The Great Smoky Mountains feature some of the most spectacular and breathtaking views in the United States! Sometimes simply referred to as just the “Smokies”, the Great Smoky Mountains are a chain of mountains located along the Tennessee – North Carolina border in Southeastern United States. The mountains are part of the Appalachian system and one of the oldest uplands on earth. They originally got their name because of the smoke-like haze, which hangs low over the mountains. Millions of visitors are drawn by their stunning natural beauty, panoramic mountain views, endless miles of pristine mountain streams, carpets of wildflowers as well as a verdant forest, abundant wildlife and innumerable scenic trails that have made The Great Smoky Mountains National Park to become recognized as an “International Biosphere Reserve.” It is home to an exquisite array of wildlife including elk, white-tailed deer, black bears, and 200 species of birds.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular and most-visited national parks in the nation with more than 9+ million visitors each year. This is more than twice the number of visitors received annually at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Yosemite National Parks. According to statistics released by The National Park Service, The Great Smokey National Park received over 10 million visitors in 2014, making it only the fourth time in 80 years that it had reached that mark! This milestone number was achieved previously only in 1987, 1999, and 2000.
Established in 1934, the National Park is composed of ridge-upon-ridge of seemingly endless lush forest straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. World-renowned for the diversity of animal and plant life, the stunning beauty of its ancient mountains, coupled with the quality of the remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain-culture, has made it America’s most popular national park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been pretty evenly divided by the North Carolina – Tennessee border. There are 521,621 acres to explore, with nearly half that area being found in either state. So there’s plenty of room for all and for outstanding outdoor activities! This International Biosphere Reserve is habitat to rugged mountains (several peaks in excess of 6,000 ft.), historic homesteads, and 100,000 diverse forms of plants and animals.
There are five main entrances to the-Great Smoky Mountains region. These entrances include Oconaluftee, Cataloochee Valley, Road to Nowhere, Big Creek and Balsam Mountain. The best entrance to use when coming from the Maggie Valley Creekside Lodge is via the Cataloochee Valley. Cataloochee Valley is a meager 20-mile drive from Maggie Valley. Two Visitor Centers— Oconaluftee and Sugarlands —mirror one other across the state line that is separated by several miles of deciduous lush forest. Picturesque waterfalls are located throughout the park, with larger falls such as the Grotto, Abrams, Rainbow, Laurel, and Mingo drawing more than 200,000 visitors per year.
The history of the-Great Smoky Mountains is as rich and as interesting as this park is beautiful! The Great Smokies have been home to numerous immigrants, including pre-historic Paleo-Indians, early Europeans settlers, and loggers in the 20th century. The protection of history, nature, and wildlife are very important to this park. For centuries these mountains had been the abode of the Cherokee Indians until nearly all of them were forced from their territory and sent to Oklahoma on what came to be called the Trail of Tears.
The Great Smoky Mountains are amongst the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountain Range, yet they’re rounder and lower in elevation as compared to younger mountain chains like the Rocky Mountains. The Smokies originally appeared more like the Himalayas than the rounded mountain ranges we see today. The persistent erosive force of water sculpted their present-day look. Water runoff also helped to carve the alternating pattern of steep ridges and V-shaped valleys. Landslides caused by a torrential downpour experienced in 1951 created the large V-slash on Mt. LeConte, and rockslides in 1984 temporarily closed Newfound Gap Road. When exploring the park, look for how water continues to sculpt the land.
The history of the Appalachians is a valuable thing and The Great Smoky Mountains preserves this history. Besides its role in preserving the rich natural as well as historical heritage, the National Park is a place for a myriad of outdoor recreational pursuits! The Smokies feature activities for visitors of diverse ages and interests. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides an exciting variety of outdoor activities to enjoy, including close to 80 historic buildings, spectacular wildflower displays, and abundant wildlife. Visitors are able to visit nearly 80 preserved log cabins, grist mills, churches and historic landscapes which serve as “windows” into the existence of the rugged Scotch-Irish settlers who settled on the mountain in the early 19th-century.
The Park encompasses over 800 miles of hiking trails, 10 campgrounds, and 1,500 types of plants, making auto touring a popular activity. Recommended activities include hiking the boundless number of trails, camping, picnicking, auto touring, horseback riding, sightseeing, fishing, nature viewing, and taking advantage of the photographic opportunities that surround you!
The natural beauty and the 4 distinct seasons enjoyed in the Great Smoky Mountains are unparalleled! Whether you visit during spring, when the mountains are bursting with new life, or in the rich, lush, green days of summer, or during the spectacular color-filled days of autumn, or during the sparkling white of winter, your drive through The Great Smoky Mountains are guaranteed to provide an adventure in itself! Make your mountain getaway perfect by setting up your home base in a comfortable, cozy retreat such as the Maggie Valley Creekside Lodge.