Top Five Things To Do In The National Park

Posted by Phil Rodgers in Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the entire system, garnering anywhere from 9 to 10 million visitors per year, according to the National Park Service. The reasons behind those numbers are apparent: The beauty of the Smokies rivals that of many of the spectacular landscapes in the country, and since the park's formation in the 1930s, a vibrant tourism business has built up nearby, giving visitors even more reasons to travel to the mountains of East Tennessee.

Many places to picnic in the national park

Besides the innate beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there's a lot for folks to see and do when they're within park borders. Here are our top five recommendations for how to spend your time the next time you're in town. (And while you're in the area, be sure to swing on down to Goats on the Roof in Pigeon Forge. We're only a few miles from the main park entrance!)

1. Hiking

The park boasts more than 800 miles in hiking trails, both on the Tennessee and North Carolina sides. The great thing is that there's a hike for all ages, all experience levels and all time frames. If all you want to take on is a short, level nature stroll, there are several of those. On the other hand, if you want to challenge yourself with a half-day or daylong adventure, consider a trek to the top of Mt. LeConte or Chimney Tops. There are lots of waterfall destinations as well. In fact, those are some of the most popular options for hikers. Before starting your hike, be sure you're prepared. On those longer hikes, you'll need to make sure you're dressed for the weather at your destination, wear trail-appropriate footwear, take water and, if you plan to be on the trail for hours, bring along some calorie/carbohydrate replacement.

2. Fishing

If your idea of a great day is baiting a hook and waiting for that next big catch, the Smokies should be on your to-do list. You'll find some 2,100 miles of streams in the national park, 800 of which are fishable. Those waters are home to 67 species of fish, including darters, shiners, minnows, suckers, bass and the very popular trout. Just make sure you're properly licensed to fish in the state of Tennessee (or North Carolina) before dropping your lines.

3. Picnicking

Whether you and yours are gathered around a picnic table or relaxing on a blanket on the ground with a midday meal, picnicking is always a solid option for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the scenic beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You'll find official picnic areas at Big Creek, Chimneys, Cades Cove, Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Heintooga, Look Rock and Metcalf Bottoms. Most of these are on the Tennessee side of the park. These sites typically offer picnic tables, outdoor grills and restrooms.

4. Driving

Although we always recommend actually being outside and interacting with nature when visiting the national park, you can still get a lot out of your trip without leaving the car. Two popular auto tours include the Cades Cove loop on the western end and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a loop that starts and ends in Gatlinburg. Both routes have a lot to offer, including hiking trailheads, historic structures and amazing views of the surrounding scenery. So yes, we still suggest stopping your vehicle from time to time and getting to know your surroundings a little better.

5. Camping

The only thing better than spending a day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is spending the night there as well. The park makes that easy with front country and backcountry camping facilities in both states. Options include Smokemont, Cades Cove, Elkmont, Cosby, Abrams Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Deep Creek, Balsam Mountain and Look Rock. Note that while front country facilities do accommodate RV camping, there is no electric service. Also, backcountry camping requires a permit. We recommend calling or going online before your trip to reserve your sites. They tend to fill up quickly in summer.


This content posted by Goats on the Roof of the Smoky Mountains. Visit our home page, goatsontheroofofthesmokies.com for more information on the goats and their coaster.

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