The great smoky (or smokies) mountains are situated along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the south-eastern United States. They are a sub-range of the Appalachian Mountains and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province (source: Wikipedia).
The widespread mountain ranges create an illusion of embracing the horizon, the mist that sets itself on the far away sky and the greenery that is nothing less than amazement. The Great smoky mountain national park is the hallmark of the mountain ranges that covers much of the ranges and is a part of international biosphere reserves.
The biosphere reserve along with the great smokes is named as one of the UNESCO heritage sites. The biosphere reserve is an incredible home to thousands of plants, animals and invertebrates. The wonderful snow- capped mountain ranges, the atmosphere, heavy rainfall and the weather has given an accommodation to such huge numbers of species. The mountain has stood tall and proud for more than 300 million years and still is revered upon as the ancient heritage. No doubts it’s the most visited park in America.
These range of ancient mountains have so much to explore that it may take quite a time to decide on what to do and how to do it? The magnetic atmosphere with narrow and steep walkways, the thick forest, spring wildflowers or the aged trees, whatever you discover, will only leave you asking for more.
Whether you love to sit alone and enjoy the sunset and the beauty of the roaring river or you are one of those who like to explore places and attempt for the adventurous activities, the great Smoky Mountains embrace all.
Be prepared to be without your cell phone network (when you are with nature, stay with nature!) especially in Cades Coves and Cataloochee. You can be at relief around the national park otherwise make your arrangements- if you are alone be safe as it may be difficult to connect with people outside the area in case of an emergency without the cell-phone network. Keep the first-aid kit readily available with you, have a bunch of needed medicines, drinking water, suitable clothing, & wear comfortable shoes while walking along the path.
Check for the weather forecast and only venture if it is safe to be there. Follow road status update on Smokiesroadsnps.
Things you can do in the Great Mountain National park.
The beautiful fresh green pathways, the silently flowing stream and far spread Mountains give you good reason to indulge in the beauty of the place. The national park is extended over 800 miles and covered in pure beauty. The auto tour offers you the panoramic view of the place and chance to explore the weathered buildings. The roads are paved and most of the road out of 384 miles is gravelled. You can find many booklets along the road to help you personally to find your way.
Bicycling and camping:
You can take a tour on a bicycle provided that that you have the safety gears; wear the helmet and ride along the paved road. It is important to mention that most of the path is narrow, steep and you need to share the road with the other motor cars so it is not much recommended to ride a bicycle here. From May to September the loop road is closed for motor vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday to let the cyclists enjoy their joyous time.
The park offers variety of adventurous camping facilities like back-country (hiking to few miles of distance), front-country (near your car on the developed campground that has the toilet facilities and picnic tables), ground camping and horse camping (offers hitch-racks for horses and primitive camping facilities).
Enjoy the spectacular fall colour changes in the month of October at the height of about 4000 feet. Drive the Clingmans Dome Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Foothills Parkway to see the colourful trees like sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweet-gum, red maple, and the hickories. Usually, the autumn leaf season is of several weeks as the fall colour travels down from higher elevation to lower.
The milky streams run for 2900 miles in length in the national park where fishing is allowed around the year. The fishing is allowed 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset in all streams. The streams carry a large number of fishes allowing a great experience of fish catching.
The most favourite thing for the traveller here is the hiking that lets them getting indulged with the mountains even more. The hiking can be done round the year with varying experience in different seasons. During winter, there are less of deciduous trees and so stone walls, chimney and foundation are open to the hikers. Spring is full of the colourful flowers and wild trees. Summer hikers love the feeling of pleasant weather and getting lost in the beauty of the walkways.
The popular destinations are Charlies Bunion, Alum Cave Bluffs, Andrews Bald, Rainbow Falls & Chimney Tops.
Whatever you like to see- the old forest, the breathtaking views or the waterfalls, you are surely going to have a blast. Also, there are kids friendly hikes available if you are along with the kids.
Take note that it’s better to complete the hike before it gets dark and make sure you adhere to the safety measures. Keeping in mind the dense population of the black bears, you are recommended to carry the ‘bear pepper spray’ specially designed to protect yourself in case of an attack by one.
If you love horses and aren’t afraid of them then you may go for a guided horse ride at four stables located at Cades Cove, Smokemont near Cherokee, Smoky mountain near Gatlinburg, Sugarland near Gatlinburg. The ride stays from 45 minutes to several hours. If you may ride your own horse then you must have the park’s trail map and the rules applicable to it.
Picnic areas: When you get tired of walking in the forest all you need to do is sit and relax, admiring the serene nature at one of the picnic spots located at Cades Cove, Metcalf Bottoms, Greenbrier, Deep Creek. The spots are open round the year. Other picnic spots include Big Creek, Chimneys, Collins Creek, Cosby, Heintooga, Look Rock, and Twin Creeks. It is advisable to not to feed the wild animals there and specifically the bears and take all your belonging once you decide to leave the place.
You can see the wildlife in the open areas like Cataloochee and Cades cove. The white tailed deer, elk, black bear, raccoon, turkeys, woodchucks and other animals are visible here but most part of the smokies is covered in thick forest so it is difficult to see the animal throughout. You can see more animals during winter because deciduous trees shed their leaves at this time. Also, don’t forget to check the branches; you never know what you may find there.
Having talked about the various activities that you can treat yourself with, there are specific spots that you ought not to miss at any cost.
Mountain farm museum and mining mill:
The museum is located just beside the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The unique collection of farm buildings has been gathered from various locations throughout the park. You can see for the log farmhouse, barn, apple house, spring house and working blacksmith shop to get a clear idea about the lifestyle of the people living here hundreds of years ago. The Davis log-house is built from the chestnut before the blight cleared the American chestnut.
One of the most popular destinations in the Smoky Park is the Cades Cove. Look for the wild animals like white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and others. 11 miles one-way loop road circles the place that allows the motorists to leisurely enjoy the sightseeing. It takes around two to three hours to tour the Cades Cove.
If you want to look for the ancient churches, schools, houses and historic buildings which have occupied the valley, then it is here. There were some thousand people living here in the early 19th century who earned their living by farming. You can learn about the history and also sight the elk walking in the group early in the morning.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail:
The mesmerizing faster flowing mountains stream has been rightly named “Roaring Fork” which can be evident after a heavy rain. The 5 miles one-way loop is a beauty to remember with the stream flowing roughly by cutting the various small and big rocks. For the glimpse of the old dense forest, the line of the stream with well-preserved log cabins, grist mills and other historic buildings, this is worth a visit. Before the entering the roaring fork motor nature trail, do stop at Noah bud ogle self guiding nature trail for an authentic tour to the mountain farmstead and hardwood forest.
The region is famous for the amazing trail of the streams flowing by the mountain and the noisy waterfalls. This is the place for the mountain bikers to indulge in few park trails where they are permitted to ride the bike.
The 480 ft tall dam is the tallest concrete dam constructed east of Rocky Mountain. The dam confines into the Tennessee River and produces hydroelectric power. The tourists are provided with the facility of boating, fishing and acquaint with places like Hazel Creek and Eagle Creek by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA is open from early May until late October.
Indulge in the beauty of the nature, view the cascading water-falls, check out the endemic wild-life and the live music of the colourful trees.