Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States. It is found in both North Carolina and Tennessee and is famous for its plentiful ridges that are strewn across the horizon, beautiful and impressive. Streams and waterfalls grace the mountains with their presence, and the lush forests and abundant wildflowers give visitors a peaceful and appreciative feeling. Wildlife such as fish and the famous black bears call the mountains home and the fall season creates a colored scheme of red, orange, and yellows across the mountainous landscape. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are two famous towns nearby to visit, and there is plenty to do and see within one of America’s favorite parks.
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Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Tired from hiking or don’t want to walk? A six-mile one-way drive, named the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, is a great way to see the park. The drive will allow you to see a waterfall, scenic views, and a historic farmstead. The trail is named after a “roaring” mountain stream, as the drive winds through the mountains. It is a narrow road made for cars, not trucks, campers, motorhomes or trailers. Start at the historic farmstead called the Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead and tour some of the buildings. Rainbow falls a trail that branches off the drive, just beyond the farmstead to a lovely 80-foot high waterfall, the highest in the park. If you want to get some exercise, take the Trillium Gap Trail off the drive to reach the Grotto Falls, where you can stand behind the waterfall as it pools below. There are two other waterfalls along the drive that can be seen from the car if you don’t feel like hiking. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy the ride in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
Located at the top of one of the highest peaks, you will find LeConte Lodge. At 6400 feet in elevation, the lodge is the highest guest lodge in the United States. The hike to the lodge is lengthy and challenging, but once you reach the top of Mt. LeConte, the quiet of the mountaintop along with the most amazing 360-degree views will leave you stunned. The lodge has a 60-guest capacity, and is considered rustic, but has flushing toilets, linens, propane heaters, lanterns, and even rocking chairs. A llama train carries supplies to the lodge three times a week, and you can only reach the lodge by hiking, and it is considered a challenging hike. Meals are served in the dining area, and there is a gift shop to purchase supplies.
Newfound Gap Road
The 31-mile drive takes you through the park’s center and travels from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, up and over the mountains of North Carolina. It is a nice paved road with plenty of marked sights to stop and see along the way. Scenic overlooks allow you to stop and take pictures of the beautiful trees and ridgelines, especially as you climb up and over the mountains. This is a must-see drive, especially if you have never been to the area.
Little River Road
The Little River Road provides a constant view of the water, as the 18-mile drive follows the Little River. You will be able to see a waterfall from your car, and there are seven other points of interest along the drive, all marked with signage. There are trailheads you can take for a nice hike; scenic overlooks for the best photos, camping areas if you want to camp and picnic areas if you’re brought your lunch for a fantastic meal outdoors in a beautiful national park. Before the very first point of interest marked “Maloney Point,” there is an unmarked overlook. The Smoky Mountain view from here is amazing and it will not be as crowded because it is not marked. This is a great place to stop and get those pictures and breathe in the fresh mountain air.
Other Sights to See and Things to Do
The synchronous fireflies are a visitor’s favorite. Thousands upon thousands of fireflies or lightning bugs flock to the area, especially around the Elkmont campground as the night ascends upon the forests and the mountains. They all flash in unison, and it is the largest population of fireflies in the Western Hemisphere. The fireflies appear between late May and June. The national park will post the official dates on their website every year. These passes sell out quickly, so watch for the dates of this unreal event. Other activities which you can undertake are riding horses through the wilderness via Sugarland Riding Stables, or hop on a train for a relaxing mountain drive and view aboard the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. The towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are also famous and have tons of things to do and see.
Great Mountains, Great Experience
The Great Smoky Mountains are beautiful. Words do not do the landscape justice, and this is a perfect place for everyone of all ages to explore and take in the mountain scenery and fresh air. The best time to visit is during the spring, summer and early fall months, as the winter months bring snow and sometimes road closures and warnings to keep everyone safe. Sit in the darkness while thousands of lightning bugs blink in unison for this incredible event, or hike to the highest lodge in the United States. See waterfalls from your vehicle and stand at a scenic overlook, taking in the beauty of it all at the Smoky Mountains National Park.