Great Smoky Mountains National Park Travel Guide
Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies along the borderlands of North Carolina and Tennessee and runs along the ridge of the Smoky Mountains, which are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which themselves are part of the Appalachian Mountains. The park’s draws 20 million visitors per year, making it the most visited of all U.S. national parks.
The Cherokee Indians long inhabited the Great Smoky Mountain region, until forced out in the 1830’s by Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Settlers soon poured in, and a lumber industry developed. A rail line was built in the are in the late 1800’s to carry out the lumber, and miners, farmers, and other settlers also arrived. Starting in the 1920’s, money was gradually raised from a combination of private and federal sources, until the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was finally dedicated by F.D.R. in 1940. Homes, logging operations, and mines in the park were soon shut down as it became a protected environmental zone.
Things to see and do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Hike through the forests and mountains of the park on its many trails. You will pass many mountain streams, waterfalls, and abundant native wildlife. There are over 10,000 species of plants and animals in the park, including lung-less salamanders, black bear, elk, bobcats, wild turkey, white-tail deer, foxes, over a thousand flowering plants, Fraser firs, and over 100 species of trees.
Explore the park’s many historic sites. Cades Cove is the most popular, but there are many old log cabins and other buildings that take you back to earlier day and give you a glimpse into the Appalachian lifestyle. Be sure to visit the Mountain Farm Museum as well.
Other activities include camping, fly fishing for brook, brown, and rainbow trout, biking, horseback riding, and educational exhibits at the park’s two visitor centers. Additionally, you can connect to the Appalachian Trail if you are interested in long-distance trekking.
Climb up Clingman’s Dome, the park’s highest peak, to look over the misty mountain tops from its observation tower. You can also enjoy many scenic lookout points on the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, and the Laurel Falls Trail takes you past an eighty-foot-high waterfall. Hiking up the twin peaks called “Chimney Tops” is also very popular. If you want a scenic drive instead of a walk, take US 441 up to Newfound Gap.
Summers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are generally hot and humid, but temperatures are much cooler at the park’s higher elevations. Winters are mild, though some snow may fall. Autumn is the dry season and the time of spectacular fall colors. Spring weather is extremely unpredictable. The area gets much rain, feeding the lush forests, and wildflowers bloom all year long.
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