Welcome to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Get back to nature among mist-shrouded peaks, shimmering waterfalls and lush forests in the great American wilderness.
The sun-dappled forests of the Great Smoky Mountains are a four-season wonderland. Rich blooms of springtime wildflowers come in all colors and sizes, while flame azaleas light up the high-elevation meadows in summer. Autumn brings its own fiery rewards with quilted hues of orange, burgundy and saffron blanketing the mountain slopes. In winter, snow-covered fields and ice-fringed cascades transform the Smokies into a serene, cold-weather retreat. This mesmerizing backdrop is also a World Heritage Site, harboring more biodiversity than any other national park in America.
Echoes of the Past
In small mountain communities around the Smokies, early settlers built log cabins, one-room schoolhouses, stream-fed gristmills and single-steeple churches amid the fertile forest valleys. The park has preserved many of these vestiges of the past, which make up one of the largest collections of log structures in the nation. You can get glimpses of the lives these homesteaders lived while exploring photogenic open-air museums sprinkled all around the park. You can walk bridges built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and wander through abandoned resort villages that boomed during the lumber days.
The Smokies are part of the vast Appalachian chain, among the oldest mountains on the planet. Formed more than 200 million years ago, these ancient peaks were once much higher – perhaps as high as the Himalayas – but have been worn down by the ages. You can contemplate that remote past while huffing your way up to the top of a 6000ft peak overlooking the seemingly endless expanse of undulating ridges that stretch off into the distance. There are mesmerizing viewpoints all across the park, as well as one mountaintop lodge that can only be reached by foot.
Reconnecting with Nature
The Smokies are a magical place to unplug from the information overload of modern-day life and reconnect with nature – indeed you’ll be forced to, given the lack of mobile-phone service within the park. Days here are spent hiking past shimmering waterfalls and picnicking beside boulder-filled mountain streams, followed by evenings around the campfire as stars glimmer above the forest canopy. The park’s abundant plant and animal species create memorable opportunities for wildlife-watching, whether seeing elk grazing in the early morning light in Cataloochee, watching turkeys strut across the fields near Oconaluftee, or perhaps spying a bear ambling through the thick groves outside of Cades Cove.