With all there is to see in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s hard to narrow the selections down to the 8 best. There’s something for everyone from the history buff to the nature enthusiast, and the sheer beauty of the area will have even cityfolk longing for the country. For a vacation you won’t forget, take a look at these 8 Reasons to Visit The Smoky Mountains.
1. Natural Wonders
The Smoky Mountains are home to countless natural wonders, with the mountains cloaking themselves in mist to entice their audience. Of those mountains, Clingman’s Dome is a must-see; it’s Tennessee’s highest point at 6,643 feet. Mount LeConte, the highest peak in the Eastern U.S. at 6,593 feet, is only accessible from 5 major trails but has rustic lodging on the mountain top. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has 11 major waterfalls: Hen Wallow Falls, Abrams Falls, Grotto Falls, Rainbow Falls, Indian Creek Falls, Juney Whank Falls, Mouse Creek Falls, Laurel Falls, Mingo Falls, Ramsey Cascades, and Tom Branch Falls, which are accessible by trails. There are two you can drive to: Place of a Thousand Drips and Meigs Falls. And for those enchanted by the tiny glowing creatures of the night, here’s a real treat-there’s the Synchronized Firefly Show that takes place around the Elkmont area in June.
2. Wildlife Viewing
The Smoky Mountains offer 10,000 documented species of animals and birds. The park is the most biologically diverse area of any in the temperate zones. You’re likely to see any number of animals, like elk, bear, turkey, boar, fox, hogs, mountain lions, deer, mink and bobcats. The best viewing happens in the morning and early evening.
3. Outdoor Sports
The Smoky Mountains are a hiker’s dream. There are over 800 miles of maintained hiking trails throughout the park, leading from tree grottos all the way to mountain tops. Some of the more notable trails are the Mt. Leconte trail, the Chimney Tops trail, and trails leading to some of the waterfalls, like the Laurel Falls trail, the Abrams Falls trail and the Ramsey Cascades trail. Whitewater rafting is popular along the rivers, and various rafting companies will set you up with the gear you need for an exciting whitewater adventure. Canoeing and kayaking are also very popular. There are over 700 miles of streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so be sure to get in a little fishing. Sporting good stores can dispense fishing licenses as well as good advice. Enjoy fly fishing for the native Appalachian Brook Trout or fish for the wild rainbow and brown trout native to the area. Fishing licenses must be displayed on the demand of authorized personnel, and state trout stamps aren’t required.
The Smoky Mountains is full of places to see for the history buff. George Vanderbilt’s 8000-acre estate is a must-see, but most historic treasures are a bit more rustic. Close to 80 historic structures have been preserved within the national park. The Mountain Farm Museum has a collection of old farm buildings, and Mingus Mill is a rehabilitated corn mill where you can buy cornmeal. The nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer museums and historical exhibits. Near the Smoky Mountains there are countless Civil War battlefields and cemeteries.
5. Car Tours
There are 11 driving trails within the main park, all sporting rivers, mountains and a few historic buildings. Campers and RV’s aren’t permitted n these driving trails. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5-mile loop featuring natural beauty plus a few log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings. The 11-mile Cades Cover loop offers rustic log houses, and old mill, cemeteries, churches and molasses making equipment. Look Rock is a 17-mile drive and has views of the Cumberland Mountains and the Tennessee River Valley. There’s a lookout tower accessible by trail, and Lake of the Sky and Chilhowee Lake are found along the route.
6. Unbelievable Rides
You can take hayrides, balloon rides, carriage rides, train rides and trolley rides, besides your ordinary car ride. Some of the horse stables in the will offer hay rides or carriage rides during harvest season, and there are a few balloon companies in the area that will give you a bird’s-eye view. You can take a trolley from Gatlinburg to Sugarlands and back for a small fee, or go on n excursion on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which offers dinner trains and a Mystery Theater dinner.
7. Seasonal Delights
There’s something delightful for every season in the Smoky Mountains. During spring, there’s the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, where blooms of all kinds can be enjoyed. In fall, there’s the changing color of the leaves to enjoy, which can be done by car or on haybale. The mountains look magical when blanketed in snow, and there’s ample opportunity to ski for winter sports enthusiasts.
8. Camping, Cabins and Picnicking
There are abundant campgrounds, both developed and rustic. Developed campgrounds have bathrooms, tables and firepits. The rustic campgrounds are accessible via trails. Picnic sites are dotted throughout the area, and have tables, grills and restroom. Cades Cove and Chimney Tops picnic areas are handicap accessible. There are some gorgeous cabins throughout the area, both rustic and quite well-equipped. The Gatlinburg cabins offer several cabin sizes, all richly appointed with all the necessities as well as luxurious diversions. Check them out here gatlinburgcabinsguide.com The Watershed cabins offer 12 nicely appointed cabins in a wooded setting.
Set out here are 8 Great Reasons to Visit The Smoky Mountains, but there are so many more. Contact the Smoky Mountain Chamber of Commerce or visit one of the many visitor centers and plan a vacation you’ll remember all your life.
Top Photo Credit: Snotgoblin