The Great Smoky Mountains, a central range of the Appalachians running roughly east-west, are one of the finest forest regions in the United States. The name of the National Park, through which runs the border between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, comes from the clouds and mist that frequently rise out of the lonely mountain valleys like smoke signals and swathe the mountains rising above the valleys to heights of over 6500 ft.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Map
107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738-4102, United States
The "Great Smokies" are hillbilly country.
Information The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited National Park in the United States, is open throughout the year - though in winter some roads may be impassable. There are Visitor Centers in Sugarlands near Gatlinburg (TN) and in Oconaluftee near Cherokee (NC). There are ten camping sites in the park and many hotels and motels in the surrounding towns.
Flora and fauna With its abundant rainfall, mainly in the summer months, and fertile soils, the National Park has a wide variety of flora and fauna (including bears). At lower levels dense deciduous forests predominate; higher up there are conifers. Well over 1400 species of flowering plants can be found here, including mountain magnolias, wild azaleas, mountain laurels and orchids; from the Rhododendron blossom beginning of June to the middle of July there are splendid shows of rhododendrons.
The full beauty of the National Park can best be appreciated by exploring it on foot. There are a total of some 900 mi. of hiking trails: information from Visitor Centers and the Park administration.
The National Park can be approached from the east on the Blue Ridge Skyway, which ends at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Here, in the extreme west of North Carolina, is the largest Indian reservation east of the Mississippi, the Qualla Reservation, occupied by the descendants of the Cherokees who refused in 1838 to follow the "Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma. In the little town of Cherokee there is an informative museum, and the Oconaluftee Indian Village above the town seeks to re-create the old life of the tribe.
To the west, reached by way of Gatlinburg, a little town now given over to the tourist trade, and the Sugarlands Visitor Center, is Newfound Gap (5050 ft), on the crest line of the mountains, which offers a magnificent view of the mountain forests.
Still finer is the prospect from the viewpoint (closed in winter) on Clingmans Dome (6642 ft), the highest hill in Tennessee, which can be climbed from Newfound Gap either by road or on a 6 mi. section of the Appalachian Trail.
Round Cades Cove, in the western part of the National Park, runs an 11 mi. road, passing the fields, houses, wooden churches and mills of the pioneers who settled here in the 19th c.
In Pigeon Forge, north of Gatlinburg, lies Dollywood, the garishly modern leisure park owned by Dolly Parton, the country and western singer.