Great Smoky Mountains National Park

America’s most-visited national park straddles the border of Tenn. and N.C. with a thickly forested collection of mountains, rivers and preserved pioneer communities. Some highlights include Cades Cove known for its abundant wildlife and a working grist mill, Clingmans Dome on the park’s highest point with a view of seven states, and dozens of waterfalls and cascades.

Woman wearing face mask in the woods

5 Things to Know About Great Smoky Mountains Travel Amid COVID-19

In light of the spread of COVID-19, trying to find out what is open and closed in our national parks is a moving target these days. Here are updates.

Hyatt Lane through Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A Perfect Day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Got 24 hours? Get the most out of them with this guide. Take a hike, touch the past, cruise a view, and more.

Woman hiking next to a cascade in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

What to Pack for a Great Smoky Mountains Park Vacation

How do you pack for the nation’s most visited park? Here are the top 14 items to bring to the park.

Autumn sunrise from Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Weather and Seasons

The forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are noted for humid weather patterns. Shaped by elevation, slope, and exposure, these can change rapidly.

An aerial view of Lake Fontana in North Carolina

Which Trail Should I Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Options for trails and what to expect on the hike, from a moderate walk to a waterfall to a strenuous hike to the top of a mountain.

Female black bear. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Black Bears in the Great Smoky Mountains

About 1,500 black bears live in the park. Females usually weigh about 100 lbs and males weigh 250, though bears as large as 600 have been found here.

Yellow sunset in the misty mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park Virtually

You don’t have to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park in person to experience its spectacular mountains, valleys and waterfalls.

Misty sunset over the mountains in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

8 Ways to Live in the Moment, Smoky Mountains-Style

Here are exceptional ways to have fun and be present, Great Smoky Mountains National Park-style, even if you can't visit the park in person.

Photographer in the mountains in autumn

2021 National Park Photo Contest presented by Tamron

Love to take photos in national parks? Whether it’s a landscape, a wildlife pic, or a Milky Way shot, send it our way. You could win a Tamron camera lens!

Which entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park should I take?

Great Smoky has three main entrances and a smattering of smaller inlets. The Gatlinburg, Tenn./Sugarlands entrance is the most popular for tourists interested in attractions and auto touring. The Townsend, Tenn. and Oconaluftee/Cherokee, N. Carolina entrances cater more to the traveler interested in outdoor recreation and adventure vacations. The remote Cataloochee entrance is the best place for elk viewing, and the Lake Fontana entrance gives you access to lake sports and famous motorcycle rides right outside the park. The latter is also the way Appalachian Trail hikers enter the park.

How should I get to Great Smoky?

Most people drive to the park. Check out our road trip ideas. There are four major airports within a day’s drive of the park including Knoxville, Tenn. and Charlotte, N. Carolina. Once you get to the park, you will need a car or tour transportation to get around unless you ride the Gatlinburg trolley.

Park gateway town, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Best Road Trips to Great Smoky

Getting there can be as fun as the park itself. Enjoy these scenic drives and road trips to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other spots in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Airplane in the clouds

4 Closest Airports to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Convenient airports include McGee-Tyson, Asheville Regional Greenville-Spartanburg International, and Charlotte Douglas International. See maps.

The Gatlinburg Trolley driving through Pigeon Forge. Photo by Ron Miguel via Flickr

Gatlinburg Trolley to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Gatlinburg Trolley Tan Line stops at Sugarlands Visitor Center, Laurel Falls parking lot, and Elkmont Campground.

Where should I stay on my Smoky Mountain vacation?

There is only one lodge in the park and it has a lottery reservation system. However, there are several park campgrounds and horse camps. There are a plethora of lodging options near the park entrances including cabins, campgrounds, resorts, hotels, and a casino hotel.

Interior of a glamping tent at Under Canvas in the Gatlinburg area

Glamping in the Great Smokies

Luxury Gatlinburg camping near the national park

Fire Pit at Fairfield Inn & Suites Gatlinburg Downtown

Charmingly Modern Gatlinburg Hotel

Stay walking distance to Gatlinburg's attractions and a short drive to the national park.

What is there to see and do at Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Auto touring through dense forests, exploring preserved pioneer communities, hiking to mountain views and waterfalls, and wildlife watching (especially for bears) are the main attractions in the park. During autumn, the mountains are ablaze with color, making leaf-peeping season the busiest time in the park. See our list of the top ten things to do in the park and beyond.

Black bear nursing her cubs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Where Can I See Wildlife in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

There are many types of animals in the Great Smoky Mountains, but dense forests can make them difficult to spot. Here’s a guide to better your chances.

Sunset over the Smoky Mountains in autumn

10 Best Things to Do on a Great Smoky Mountains Vacation

Don’t leave the park without ticking off at least one of these top ten Smokies to-dos including historic sites, grand overlooks, wildlife, and waterfalls.

Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Scenic Auto Touring

See wildlife, colorful leaves, mountain peaks, and waterfalls, all from the convenience of your car. We show you the best pit-stops for exploring.