An Outdoor Playground for All

The weather here in the Smoky Mountains has been stunning this year! Amazing temperatures, nice breezes and light rain have formed a beautiful and ideal outdoor playground! It is a perfect summer for a picnic in the Smokies. Grab your favorite picnic foods and head down to the creek. Make sure that our cub reporter, Buddy Bear, doesn’t steal your picnic basket!

Did you know that there are eleven picnic areas in the National Park and more just on the outskirts? All of these locations have plenty of room to relax and take in all that the Smokies offer. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Picnic areas are located at Big Creek, Chimneys, Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Heintooga, Look Rock, Metcalf Bottoms and Twin Creeks. A few of these locations stay open all year round so the outdoor adventure never has to end! Some of the locations even have pavilions that can be reserved for events. Go to to reserve a pavilion today!

An important fact to remember while visiting the National Park is that feeding bears and other wildlife is illegal. Feeding the wildlife is dangerous for visitors and the animals, alike. When visiting the area, please make sure the picnic area being used is completely cleaned and the garbage is disposed of correctly. This includes the table top and area below the table.

A great location in the National Park that is close by is Cades Cove. Cades Cove has a myriad of things to do such as biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding, animal viewing, picnicking, and much more! The best time to head on the one way, eleven mile loop in Cades Cove for wildlife viewing is either early morning or late afternoon. Cades Cove Loop is open sunrise to sunset, with the exceptions of Saturday and Wednesday mornings until 10 AM. During that time, the loop is only open to foot traffic and biking.

When visiting Cades Cove, please allot between two to five hours, depending on traffic and the amount of time you wish to hike in the area. When hiking, keep in mind there are many different trails with different lengths. Abrams Falls and Cades Cove Nature Trails are both shorter trails (under 5 miles). Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top, both of which are longer trails, begin in Cades Cove.

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is another great stop when visiting the National Park. The Sugarlands Visitor Center has a free 20 minute video about the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, many animal displays of the wildlife and plant life in the area, maps and a large bookstore. The Visitor Center also has brochures and information on the history of the park. There are a few short hiking trails right beside the Visitor Center that is perfect for families with small children.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a natural playground with so much to see and do. Remembering to enjoy it, along with the vast number of other wonderful attractions, shopping and restaurants. When visiting the area, stop by the Sugarland’s Welcome Center and talk to the Great Smoky Mountains Association. They have a large amount of interesting and fun information about the park. Also, check out the different events offered by the Park Rangers and Volunteers at There are tons of classes and programs offered for Rangers and Future Rangers of all ages!

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