Wildflowers and pink taffy: The Great Smokies

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Where else but the Great Smokies would give you such an intoxicating blend of ancient forests and full-blown kitsch?

Start your pilgrimage by heading into the vast, cool wilderness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Established in 1934, the park attracts as many as 10 million travelers a year, making it the most-visited national park in America. To beat high-season crowds, merely wander off the main trails to find yourself deep in the damp, earth-scented wilderness.

Newfoundland Gap Rd/Hwy 441 is the only thoroughfare crossing the entire 521,000-acre park. And what a drive it is, traversing 33 miles of deep oak and pine forest, and wildflower meadows. Stop first at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, with interactive exhibits on the park's history and ecosystems. Pick up a map and stroll the Oconaluftee River Trail, which leaves from the center and follows the river for 1.5 miles to the boundary of the Cherokee reservation. Don't forget to pick up a free backcountry camping permit if you plan to go off-trail.