The Great Smoky Mountains, one of a few of the National Parks in the United States that span across two different states. The Great Smoky Mountains, nicknamed the Smokies, span across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina and is definitely one of my favorite parks! I personally visited the Tennessee side where we got to explore Gatlinburg as well as the park itself. I went in the Spring, and while it was hot, the views were spectacular, and the greenery was so beautiful!
Address: 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (Although, as I mentioned this park spans two states, and there are several different entrances, this was the physical address provided on nps.org)
Hours: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays!
Weather: Due to the fact that the smokies have such a large difference in elevation at points from mountain base to peak, weather can change 10-20 degrees depending which point you are at. Overall, the Smokies experience pretty standard southeastern United States weather, hot and muggy in the late spring/summer and cooler in the late fall/winter. I personally went mid-May and it was pretty warm and humid, but certainly not unbearable. Everything was fully bloomed and made for an amazing landscape of greens and various other colors.
The Smokies are one of the only free U.S. National Parks, so there is no entrance fee! While there is no entrance fee to either part of this national park, below are some options for national park passes that can be used multiple times throughout the year.
America the Beautiful Annual Pass: $80.00 (Good for all National Parks)
Military Pass: Free Annual Pass to all National Parks for Active Duty Military, US Military Veterans, and Gold Star Family Members
4th Grade Pass: Free pass for 4th Graders for duration of school year
Senior Park Pass (62+): $20 Annual Pass to any National Park or $80 Lifetime Membership
Access Pass: Free Lifetime Pass to any National Park for US Citizens with permanent disabilities
Volunteer Pass: Free Annual Pass to any National Park for volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies (agencies must participate in Interagency Pass Program)
Leashed dogs are permitted in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along the roads throughout the park. There are only two actual trails within the park where dogs are allowed, The Gatlinburg Trail and The Oconaluftee River Trail.
Parking and Getting Around:
Due to the park's vast size, there are not shuttle busses as there are at some of the other National Parks throughout the United States. Parking, especially for the more popular trails certainly does fill up fast, and it is my advice to get there pretty early. However, if you get there around noon like we did, and the parking lot is full, a lot of the trails typically have places to pull off and park along the road, it just may require a bit of a walk to get to the trailhead. There are several pullouts throughout the park that allow visitors to pull off, park, and enjoy some of the viewpoints.
The Smokies offer several different amazing viewpoints throughout the park, some of the more popular ones including:
Mortons Overlook (I recommend this spot for sunset)
Oconoluftee Valley Overlook
Clingman's Dome (Probably the best sunset spot in the park, but also the most crowded)
The Smokies have several hiking trails rangning in views, elevation gain, and difficulty. Visit the National Park website (nps.org) for an official description of each hiking trail to figure out which is the best for you! Below are some of the popular hikes throughout the park.
Charlies Bunion (4-miles on way with an elevation gain of 1,600 feet)
Alum Cave Trail (5-miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet)*
Andrews Bald (5.6-miles with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet)
Chimney Tops (4-miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet)
Rainbow Falls (2.7 miles one way to the falls, but continues past the falls for a total of 6.7-miles to the summit of Mt. La Conte)
Laurel Falls (2.6-miles round trip)*
Grotto Falls (3-miles roundtrip)
Mingo Falls (.4-miles one way and is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Southern Appalachian Mountains)
Cade's Cove is a very popular spot in the park as well. Cade's Cove is an 11-mile loop that can typically be done by foot, bike, or motor vehicle. (From May 2022-Sept 2022, Cade's Cove is closed to motor vehicles) It takes about 2-4 hours to explore this stretch of scenery depending which sites visitors spend time viewing.
* These are the trails we did during our visit to the Smokies. We only had one full day and a few hours in the actual park, the rest of our time was spent in Gatlinburg. If you want to see a an exact breakdown of my weekend itinerary, you can read my 2-Day Guide to Gatlinburg post!
The Smokies offer frontcountry campgrounds at 10 different locations throughout the park: Abrams Creek Campground, Balsam Mountain Campground, Big Creek Campground, Cades Cove Campground, Cataloochee Campground, Cosby Campground, Deep Creek Campground, Elkmont Campground, Look Rock Campground, and Smokemont Campground. There is also backcountry camping options in the Smokies, although it it advised that you are an experienced camper as this park is full of dense forest, and wildlife. A permit and advanced reservation is required for backcountry camping.
I hope you enjoyed reading about one of my favorite National Parks, and I hope this encourages you to visit this beautiful place! Feel free to leave a comment with anything you would like to add, or if I left something out. As always, please practice the LNT principles when visiting the National Parks :) Thanks for reading, and remember, there's always more to be explored!
*Information provided from personal experience, as well as nps.gov , more information about The Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be found at
Map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/upload/grsmmap2-2.pdf