Celebrated as one of the most beautiful places on earth, this Great Smoky Mountains National Park abounds with stunning biodiversity and expansive views. Before you begin on your epic hiking adventure, visit one or all of the five visitor centers. Four are located within the national park at Cades Cove, Oconaluftee, Sugarlands and Clingmans Dome.
World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, breathtaking views and outdoor adventures, the Great Smoky Mountains Is an outdoor enthusiasts dream. The beauty of camping in the Smoky Mountains is that is offers a myriad of camping styles for everyone. Good Sam offers tent camping, cabins, RV parks & resorts and glamping tents, making camping at one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world easily accessible.
Most camping facilities are located along trolley routes, so you can enjoy the mountain (pun intended) of attractions, dining and shopping that the area has to offer.
Hiking in the Smokies
Every season offers amazing hiking but do keep in mind the park’s backcountry is managed as a natural area where the forces of nature determine trail conditions. July is the busiest month of the summer season, while October offers the orange and golden hues of rich autumn foliage.
There are over 800 miles of hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spread out over 150 different trails. Straddling along the rugged border of Tennessee and North Carolina, America’s most visited national park is abundant with wildflowers, hiking trails and wildlife.
Pigeon Forge is the center of fun in the Smokies and lucky for outdoor adventure seekers, Good Sam offers numerous Pigeon Forge campgrounds in Smoky Mountains.
LeConte Lodge sits close to the summit of Mount LeConte and hiking is the only way to get there. The Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LeConte qualifies as a classic Smoky Mountain hike. To reach the 6593-foot summit of Mount LeConte, hikers will need to climb 2,763 feet.
Fun fact: Traveling from the lowest to highest elevations within the park is the biological equivalent of traveling from Georgia to Maine.
One of the park’s most beautiful and intimate features is its waterfalls. Over 100 prominent cascades and waterfalls can be found, displaying nature in one of its most elegant forms.
Due to annual precipitation nearly equal to that of a temperate rainforest, clear, fresh water flows just about everywhere in these mountains. And where water is prevalent, life abounds.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail gets its name from one of the largest and fastest flowing mountain streams within the park. It’s a 6 mile, one-way loop that provides awesome views of mountains, streams, mills and other historic buildings. It features two of the most popular waterfalls in the Smokies. The moderate 5.4 mile roundtrip hike to Rainbow Falls boastfully displays a massive 80-foot tall waterfall.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail also provides access to the Trillium Gap Trail. This leads to the 25-foot high Grotto Falls where you can walk behind a wall of water.
ProTip: Allow about an hour drive from the Pigeon Forge campgrounds and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the scenic turnouts. Or, eat at the waterfall after hiking the Trillium Gap Trail.
Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and one of the most spectacular. The trail to the waterfall gains over 2,000’ in elevation over its 4 mile course and the 8-mile roundtrip hike is considered difficult. Pass through old-growth cove hardwood forest with large tuliptrees, basswoods and yellow birches.
Summertime in the Smokies
Located next to Dollywood theme park, Dollywood’s Splash Country is the perfect mountain oasis for families to chill out. Try catching a wave in the heart of the Smokies at the Mountain Waves 25,000-sqare-foot wave pool or experience Tennessee’s first and only water coaster, RiverRush!
ProTip: Head to the back of the park and ride it first. As you can imagine, it’s one of the most popular slides at the park.
Or, catch an authentic wave down some class I, II, III or IV rapids between March and November. White water rafting in the Smoky Mountains offers some of the most scenic mountain views. The Pigeon River has carved its rocky riverbed through some of the most dramatic country in East Tennesee. The upper section of the Pigeon River boasts 12 Class III and three Class IV thrilling rapids. Smoky Mountain Outdoors (SMO) was named one of the “Top 10 Experiences in the United State” by Trip Advisor.
“Our family went on the white-water rafting trip, and absolutely loved it. The staff was very professional, friendly, and organized…the facilities and equipment were top-notch…the attention to safety was always present, and the staff made it fun and comfortable.” – Ron, Trip Advisor
Holidays in the Smokies
And what other mountainous area in the U.S. also offers a theme park with southern charm? Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features more than 40 rides and attractions, spectacular Dollywood shows and entertainment, filled with wholesome family fun. Running until January 4th, Christmas traditions are on display at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. Celebrate the sounds of the season with award-winning holiday musical productions like Dollywood’s own Christmas in the Smokies and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Starting November 15th and running until February 17th, 2020, experience the 30th Annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest Celebration, where Pigeon Forge creates a winter wonderland. Don’t miss The Island in Pigeon Forge with nearly 40,000 ornaments, half a million lights and more than 5,000 feet of garland.
For amazing panoramic views of Gatlinburg, visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle and revel in 360 views of the night sky and all the holiday light action below. After taking in the picture-perfect views of the Christmas light displays, enjoy some hot cocoa or take care of some last-minute Christmas shopping at the Village Shops in Gatlinburg.
Closer to the Pigeon Forge campgrounds, experience a unique holiday that bluegrass fans are sure to enjoy. Located at the Evergreen Smoky Mountain Lodge & Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Christmas in the Smokies is the place to be, starting December 11th, for fiddles, guitar and mandolin.