Post Summary: Visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Rolling mountain hills rise out of the smoky like fog, this scene is one of the highlights of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This HUGELY popular national park is one of the gems of the eastern National Parks.
Visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park should be on your bucket list no matter what. As one of the most popular national parks, planning ahead is an important part of planning a trip to Smoky Mountains.
Here is the National Park Obsessed guide for visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee / North Carolina
- The Quick Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park Basics
- Land Acknowledgment for Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Why is the park called Great Smoky Mountains?
- Fun Facts about Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- National Park Obsessed’s Detailed Guides to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Quick Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This is the official park map. It provides a general overview of the park and popular attractions such as Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome are marked. Click here to download a PDF of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Map.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Basics
Park Size: 522,419 acres (816.28 sq miles) (2,114.16 sq km)
Location: Swain and Haywood counties in North Carolina; Sevier, Blount, and Cocke counties in Tennessee
Closest Cities: Gatlinburg and Townsend, Tennessee; Cherokee, North Carolina
Busy Season: May to September
Visitation: 12,547,743 (in 2019)
Official Website: Click Here.
How much does Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cost?
Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not charge an entrance fee.
When is Great Smoky Mountains National Park Open?
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open year-round.
Are dogs allowed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
Yes, pets are welcome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but are limited to developed areas such as roads, parking areas, picnic areas, and campgrounds. Pets are not allowed on most of the trails in the park. Please review the Great Smoky Mountains Pet Policy before bringing your dog to Great Smoky Mountains.
Where are Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s visitor centers?
Cades Cove Visitor Center – Open Year Round
Oconaluftee Visitor Center – Open Year Round
Sugarlands Visitor Center – Open Year Round
Clingmans Dome Visitor Contact Station – Open Year Round
Land Acknowledgment for Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The National Park known as Great Smoky Mountain National Park sits on S’atsoyaha (Yuchi) and ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East) land. Today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has a smallholding of land along the southern boundary of the park. This area is known as the Qualla Boundary and consists of land purchased by the Cherokee in the 1840s and 1850s.
Thank you to the Native Land Digital for making the ancestorial land claims accessible to all. Native Land Digital is a registered Canadian not-for-profit organization with the goal to create spaces where non-Indigenous people can be invited and challenged to learn more about the lands they inhabit, the history of those lands, and how to actively be part of a better future going forward together.
When was Great Smoky Mountains National Park Created?
Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a vast expanse of the southern Appalachian Mountains ecosystem including its scenic beauty, extraordinary diversity of natural resources, and rich human history, and provides opportunities for the enjoyment and inspiration of present and future generations.Great Smoky Mountains National Park Foundation Document
By the early 1920s almost two-thirds of what is today Great Smoky Mountains National Park had been logged or burned due to logging operations. Local business and early visitors to the region realized that the area’s natural beauty was being systematically ruined. Around the same time, the National Park Service was looking to create a southeastern National Park. The groups worked together and got Great Smoky Mountains National Park authorized in 1926.
There were limited federal funds to acquire land and donations were raised to purchase the land including a $5 million dollar donation from John D. Rockefeller. The parkland was acquired piece by piece and the park was officially established on June 15, 1934.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976. It was certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and became a part of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve in 1988.
Fun Facts about Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to some of the worlds oldest mountains. The Appalachian Mountain Range is estimated to be between 200 and 300 million years old
- The Smokies is the most biodiverse national park in the National Park System. Over 19,000 species have been documented within the park; including at least 40 species of trees, 65 species of mammals, 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known as the “Salamander Capital of the World”. There are over 30 species in the park.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the MOST visited National Park in the US. It is also one of the most visited National Park units. (More information on the difference between a National Park and a National Park Unit)
- About 30% of the US population lives within 500 miles of the park.
- Great Smoky Mountains has more than 800 miles of hiking trails, 2,900 miles of streams and has preserved more than 90 historical structures.
- The highest peak in the park is Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet.
- The Appalachian Trail visits Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its 2,200-mile journey from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katadin, Maine.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the first national park to be purchased with federal funds.
- The only accommodations in the park is the LeConte Lodge which was built in 1926 and gets it’s supplies via Llama trains.
- Since 1931, over a half billion people have visited the park.
National Park Obsessed’s Detailed Guides to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
General Information on Visiting Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Lodging
Other Articles featuring Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Frequently Asked Questions about Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Why is the park called Great Smoky Mountains?
The park gets its name from the Cherokee. They referred to this area as “Shaconage” (Sha-Kon-O-Hey), this word roughly translates to “Land of Blue Smoke.” Hence the name.
Is Great Smoky Mountain National Park worth visiting?
Yes, there is a reason why the Smokies are the most visited National Park (and it’s not just because about half the US population is within a days drive).
How many days do you need in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
How many days do you have? You could spend a lifetime hiking in the Smokies and never see it all. I suggest spending 2 full days in the park. This will allow you to hit most the major highlights along with hike a few of the park’s more iconic trails without feeling rushed. That said, if you only have 1 day in the Smokies make the most of it.
The most popular destination in the Smoky Mountains National Park includes Cades Cove, Chimney Tops, Laurel Falls, and Clingmans Dome.
Are there grizzly bears in Great Smoky Mountains?
No, there are no grizzly bears in the Smokies. If you see a brown colored bear in the Smokies, it is a cinnamon black bear. The color of the bear fur does designate the species. Black bears come in a range of colors from light grey to dark black to light brown. Grizzly Bears can come from light blond to dark brown.
How many black bears are in the Smoky Mountains?
There are about 1,500 black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains. This works out to about 2 black bears per square mile giving the park one of the highest densities of black bears in the country. Black bears are found throughout the park at all elevations and can be found pretty much anywhere in the park.
How likely am I to see a bear in the Smoky Mountains?
Odds are pretty good that if you spend more than a day in the Smokies that you will see a bear. There are 1,500 of them and they are found through the park. The best time to see bears is in the spring and summer during the early morning and late evenings. Check with the ranger at the visitor center for the latest sighting.
How common are bear attacks in Smoky Mountains?
They are EXTREMELY RARE and almost always involve a bear that has been fed by humans or a human ignoring safety rules. With 1,500 bears and 12 million visitors, it is almost a given that there will be a few negative bear encounters in the Smokies every year. There is less than 1 death a year due to a bear attack in the park.
Are there poisonous snakes in the Smoky Mountains?
There are 23 species of snake in the Smokies. Of those, only two are venomous. These are the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake.
National Parks Near Denali National Park
Check out this great 63 National Parks and get a FREE National Park Checklist. Count how many National Parks you have visited.
National Park Service units within a 4 hours drive
- Runs through the park
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- 1 hour
- Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
- Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Oak Ridge Unit
- 1.25 hours
- Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
- 1.5 hours
- Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
- Obed Wild and Scenic River
- 1.75 hours
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- 2 hours
- Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
- Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
- 2.75 hours
- Little River Canyon National Preserve
- Russell Cave National Monument
- 3 hours
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
- Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument
- 3.25 hours
- Stones River National Battlefield
- Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
- 3.5 hours
- Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument
- 3.75 hours
- Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
- Natchez Trace Parkway
- 4 hours
- Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
- Freedom Riders National Monument
- Mammoth Cave National Park
National Park Service units within a 8 hours drive
- 4.25 hours
- Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park
- 4.5 hours
- Fort Donelson National Battlefield
- Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
- Booker T. Washington National Monument
- 4.75 hours
- Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
- Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site
- 5 hours
- Andersonville National Historic Site
- Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
- 5.25 hours
- Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
- Shenandoah National Park
- 5.5 hours
- Shiloh National Military Park
- Fort Pulaski National Monument
- 5.75 hours
- Moores Creek National Battlefield
- 6 hours
- Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site
- Tupelo National Battlefield
- Petersburg National Battlefield
- 6.25 hours
- Fort Frederica National Monument
- Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
- Richmond National Battlefield Park
- 6.5 hours
- Cumberland Island National Seashore
- Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park
- Manassas National Battlefield Park
- 6.75 hours
- Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
- 7 hours
- Colonial National Historical Park
- George Washington Memorial Parkway
- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
- Prince William Forest Park
- Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
- 7.25 hours
- Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
- Fort Monroe National Monument
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore
- Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
- 7.5 hours
- Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument
- Gateway Arch National Park
- Ozark National Scenic Riverways
- Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park
- George Washington Birthplace National Monument
- Wright Brothers National Memorial
- 8 hours
- Gulf Islands National Seashore
- Vicksburg National Military Park
- Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Final Thoughts on Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Do you have any questions about Great Smoky Mountains National Park or need help planning your National Park trips. Let me know in the comments or join me in my National Park Trip Planning Community!