Spanning across North Carolina and Tennessee, the Smokies have so much to offer anyone from the most novice to the most experienced nature lovers. Whether it’s hiking, camping, or another activity, here are 10 amazing experiences to have in the Great Smoky Mountains.
1. Hike to Clingman’s Dome
As the highest point in Tennessee, Clingman’s Dome offers spectacular views of the Smokies. A short but steep half mile hike offers several resting points with equally incredible sights, so taking your time on the way up is highly recommended! The 360 degree view from the observation tower at the top of the trail is a sight well worth seeing for beautiful mountain views.
2. Visit Grotto Falls
This beautiful waterfall, which can be accessed from two trails, offers a moderate three mile hike to the Falls, which offers the perfect spot to sit back and relax while watching the rushing water splash down. A unique aspect of Grotto Falls is that it’s the only waterfall in the Smokies that can be walked behind, and the hike is perfect for the whole family!
3. Take a drive
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, located just outside of Gatlinburg, TN, offers beautiful views of the Smokies’ nature and history from the seat of your car. The trail includes many places to park and go on short walks, play in rivers and streams, or view historic buildings. This expedition is perfect for families with little ones too young to hike or for a day spent in nature during a stay in Gatlinburg!
4. Plan a camping trip
The Smokies offer 800 miles of trails and several different types of campsites throughout the National Park. Whether backcountry camping, car camping, or group campsites are more your speed, the Smokies offer a beautiful campsite to set up your tent in.
5. View fall foliage
Starting in early October, the foliage of the Smokies turns from green to brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds. Travelers come from all over the country and the world to view the change of seasons on routes like Clingman’s Dome Road, the Foothills Parkway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
6. Learn about Southern Appalachian history
The Smokies are home to over 90 historical buildings scattered throughout the park for visitors to enjoy. Featuring cabins, churches, grist mills, schools and barns, these buildings supply a look into the history of the area dating back to its early settlers.
7. Go fishing
Wild trout inhabit the rivers and streams of the Smokies in addition to other fish ideal for anglers such as smallmouth bass. Fishing is permitted year-round in the park from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset with a fishing license.
8. View wildlife in its natural habitat
In open areas of the park such as Cataloochee and Cades Cove, visitors can spot wildlife such as white-tailed deer, elk, black bears, raccoon, turkeys, woodchucks and more. Remember that you are at the animal’s home and not the other way around, so take caution to be respectful and act safely around the creatures you may encounter.
9. Stay safe
The safety of you and the natural habitat around you is incredibly important. Remember to always let someone outside of your party know where you are going and when you will be back, check for inclement weather and practice other general safety tips such as always bringing water and not hiking at night.
10. Leave No Trace
As crucial as it is for you to stay safe, it is also important that you protect the natural environment surrounding you. Follow the principles of Leave No Trace to ensure that you leave the park exactly the way you found it.