Attracting more than 9 million visitors per year, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America's most visited national park. You can spend days exploring the park with the majestic mountain passes, meandering rivers and streams, and the beautiful morning blue haze, that gave the mountains their name. There are so many different ways to escape the everyday and connect with nature in the mountains, from vigorous activities like hiking, tubing, fly fishing, and horseback riding to more leisurely activities like picnicking or touring on one of the park's scenic drives.
Hiking is one of the best ways to fully experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and an excellent way to enjoy the beauty of the area.
These are some of our favorites, from easy to challenging.
- Metcalf Bottoms Trail (easy)
- Spruce Flat Falls (moderate-easy)
- Abrams Falls (moderate)
- Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LeConte (hard)
SCENIC AUTO TOURING
A relaxing ride through the mountains engages the senses with the sights, sounds and distinctive fragrance of the forest. Many scenic auto tours have pull-offs and observation stops so you can get a better view of the mountains and maybe a great photo or two! There's so much to see by car that everyone can enjoy the mountains.
Some of our favorite auto tours are:
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Little River Road
- Newfound Gap Road
- Cades Cove Loop
Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Cade's Cove Loop is a beautiful drive and offers many pull-off areas to get out and explore the historic settlement that has been here since the 1800's. The Cove is a great place to see nature firsthand; we recommend getting to Cades Cove early in the morning, for a better chance to see wildlife. Allow a minimum of two to four hours to tour.
If you are looking for an exhilarating river experience, try whitewater rafting in the Great Smoky Mountains on the Pigeon River, located less than an hour drive from the Inn. The rafting trips offer breathtaking scenery and excitement for the whole family. There are several excursions available from class I and II rapids to the more extreme class III and IV rapids. Check with Guest Services for more information.
Horseback riding has been around the Smokies since the area was settled centuries ago. It is a great way to explore the Smoky Mountains National Park as you ride the tree-lined paths along mountain streams.
There are several stables in the area for rides on your own or with a guided tour.
- Sugarlands Riding Stables
- Cades Cove Stables
- Five Oaks Riding Stables
- Walden Creek Stables
With over 2,100 miles of streams open for fishing, The Smokies are a popular destination for fly-fishermen who come to fish for trout. There are several local guide services available that can help you enhance your casting skills and take you to the best fishing spots. Don't forget to get a fishing license!
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL
The Smoky Mountains have a rich culture and history. There are more than 100 historic structures to explore. From one side of the park to the other there are landmarks, cabins, barns, grist mills, churches and more to visit. Take advantage of some of the ranger-led programs that focus on the history, stories, and resources of the park.
For the best view in the Smokies, head to Clingmans Dome. Even the view from the parking lot is outstanding! The hike up the half-mile (steep) paved trail to the top of Clingmans Dome takes you to the highest point in the Smokies and rewards you with even better views. The Clingmans Dome Tower is a great spot to watch the sunrise or sunset.
Whether you are headed out for a hike, horseback ride or scenic drive pack your picnic basket or backpack and enjoy lunch in nature. The park has beautiful designated picnic areas, many located alongside mountain streams that have bathrooms, grills, and picnic pavilions.
BEST PLACE TO CHILL
One of the best ways to de-stress and get in the relaxation zone is to sit beside one of the park's many rivers and streams. Find a perfect spot for some "stone skipping," the childhood game of throwing a flat river stone across the water, so it bounces off the surface as many times as possible.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to many types of wildlife. Some of the best opportunities to see black bears, deer, elk, turkeys, woodchucks, and other animals are the more open areas like the Cades Cove Loop and Cataloochee. Many motorists report sightings of bears and other wildlife along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It is easier to see wildlife in the winter months when the trees have lost their leaves. Be sure to give the wildlife their space when you visit their habitat.