Great Smoky Mountains National Park which lies along the common border of Tennessee and North Carolina,
form a majestic climax to the Appalachian Highlands. With outlines softened by
a forest mantle, the mountains stretch away to remote horizons in sweeping
troughs that recede to evenness in the distance. And shrouding the peaks is a smokelike mist that rises from the dense plant growth. The mountains get their
name from this deep blue mist.
The park’s boundary wraps around 800 square miles of mountain wilderness, most
of it virtually unspoiled. Many peaks rise above 6,000 feet. A great variety of
trees, shrubs, herbs and other plants are nourished by the fertile land and
heavy rainfall and rushing streams. The Great Smoky Mountains Park contains more than 700
miles of rivers and streams, over 200,000 acres of virgin forests, and over 850
miles of trails. It is the most visited national park with over 9,000,000
visitors a year.
From Asheville it will take you a number of hours to get to the border of the
park where you will want to check in at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in
Cherokee. Although there are many opportunities to drive through the park, the
most rewarding experiences are found along the trails. More than 650 miles of
horse and foot trails wind along the crystal clear streams and waterfalls, past
forest giants that have been living for hundreds of years, through the wild
beauty of flower-filled coves and into high mountain meadows. One of the most
popular attractions in the park is
Cades Cove, a lush beautiful valley complete with restored historic
The park offers guided nature walks as well as self-guided tours.
Copies of maps and schedules are available at Visitors Centers and
at all ranger stations. Highly recommended auto tours include the Roaring Fork Auto Tour, the Newfound Gap
Road Auto Tour, the
Cades Cove Auto Tour and the Cataloochee Auto Tour.
Self-guided tour books are available and will enrich your stops at the many
historical sites and natural wonders along the way.
Appalachian Scenic National
Trail, which stretches from
Maine to Georgia, enters the park near the eastern boundary. Straddling the
boundary line of two states, it zigzags a course for 71 miles along the crest of
some of the highest peaks and ultimately leaves the park again at Fontana Dam.
If you wish to hike the full distance in the park, you can cover the 71 miles in
6 to 8 days. Trailside shelters and campsites are spaced about a day’s journey
Many other horse and foot trails are scattered throughout the
park. There are short, self-guiding trails that are perfect for
beginners. Just pick up a leaflet at the start of each trail. A
backcountry-use permit, required for all overnight hiking parties,
can be obtained free at ranger stations or visitors centers.
There are ten developed campgrounds in the park; fees are charged at each.
Reservations are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont and Smokemont from May 15 to
October 31; they can be made by calling 800-365-2267. Sites may be reserved
up to three months in advance. All other campgrounds are first-come,
first-serve. Cosby and Look Rock campgrounds rarely fill up. Campgrounds have
tent sites, limited trailer space, water, fireplaces, tables and restrooms.
There are no showers or hookups for trailers.
No more than six people may occupy a campsite. Two tents or one RV and one tent
are allowed per site. The camping limit is seven days between May 15 and October
31, and 14 days between November 1 and May 14. Some campgrounds close in winter.
Sewage disposal stations are located at Smokemont, Cades Cove, Deep Creek and
Cosby campgrounds, and across from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. They are not
available for use in the winter.
(accessible by trail only) provides the only lodging in the park.
Call 423-429-5704 for more information on this secluded retreat.
Saddle horses are available from April 1 to October 31 at
Cades Cove, Smokemont,
Deep Creek (near Greenbrier on U.S. 321), and near park
headquarters. Bicycles are permitted on park roads but prohibited on
all trails except Gatlinburg,
Oconaluftee River, and lower Deep Creek. Bicycles may be rented from the Cades
Cove Store, near the Cades Cove Campground.
One of the most biologically diverse regions in all of North
America, the Park has been designated an
International Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO “Man in
the Biosphere” program. Within its boundaries there are over 1500 species of
flowering plants; 100 different types of trees; 600 mosses, lichens and
liverworts; 50 species of mammals including black bears, whitetail deer,
raccoons, foxes, bobcats, opossum, coyotes, and possibly cougars; more than 80
types of snakes and amphibians; and 70 kinds of fish from small colorful darters
to brook, brown and rainbow trout. And over 200 kinds of birds have been
observed within the park borders. Bring along your bird book and binoculars; the
Great Smokies are a bird-watcher’s paradise.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formally dedicated on February 6, 1930
by both Tennessee and North Carolina governors. Its mission continues today, to
preserve and protect the wild beauty and natural charm of the Great Smoky
Mountains for all time.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: West of
Distance: 2-3 hours from Asheville
Address: Headquarters: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park
Headquarters Rd., Gatlinburg, TN 37738. There are three visitor centers that
help orient visitors and provide maps and information: Sugarlands (Tennessee
Cades Cove (Near the western entrance of the park), and Oconaluftee (in
North Carolina). Oconaluftee is the nearest entrance to Asheville. Oconaluftee
Visitor Center: 150 Hwy. 441 N., Cherokee, NC 28719.
Telephone: General Information 423-436-1200
Back Country Information 423-436-1297
Oconaluftee Visitor Center: 423-497-1900
Park Headquarters: 423-436-1294
Campground Reservations: 800-365-2267
Hours: Visitor Centers open daily except Christmas. Winter: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Summer: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Hours vary depending on time of year.
Fees: None to enter park. Fees are charged at developed campgrounds and for
certain special programs.
Camping: There are ten developed campgrounds in the park including
Cades Cove in
Tennessee and Smokemont in North Carolina, which are open year-round. The other
developed campgrounds are generally open from late March or April to early
November. Fees range from $10-$15 per night. Backcountry camping, on the other
hand, is free but requires a permit. Most campsites use self-registration at
visitor centers or ranger stations, but shelters and rationed sites require
reservations. Reservations can be made 30 days in advance by calling 423-436-1231 or
800-365-2267 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. any day of the week.
LeConte Lodge, which is accessible only by foot or horseback, sits atop
6,593-foot tall Mt. LeConte. This is the Park’s third highest peak. Reservations
are required and can be made by calling 423-429-5704. The lodge is open
mid-March to mid-November. A variety of lodging facilities are available in the
Of Note: The most visited National Park in America. Hosts the
International Biosphere Reserve and the
World Heritage Site. Elevations in the park range from
800-6643 feet and topography affects local weather. Temperatures are 10-20
degrees cooler on the mountaintops. Annual precipitation averages 65 inches in
lowlands to 88 inches in high country. Spring often brings unpredictable
weather, particularly in higher elevations. Summer is hot and humid, but more
pleasant in higher elevations. Fall has warm days and cool nights and is the
driest period. Frosts occur starting in late September and continue into April.
Winter is generally moderate, but extreme conditions become more likely as
Tips: In summer time the park is heavily visited. Expect long lines during this
season. Late spring is a great time to visit because of the wildflowers,
pleasant weather, and absence of crowds. The Great Smoky Mountains are vast. Plan
your trip carefully. Write or call ahead for information to help in planning.
During the summer and fall, the park provides regularly scheduled ranger-led
interpretive walks and talks, slide presentations, and campfire programs at
campgrounds and visitor centers.
Cherokee Indian Reservation,
Nantahala National Forest.
Friends of the Smokies
160 South Main Street, Waynesville NC
Great Smoky Mountains National Park 107 Park Headquarters Road,
Gatlinburg TN 37778; 865-435-1200
National Park Service, Department of the Interior National Park
Service, 1849 C Street NW, Washington DC 20240; 202-208-6843
Appalachian Scenic National
Trail (National Park Service)
Appalachian National Scenic Trail, PO Box 50, Harpers Ferry WV
Directions: From Asheville, take I-40 West to Exit 27. Follow Hwy. 19 South to
Cherokee. In Cherokee, take 441 North and follow signs to the park entrance.