,

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Reviewed by
Alex Vile

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
April 12, 2016

Definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. All the lookouts are phenomenal. The hiking and backpacking routes are easy to follow. The only strange thing I encountered was on the trip in, going through Gatlinburg. It was super crowded and the traffic was AWFUL, but nonetheless the park itself was amazing.

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Reviewed by
BrittanyMcLamb

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
April 9, 2016

I have been going since I was a child and it's the best place ever!

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Reviewed by
TuckeredOutTravels

  • 18 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
February 3, 2016

One of the most beautiful parks in America. There is always wildlife to see in Cade's Cove. Clingmans Dome is awesome as long as the weather is cooperative.

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Reviewed by
juliehart08

  • 6 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
March 11, 2015

A MUST SEE. Added some time to our drive but well worth see Laurel Falls and Cades cove

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Reviewed by
CharissaWidman

  • 4 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
March 10, 2015

Beautiful visit! Loved that there was no entrance fee. There was so much to see, we barely put a dent in two days. Many beautiful hikes to waterfalls! Most hikes are at least 4-5 miles round trip. We enjoyed coming this time of year, because the snow was melting, making lots of mini falls all over the park.

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Reviewed by
Luisa

  • 332 Reviews
  • 163 Helpful
September 30, 2014

I hear Cades Cove Valley offers some pretty amazing hiking and views. Not far from Pigeon Forge if for some reason you get tired of the overwhelmingly beautiful natural surroundings.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
37738 USA

Hours

Open 24 hours today
  • Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 12:00 am

Is there a problem with this listing? Let us know.

  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • No Wifi
  • Street Parking
  • Private Parking

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