The Great Smoky Mountains lie along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, forming part of the Appalachian mountain range, which runs up through the Eastern United States all the way to Maine. The national park is stunningly beautiful.
It is home to diverse wildlife and offers visitors great activities that get them closer to nature. Here’s what you need to know before you go to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).
About Great Smoky Mountains National Park
First, let’s talk about the location of the park. The park lies on the NC-TN border, and it encompasses over 520,000 acres of beautiful forested mountains, green meadows, and beautiful clear streams. Through the park runs the Appalachian Trail, which goes the length of the Appalachian range.
The park lies just off of U.S. Highway 441, which passes through the nearby towns of Cherokee, NC, and Gatlinburg, TN. Visitors may enter the park from both of these locations.
One of the most visited national parks in the country and a top national park in the eastern states, GSMNP is an excellent family vacation destination because of its natural features. It is the only national park in the U.S. that does not charge an entrance fee.
Flora and Fauna in the Park
GSMNP is mainly composed of deciduous temperate forest, much of which is made up of various types of trees. These types include maple, oak, magnolia, walnut, and tulip poplar.
Also found in the park are several types of conifers, such as the Fraser fir and numerous pines and cedars.
Ferns, wildflowers, grasses, and mosses, as well as several species of fungi, also thrive in the park.
Animal life in the Smoky Mountains is diverse as well. Notable mammals in the park include black bears, white-tailed deer, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, several species of squirrels, including flying squirrels, rabbits (cottontails), and many species of bats.
Birds include Red-tailed Hawks (and other smaller hawks), Bald Eagles, several types of owls, Wild Turkeys, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quails, and dozens of species of wood-warblers, and other songbirds (such as sparrows, orioles, flycatchers, towhees, and more).
What to Do in the Park
Hiking and camping are some of the more popular activities in which visitors to the park may participate. Other activities include birdwatching, fly fishing, and water sports.
Rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and tubing are very popular in the park’s many rivers. Nature and outdoor-loving visitors will not be disappointed by the scenery and activities available in this incredible national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor’s Center
Finally, a great activity for families is planning a visit to the park’s Visitor Center. Four visitor centers are located within the national park at Cades Cove, Oconaluftee, Sugarlands and Clingmans Dome.
In addition, three information centers are located outside the park in the communities of Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Townsend.
Our family enjoyed visiting the Sugarlands location because of the natural history exhibits and the free, 20 minute film about the history of the park.
GSMNP in North Carolina and Tennessee is one of the top locations for family travel in the Eastern United States. Its natural beauty and wildlife are beyond compare.