Add the Great Smoky Mountains to Your Travel List
Visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The Smokies are best known for the majestic (and ancient) stretch of mountain peaks that span 36 miles and two states. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is filled with historical treasures, gorgeous waterfalls, beautiful walking trails, and diverse wildlife. And here’s a bit of trivia: Which national park is the most visited in the United States? Yellowstone? Nope! It’s the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Surprised? We’re not.
With 850 miles of hiking trails, old-growth forests, and historic buildings and homesteads to explore, it’s no wonder people flock to these hills. Many of the nature trails are family-friendly and are not difficult to walk. And because of the abundant rainfall in this region, the park has 11 waterfalls that visitors can hike to and three that guests can drive to! It’s extremely accessible.
Visitor Tip: Be sure to include a visit to Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. With a drop of 100 feet, this majestic waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the park.
Two other spots to seek out in the park are Cades Cove and the Walker Sisters Place. Cades Cove is an 11-mile loop road open to hikers and bicyclists that circles a valley teaming with black bears, white-tailed deer, turkeys, and other wildlife. The valley’s rich history dates back to 1818 and includes many restored churches, a gristmill, barns, and a visitor center. It’s one of the most popular trails in the park because of the abundance of wildlife!
The Walker Sisters Place is a historic homestead steeped in Appalachian lore. Constructed in the 1840s, the Walker family inhabited this small cabin when the Great Smoky National Park was created in 1930. The family continued to live and farm on the property until 1964—when the last of the five Walker sisters passed away. They were renowned for maintaining their farming way of life, even when tourists would stop them in the garden to say hello.
Don’t forget to pack a camera (or check out your filter options) so you can capture photos of the infamous blue haze that swirls among the tips and hugs the valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains. This “smoke” results from the release of carbon dioxide from the mountain vegetation and, unfortunately, air pollution.
On a clear day, visitors can see almost 100 miles from the Clingmans Dome observation tower, the highest point in the park, but most days views are limited to 20 miles or less. Cooler temperatures at Clingmans Dome created a “coniferous rainforest” populated by spruce and fir trees. It is unlike any forest in the surrounding area and makes it feel as if you have stumbled into a Canadian forest.
Play All Day at Dollywood or Anakeesta
Not far from the Great Smoky National Park is Dollywood Resorts & Parks, the second-most visited spot in the Smoky Mountains. Located in Pigeon Forge, this 150-acre theme park is beloved for its nature and country music theme, the ongoing promotion of local Appalachian craft making, and, of course, the musical legend herself—Dolly Parton. New to the park is Big Bear Mountain, a gigantic rollercoaster that lasts almost two minutes! At night, be sure to stay for a unique drone light display.
In nearby Gatlinburg, the Anakeesta Adventure Park towers over everything on a 70-acre mountaintop! Anakeesta translates to “the place of the high ground” in Cherokee, and the park takes this literally. Guests are whisked 600 feet up the mountain to the park in either a chondola or an enclosed gondola cabin (or a passenger truck if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground). Once in the park, guests can enjoy spectacular views from the Anavista Observation Tower, run and play on a huge series of suspended bridges, or crawl through the Treeventure Challenge Course!
Paddle (or Float) Pigeon River
Aside from hiking in the national park, spending time on the Pigeon River might be one of the best ways to experience the Smokies. Tubing and half-day white-water rafting on the Pigeon River are popular on this dam-controlled waterway. Year-round tubing, canoeing, and kayaking are available, while white-water rafting is limited to days when the dam is open. But when it is open—get ready! Your guide will navigate you safely through 10 Class III rapids and three Class IV rapids. It will be a day filled with adrenaline, laughter, and lifetime memories.
Explore the Legendary Arts & Crafts Scene
The people who carved out a living in the Appalachian mountains have always been celebrated for their artistry and craftsmanship. Gatlinburg pays homage to this artistic heritage with the Gatlinburg Arts Trail. Guests can hop on the free Yellow Line Trolley and comfortably explore shops and galleries along an eight-mile loop with works from more than 100 artists! Learn about traditional quilting and pottery practices, and take home a handcrafted remembrance of time spent “in the hills.”
Discover a Rich History
A rainy day won’t stop you in the Great Smoky Mountains! Enjoy an incredibly scenic drive through the Great Smoky Mountain Park on Newfound Gap Road. You’ll pass by four incredible scenic overlooks and witness the changing landscape of the forest as you change elevations.
An interesting destination at the end of Newfound Gap Road is the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. This beautiful museum presents 13,000 years of Cherokee history “from the time when mastodons roamed the southern Appalachians to the present day.” An ever-changing calendar of events filled with educational presentations and dances by the Warriors of AniKituhwa means every visit is unique.
Explore with Help from Natural Retreats
In addition to cozy mountain cabins and rugged chalets, we offer our guests discounts and free attraction tickets through the Xplorie program. Offers range from free movie rentals (because all that hiking and exploring is hard work!) to discounts on white-water river rafting, theatrical performances, magic acts, and more!
Book a stay in the Great Smoky Mountains and start planning your next great adventure!