Great Smoky Mountains National Park is part of the Appalachian Mountain chain located along the border of the states North Carolina and Tennessee in the eastern United States. It covers an area of 816.2 square miles (2,114 sq km).
The park boundaries incorporate parts of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains which are subranges of the larger Appalachian chain creating one of the larger national parks in the southeast region of the United States.
The primary entrances occur on US Highway 441 which runs through the park from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina. It is locally known as the Newfound Gap Road and serves as a mountain pass toward the center of the park.
The park elevations start at 875 feet (267 m) and rise up to 6,643 feet (2,205) which are considerably lower elevations than Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Clingmans Dome is the highest summit and features a lookout observation deck located at the peak.
There are 16 peaks that hit heights over 5,000 feet (1,520 m). It is the beautiful rolling mountains covered with forest that create the spectacular landscapes of the park. Only 5% of the park is not covered by forests with the protected area serving as one of the largest old-growth forests in North America. There are over 100 species of trees making up the various forests of the park.
The abundant forested areas give way to an array of wildlife with popular mammalian animals including black bear, elk, bobcat, coyote, foxes, river otter, raccoon, skunk, and beaver. Additionally, there are 39 species of reptiles, 43 species of amphibians, and over 200 species of birds.
Great Smokey Mountain Highlights
The various landscapes are the highlight of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The views change seasonally with over 1,400 flower species decorating the spring and early summer months. The fall foliage that decorates the rolling mountain ranges is another highlight that draws millions over visitors. It is the most visited national park of the United States.
Laurel Falls is an 80-foot (24 m) waterfall which can be accessed through a short easy paved path. Clingman’s Dome observation deck is also accessed through a short-paved path.
Apart from the scenic drives through the park, the best way to experience the Great Smokey Mountains is hiking the numerous trails found throughout the park. Backpacking and camping are also common ways to enjoy the park.
Great Smoky Mountains Highlights
- Scenic drive along US Highway 441
- Clingmans Dome and observation deck
- Laurel Falls
- Britannica, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, https://www.britannica.com/place/Great-Smoky-Mountains, retrieved September 2019.
- Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, https://www.gatlinburg.com/explore/national-park/, retrieved September 2019.
- National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm, retrieved September 2019.
- Smoky Mountains, National Park, https://smokymountains.com/park/, retrieved September 2019.
- UNESCO, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/259/, retrieved September 2019.