Natural Wonders

Road Trips


Gateway Towns

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, North Entrance to Great Smoky

Full of souvenir shops, restaurants, and attractions, the bustling towns can be a sensory overload or a rollicking good time, depending on your perspective.


Overlooking Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Max Patch bald in autumn

Best Eco-Friendly Vacation Itinerary at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Experience the best of Great Smoky while traveling sustainably by eating locally grown food, staying at eco-friendly lodges and hiking on gorgeous trails.

Scenic Drives

Sunrise on Sparks Lane in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove Scenic Drive in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Take a photo tour of the Cades Cove historic community, its log cabins, churches, and grist mill, inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.



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Great Smoky Mountains Essentials: 12 Basic Things You Need to Know

Read this before you plan your visit to the park.

Straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina with a collection of rounded mountain peaks, lively rivers and preserved pioneer communities, Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s namesake is the natural blue fog ascending from its dense forests. With expansive views, Southern Appalachian mountain culture and two black bears per square mile, it’s no wonder that Great Smoky is America’s most visited national park. But before you head to the park, here are a few basic Great Smoky Mountains essentials you need to know.

There’s no entrance fee.

Unlike most national parks, Great Smoky Mountains does not charge entrance fees. It’s free to drive through the park or briefly stop (15 minutes or less) in parking areas and pull-offs. New in 2023, visitors who plan to park inside Great Smoky Mountains must have a daily, weekly or annual parking pass. These can be bought in advance online, or in person at the park. Learn more at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fees.htm.

The Mountain Farm Museum near the Oconaluftee Entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Photo: Depositphotos) Plan ahead.

At more than 800 square miles, Great Smoky Mountains National Park stretches across two states: North Carolina and Tennessee. The park has two main entrances and many smaller entrances, so it’s important to decide in advance what you want to see so that you can choose the campground or gateway town that’s most convenient to stay in.

Be prepared.

Park elevations range from 875 feet above sea level to 6,643 feet. This means weather can vary greatly as you move around. Plan ahead and always carry layers. It’s a good idea to have a warm jacket and hat, and a wind and waterproof layer with you when hiking. Just because it’s a hot and sunny day in Gatlinburg doesn’t mean it will be the same at Clingmans Dome.

Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Photo: Depositphotos) Lace up.

Leave the flip-flops for the pool. Closed-toed shoes with good tread like hiking boots or tennis shoes will protect your feet. You’ll be encountering lots of dirt trails.