Home Gatlinburg Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A Wondrous Diversity of Life

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A Wondrous Diversity of Life

by Millie

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a 800-square-mile mountain wilderness that is federally owned and managed by the National Park Service. It protects the largest swatch of upland forest east of the Mississippi.

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It is surrounded by over 1.6 million acres of U.S. Forest Service National Forest service lands which help provide Great Smoky Mountains visitors with breath-taking views of row-after-row of mountains and ridges stretching to the horizon with only the most scattered evidence of human development – a rare sight in the heavily-populated Eastern U.S.

Operating Hours for Visitor Centers

The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours are as follows:

  • Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center, near Cherokee, NC, 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, with more than 11 million visitors a year, roughly triple the number that comes to Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks. These visitors are drawn by the sweeping mountain views, 730 miles of pristine mountain streams, carpets of wildflowers and a lush forest that lead to the Park’s recognition as an “International Biosphere Reserve.” It is home to abundant wildlife including black bears, elk, white-tailed deer and 200 species of birds.

The Smoky Mountains in Tennessee have had a long history of settlers, starting with the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early Europeans to loggers in the 20th century. Visitors are able to visit almost 80 preserved log cabins, churches, grist mills and historic landscapes that serve as “windows” into the lives of the rugged Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled the mountain in the early 19th century. The history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is rich and as interesting as the park is beautiful!

The creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a drastic departure from the process by which earlier national parks, mostly in the West, were established – by the act of Congress from lands already in public ownership. The idea of creating a national park in the Southern Appalachians came from local individuals in the communities surrounding what would become the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Things to see and do in the park:

  • Auto Touring
  • Bicycling
  • Burial Landscapes
  • Camping
  • Fall Colors
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historic Buildings
  • Horseback Riding
  • Picnicking
  • Ranger-led Programs
  • Waterfalls
  • Wildflowers and Blooming Shrubs
  • Wildlife Viewing

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