The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is outdoor heaven for adventurers, trail hikers, cultural enthusiasts, and nature lovers. It offers the best of Eastern Tennessee and North Carolina, beckoning travelers to unravel the legends of the famed Appalachian Trail. It is home to abundant beauty, from cascading waterfalls and sweeping views to forested trails and wildflower meadows.
Young couples can take scenic drives and enjoy picturesque views along the breathtaking Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Families with children can head over to explore a wealth of historical conserves, theme parks, and educational exhibits. The park is sprawling with historical and cultural structures dating back to the early settlers on the land.
If you’re headed to the Great Smokies for a limited time, it’s natural to want to cover the major attractions. The park has much to offer, and selecting a handful of experiences can prove challenging. We’ve done the homework for you, guiding you to the most magical and wondrous wooded trails and scenic drives.
Keep reading to explore the best that the Great Smokies have to offer.
Rent an Idyllic Alpine Cabin
We urge you to sort your accommodation before heading over to the Smoky Mountains. You see, it is the most popular and most-visited national park in the country. You don’t want to book accommodation upon arrival because the region is jam-packed with travelers. It’s wise to book accommodations days before you set out on the road.
There’s nothing more delightful than renting a gorgeous wooden cabin nestled in the heart of the wilderness. The area is sprawling with idyllic cabins and cottages, and you can pick a site that delights you the most. Families can search online by typing large cabin Smoky Mountains to get the best options across Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The region is also home to some of the most breathtaking camping grounds.
Imagine waking up to breathtaking views of the sun melting into rolling hills and wildflower forests. It’s wise to pick a centrally-located accommodation so you can cover the leading attractions on foot. However, if you’re looking to carve out luxury on the foothills of snow-capped mountains, a cabin is more suited to your needs.
Visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center
History buffs should head straight to the Sugarlands Visitor Center upon entering the park. The visitor center is popular for its exhibits on the park’s history and nature reserves. You can sit for a 20-minute film screening, depicting fascinating tales about the cultural and natural history of the region.
You can pick up valuable information about the leading hiking trails and waterfalls. Hiking enthusiasts should stop here before embarking on a trail to equip themselves with a map and other essentials. If you’re interested in exploring ranger-led programs, the visitor center will prove immensely helpful.
Hiking at Cades Cove
Hiking enthusiasts would like nothing more than to lose themselves to the breathtaking beauty of Cades Cove. It’s a lush and verdant valley nestled amidst soaring peaks and jagged mountains. Cades Cove has an enthralling history as the abode of the early Southern Appalachian settlements. The valley is brimming with historical structures and cabins dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
You can also explore old grist mills, historical architecture, and three glorious churches. But if you’re looking for scenic hiking trails, prepare to have your mind blown. We urge you to take the 11-mile one-way loop that covers the entire valley. It’s the perfect trail to experience wildlife at its best and make friends with black bears and deer.
Many of the trails starting in Cades Cove will lead you to picturesque waterfalls and wildflower meadows. You can take the trail leading up to the Abrams Falls, the perfect place to cool off after an exhausting hike. If you crave a longer, more challenging adventure, consider embarking on the Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top.
Climb up Clingmans Dome
Home to sweeping views of the park, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the national park and Tennessee. We dare you to climb the 6,643-foot peak and treat yourself to mesmerizing views of the park and surrounding valleys. It’s wise to head out with the first crack of daybreak so you can have ample time to enjoy the views.
Clingmans Dome offers access to some of the most rewarding hiking trails in the park. Seasoned adventurers must embark on the legendary Appalachian Trail, covering its highest points in the park. Keep in mind that the trails in this part of the park are incredibly challenging and steep. Be sure to carry adequate hiking gear, warm clothing, and protective equipment.
Witness the Beauty of the Abrams Falls
The Abrams Falls carries the name of an iconic Cherokee chief whose village was perched alongside the mighty waterfall. This 20-feet high waterfall is breathtakingly majestic, and there’s a deep pool that beckons travelers to cool off. To get here, you must take the 5-mile forested trail leading you through wildflowers and soaring cliffs.
The Abrams Falls trail is suited for beginners and seasoned hikers, as long as you wear the right shoes. Just be sure to avoid swimming at the base as the strong currents can carry you down to its daunting depths. The trail is intensely rewarding, and you can end your journey with a lovely picnic by the waterfall.
Visit the Elkmont Ghost Town
Are you fascinated by stories of haunted towns and abandoned structures? We urge you to visit Elkmont Ghost Town to see what an abandoned town looks like. There’s nothing more sobering than seeing all the deserted old buildings and driving through the ancient structures.
Elkmont Town was once a part of the 20th century Appalachian Club. Elkmont residents had a significant role in the development of the Smoky Mountains National Park. However, over the years, its citizens began selling off their property and abandoning the town. Today, Elkmont is but a ghostly reminder of a glorious past.
The Smoky Mountains National Park is laced with natural, historical, and cultural wonders. It’s crucial to make an itinerary and map out your adventure. You can explore nearby towns, like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, to enjoy the local culture and cuisines. The Great Smokies are famous for their cultural events, and we urge you to check the schedule before heading out.