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  • Writer's pictureBrian Childress

Smoky Mountains National Park - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an American national park in the southeastern United States, with parts in Tennessee and North Carolina. The park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The park contains some of the highest mountains in eastern North America, including Clingmans Dome, Mount Guyot, and Mount Le Conte. The border between the two states runs northeast to southwest through the center of the park. The Appalachian Trail passes through the center of the park on its route from Georgia to Maine. With well over 12 million visitors per year, Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of the national parks.

The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441(Newfound Gap Road) in the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina, and also in Townsend, Tennessee. The park is internationally recognized for its mountains, waterfalls, biodiversity, and spruce-fir forests. In addition, the park also preserves multiple historical structures that were part of communities occupied by early European-American settlers of the area.

As the most visited national park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park anchors a large tourism industry based in Sevier County, Tennessee adjacent to the park. Major attractions include Dollywood, the second-most visited tourist attraction in Tennessee, Ober Gatlinburg, and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.

Wildlife to expect include salamanders, coyotes, deer, black bears, bobcats, and elk.

We visited the park in the summer months and drove through Cades Cove on the Tennessee side of the park. We observed the black bear and cubs along with other wildlife. Because of the timeframe, there were significant crowds and expect a traffic jam along the roads if wildlife like the black bear or elk are spotted.

While we were there, a tourist got within 6 feet of a mother black bear who had 3-4 cubs. Please, please heed the warnings of the park rangers and stay at least 50 yards away from wildlife.

If you visit this park, plan several days there because of the scenic driving trail and many hiking trails. It highly advisable to avoid the summer months as again; this is the most visited of the national parks. Keep in mind that many travel to the Gatlinburg Area for the many entertainment facilities outside the park and then they travel inside the park based on simple convenience. These outside entertainment locations are above normal compared to other national parks so the summer months will be crowded.

Contact information:

107 Park Headquarters Road

Gatlinburg, TN 37738


Recorded information: (865) 436-1200

Road Updates: (865) 436-1200 select 1, then 1 again

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