Great Smoky Mountains National Park Guide

Wander the tranquil woods, stunning waterfalls, lush green forest, and experience one of America’s oldest mountain ranges in America’s most visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 


Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Things to doHiking, Cave Exploring and many more
Hotels near Great Smoky Mountains National Park Grove Park Inn, The Park Vista
Entry FeeNo Entry Fee
Camping LocationsMultiple Locations

Many hidden gems come under the radar when it comes to national parks, one of which is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that might be perfect for your next vacation.

According to Statista, in the year 2021, Guadalupe reached its highest number of recreational visitors- 14.161 million visitors, which was only 12.4 million in 2020.

If you are hoping to visit this national park then in this travel guide, we’ll share the best thing to do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park to help you plan your next adventure. Let’s get started!


Where Is Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is situated between the Tennessee and North Carolina border in the eastern part of the United States.

Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina and McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville are two airports that are in the closest vicinity to the park, and it should take you only half an hour to reach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from here.

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About Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This Park is one of the most visited national parks in the United States, drawing more than 12 million visitors each year from all around the world to explore its striking natural beauty.

This Park is famous for its ancient mountains, historic buildings, and diversity of animals and plants.

In 1983, it was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. 

With nearly 80 historical sites, grand overlooks, beautiful waterfalls, and a display of wildflowers, Great Smoky Park offers a pyramid of activities to enjoy.

Tourism to the park contributes an estimated $2.5 billion to the local economy each year.


Great Smoky Mountains Travel Guide Video

History Of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Establishing the Great Smoky National Park took decades worth of effort and the hard work of thousands of people.

The idea to create a national park in the mountains first came into discussion in the late 1890s when few visionary people began to emphasize the importance of preserving the public land in the natural environment of South Appalachians.

With the support of numerous individuals based in Tennessee, Knoxville, and North Carolina, the decades-long tireless efforts to create a national park became successful in the mid-1920s. 

In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill to acquire the land to create one of the biggest national parks in the country.

Finally, in 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt formally dedicated this Park for the rest of the world to enjoy. 2

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Top 5 Things To Do 

Don’t leave the this Park without ticking off at least one of these top 5 sites: 

Climb Clingmans Dome

Clingman’s dome is one of the most impressive sights in the entire park. It is the highest point in the park and the state of Tennessee.

This 6,643 foot round top peak allows you to see in more than 100 miles of distance.

The trail is paved but is very steep and features numerous scenic pullouts along the route.

The peak is especially popular among the cross-country skiers and snowshoers looking for guaranteed solitude. 

Explore The Cades Cove 

Cades Cove is a broad isolated, lush valley surrounded by towering mountains home to early Appalachian settlers.

It is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smokies that offers the best opportunities to spot wildlife in the park.

White-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, groundhogs, and raccoons are frequently seen in the valley.

The valley also features some of the finest hiking trails, including the Abrams Fall trail and a short Cades Cove Nature Trail.  

Hike To The Grotto Falls 

Grotto falls a 3-mile-long hike that runs behind a 25-foot-high waterfall. The trail passes through the old-growth forest, including many substantial eastern hemlocks.

As you proceed, you’ll get past four small streams and will reach a tumbling cascade after 1.2 miles, beyond which are located the Grotto Falls.

If you hike during the Spring, you’ll likely witness a variety of wildflowers along the way.

The hike is doable for amateur hikers and is not recommended for novice hikers or children due to the slippery trail. 

Fork Motor Natural Trail

This 6-mile, one-way loop offers some of the most fabulous mountain scenery in this Park and gateway to the two most famous waterfalls in the region: Grotto Falls and Rainbow Falls.

Travelers called this trail the most impressive sights with beautiful waterfalls and mountain scenery.

You’ll also get a chance to see historic log cabins, remains of the mountain village, and a Roaring Fork Cemetery on your way, plus an array of wildlife from black bears to birds. 

Chimney Tops Hike

Chimney Tops is another extremely popular trail in the park because of its length and eccentric views. Chimney tops are a few mountains that feature a bare rock summit.

The 2-mile round trip trail has a steep climb and requires scrambling over the rocks to reach the top, making it unsuitable for novice hikers and children.

However, the excellent views of streams, and mountains from the trail, make it well worth the extra effort. 3

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Reddit Users Share Their Tips

Great Smoky Mountains Advice
by u/Harold-Peppermen in nationalparks

Best Time To Visit

Spring and Fall are the best time to visit this Park when the summer crowds are gone, and lodging rates are low.

So, if you want to enjoy some privacy and explore the Smoky Mountains peacefully, visit the park in March and April.

These months are also ideal for exploring a destination like Clingman’s Dome and Cades Cove without the crowds. 


Map Of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Download the official map of this Park from the NPS website to see the major park roads, visitor centers, hiking trails, and popular attractions to ensure you have a safe trip and make most of your time. 

Best Hotels To Stay Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This Park offers a lot of accommodation options inside and outside the park.

Here are a few options for different needs and budgets: 

  • LeConte Lodge 
  • Grove Park Inn
  • The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
  • The Park Vista
  • Smoky Mountain Resort 

Camping Locations At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This Park has a total of ten developed campgrounds and offers several campsites.

You can choose from the backcountry, group, and horse campgrounds. Each campground has flush toilets, running water, and shower facilities. 

You need reservations for all campgrounds, and there is a first-come-first-served policy. To make a reservation, visit

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Weather Of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This Park has diverse weather, drastically changing with elevation. The elevation ranges from 875 feet to 6000 feet and can cause a temperature variation of up to 20°F, from the base to the mountain top.

Summer is hot with an average daily temperature of 80°F, while Winters are mild with an average temperature of 30°F with moderate to heavy snow.

Fall is the most beautiful time of the year due to foliage displays in mid-September, while Spring brings unpredictable weather.

Make sure to check out the latest weather forecast before visiting the park.

Entry Fee & Passes

This Park is one of the few parks with no entry fee. Fees are only charged for activities like overnight camping and pavilion rental at picnic areas.

Checklist Of Things You Should Pack 

Here are some essential items you should bring with yourself to this Park:

  • Hiking Daypack
  • Binoculars 
  • Camera
  • Seasonal clothes
  • Hiking boots
  • Rain Jacket
  • Sunscreen, Sunscreen, and hat
  • Water bottles
  • High energy snacks
  • Ready to eat food
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • First-aid kit 
  • Bug Spray
  • Map & Compass


Is it possible to drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Yes, a scenic drive is one of the best ways to explore the park and enjoy steadily changing vistas without putting on your hiking shoes. 

How many days are required to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

We’d highly recommend planning at least a 4–5-days trip so you’ll have enough time to check out the highlights and do some hiking. 

Why there's no entry fee at Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

The park’s land was once privately owned, and when the State of Tennessee transferred the ownership of Newfound Gap Road to the federal Govt, it stipulated that the fee would not be charged to travel the road.  

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