Straddling the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains drew in over 11 million visitors in 2018. The diverse landscape is one of the most versatile in North America teeming with beautiful hiking paths, rocky cliffs, colorful foliage, scenic drives, and stunning wildlife.
The Smoky Mountains are a nature lover’s paradise and an eternity could be spent discovering every corner of the national park’s mystic splendor. Set your sights for the outdoors and get ready for adventure in the Smokies.
Start your journey with these unmissable activities!
1. Drive Through Cades Cove
Get a glimpse into life of the pioneers who settled along this gorgeous mountain range in the 18th and 19th centuries. This photogenic drive will lead you deep into the valley surrounded by soaring mountain peaks, historic log cabins, and incredible animals.
Take your time driving through the lush valley as you will routinely spot deer and black bears roaming through the woodlands. Along this breathtaking loop, stop by the numerous historical churches and cabins that were constructed centuries ago.
If you would rather get closer to nature, go for an invigorating hike along the Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top paths.
2. Take in the Views from Clingmans Dome
Tower over the expansive mountain range at the highest point of elevation in the state of Tennessee. Standing at 6,643 feet, you will be amazed at the endless overlapping mountains cascading into the clouds.
To reach one of the most popular views in the national park, you will have to make a sturdy climb but the reward is worth it! Make sure to choose the right time to visit the dome as the road to take you there is closed during the winter months and becomes packed during summer.
3. Abrams Falls Trail
This five mile trek will test your hiking wits and fortitude but offers a refreshing reward at an idyllic waterfall. Although the height of Abrams Falls is not overly impressive, it is a serene escape from the punishing summer blaze. A dip in this natural swimming hole is a fantastic way to cool off after a long walk through the forest.
Pack some snacks and listen to the enchanting sounds of the waterfall as you refuel for your return trip.
4. Drive Down Newfound Gap Road
When you make the exhilarating drive down this 31-mile road, you will feel like you are ascending into the heavens. You will climb thousands of feet and the views of the mountaintops and timber forest trees will take your breath away. You will have dozens of pit stops along the way to go for a thrilling hike or feel the crisp mountain air.
Make this picturesque drive during the fall for unbelievable photo opportunities of the fall foliage at its finest. Motorists should navigate the roads with care as the route is extremely windy and potentially dangerous.
5. Explore the Forbidden Caverns
Although the Smokies are more famous for its magnificent mountain range, you can head underground for equally astonishing scenery. This alternative way of cooling off will bring you face to face with alluring geologic formations, spooky caves, and a fascinating history lesson from the Prohibition era.