Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States with over 11 million visitors. The park encompasses 522,419 acres, making it one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The park was established in 1934, and it is divided down its length by the Tennessee – North Carolina border.
The name of the range is commonly shortened to the Smokies, due to the ever-present morning fog and low clouds.
The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) at the towns of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has no entrance fees and the reason dates back to 1930s. The state of Tennessee stipulated that, no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed to travel the Newfound Gap Road.
The park is almost 95 percent forested, and almost 36 percent of it is estimated by the Park Service, to be old growth forest with many trees that predate European settlement of the area.
These ancient mountains provide ideal habitat for over 1,600 species of flowering plants, including 100 native tree species and over 100 native shrub species.
A tour through the park offers visitors breathtaking mountain scenery, including panoramic views, rushing mountain streams, and mature hardwood forests stretching to the horizon.
Over 2,100 miles of streams and rivers flow through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Park is full of wildlife. Protected are around 65 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians.
Black Bear is perhaps the most famous resident of the park. Biologists estimate approximately 1,500 bears live in the park.
The largest is the elk, which was experimentally reintroduced to the park in 2001.
Whitetail deer are very common and in addition, visitors most often see squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, foxes,…
Coyotes are not often seen and just like bobcats, they are very reclusive.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been called the “Salamander Capital of the World.” 30 salamander species are found in the park, making this one of the most diverse areas on Earth.
About 800 miles of streams in the park support fish. The park boasts over 60 native fish species, including the brook trout.
There are 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads in the park for hiking, including seventy miles of the Appalachian Trail. At 6,625 feet tall, Clingmans Dome is the highest point along the whole Appalachian Trail.
Fifty-foot observation deck offers views for many miles over the Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia mountains on a clear day.
Alum Cave Trail provides many scenic overlooks and unique natural attractions such as, Alum Cave Bluffs and Arch Rock. This trail leads to the Mount Le Conte, which is one of the most visited viewpoints.
There are a great number of waterfalls in the park. Every year over 200,000 visitors hike well-worn trails to view Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow, and other popular waterfalls in the park. Large waterfalls attract the crowds, but smaller cascades and falls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park.
If you love historic structures, Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds one of the best collections in the eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures—houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools, and grist mills—have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park.
Being the most visited national park, traffic in the park may become congested at times, especially on the Newfound Gap and Cades Cove Loop roads. Most visitors are observed between July 1 and August 15 and in the month of October (especially October weekends).
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