Learn information about our big backyard playground, The Great Smoky Mountain National Park!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was chartered in 1934 by the United States Congress and was officially dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940. It is the only free National Park in the United States. The park encompasses sixteen mountains, has an area of 816 square miles, is located in both Tennessee and North Carolina and is open year round.
Elevations in the National Park range from 876 feet to 6,643 feet. Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies, as well as the highest mountain in Tennessee and the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. The Tower at Clingmans Dome provides visitors a view of seven states and over one hundred miles.
With ten million visitors in 2014, the Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the United States. The second most visited National Park, the Grand Canyon, receives roughly five million visitors each year.
There are 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads in the National Park. Hikers from all over the world travel to hike in the park. Seventy miles of the Appalachian Trail run through the Smokies.
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to diverse wildlife, flora and fauna. Over 1,500 species of wildflowers call the Smokies home including trilliums, lady slipper orchids, showy orchis, crested dwarf iris, fire pink, columbine, bleeding heart, jack-in-the-pulpit, violets and more. Each April, thousands of visitors return to the Smoky Mountains for the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. The Wildflower Pilgrimage is a week-long festival hosted by the National Park where visitors can learn about wildflowers, the history of the park and more.
The Smoky Mountains are also known as the Salamander Capital of the World. Over thirty different species of salamanders live in the National Park.
Black Bears are also quite prevalent in the Smokies with over 1,500 living in the park. That is roughly two bears per each square mile! The bears and their habitat are fully protected through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
There are five motor trails in the National Park. These trails are Cades Cove Loop, Cataloochee Valley, Newfound Gap Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Upper Tremont Road.
Cades Cove is a popular driving and bicycling destination. With 11 miles of paved, one way roads, cyclists and motorist can take in many sights and sounds of the national park from one road! The best time to see the wildlife in Cades Cove is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the park to see the fall foliage. The leaves begin to change colors from early to mid-October. The peak color time does vary each year based on weather patterns and elevation. Be sure to check here (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm) to see the updates beginning each September.
For more information on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit http://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm