The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg TN
Many people do not know that getting the Smoky Mountains to become a national park was not an easy task. One of the reasons for this being a difficult task is that the area that was to become The Great Smoky Mountains was owned by a handful of large paper and timber companies and hundreds of small farmers. Of course, the farmers did not want to leave their family homesteads nor did the large corporations want to loose huge forests of timber, the many miles of railroad track, whole villages of employee housing, and extensive systems of logging equipment.
The idea for a national park began in the late 1890’s and the drive to create a national park became successful in the mid-1920’s. The final touch in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was in 1940 at its formal dedication by President Franklin Roosevelt.
This is one of the few places remaining in the eastern United States where black bears live in their natural, wild habitat. It is a memory to be treasured if you are lucky to see one of the black bears when visiting the park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg TN is one of the largest areas east of the Rocky Mountains with over 500,000 acres of forest and is the home to a variety of animals and plants. Taking a hike from the mountain base to the peak is often compared to the 2,000 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, which was from Georgia to Maine. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the highest visitation of all the national parks in the country with between eight and ten million visits annually.
When you visit the park there are educational programs offered by the rangers and at the different look outs in the park you will find roadside exhibits, which explain the unique aspects of the park to the visitors. Almost 95% of the park is forested and about 25% of that area has been disturbed. Some of the trees are 20 feet in circumference.
Things to Do
With Gatlinburg being in close proximity to the Smoky Mountains National Park’s entrance, there are endless opportunities of dining options, you can even rent a cabin, and there are complete Smoky Mountain vacation packages. These mountains are a range of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains got their name because they are usually covered by a smoky haze or mist. These mountains form the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina. At the top of the mountains is an area where you can give your car a rest and stretch your legs, and when you leave there you are in North Carolina. If you love to hike, then you need to hike the Clingmans Dome Trail, which takes visitors on an upward climb to a fifty-foot observation deck where on a clear day you can see many miles over the Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina Mountains. This is the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet.
There are two main visitors’ centers inside the park. At the entrance you will find the Sugarlands Visitors’ Center, and the Oconaluftee Visitors’ Center near Cherokee, North Carolina.
Some other activities are 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads, including the seventy miles of the Appalachian Trail. If you decide to backpack the Appalachian Trail, there are trail shelters along the trail or a short distance away on side trails. Camping is only allowed in designated areas and shelters. For all backcountry camping, you have to have a permit with a maximum stay of one night in the shelters or three nights in the campsites. Check before you decide on doing any camping as reservations are required for many of the campsites and all the shelters.
There is also fishing, especially fly fishing, is one of the most popular activities because the waters have a reputation for healthy trout. Horseback riding is offered by the national park and on limited trails and you can also go water tubing.
This is a valley with a number of preserved historic buildings, which include barns, churches, and log cabins. This is the single most frequented destination in the national park. There are only self-guided automobile and bicycle tours of an eleven mile, one way paved loop around Cades Cove and during tourist season, it can take over four miles to traverse. During the 11 mile trip there are places that you can pull over to observe an abundant display of wildlife, visit the many historic buildings, and see the scenic mountain views. Some of the wildlife you may be lucky to see is deer and black bear. There are also hiking trails within the cove, which include the trail to Abrams Falls. If you would like to take a bicycle ride, they rent them here.
Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vacation all in its self. Make sure that you have your car checked before you begin to tackle the roads through the park as there are a lot of curves, up hills and down hills so the brakes are used a lot. You should also make sure that you have plenty of water in the radiator, and it might be advisable to carry a couple of gallons of water with you in case of an emergency.