Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the United States. It is situated in both Tennessee and North Carolina. It encompasses the ridge line of the Great Smoky Mountains – a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park. The park is well known for its Black Bear population. The park has ample opportunities for hiking, camping, sightseeing, fishing, bicycling, horseback riding, wild water rafting, water tubing and motor touring. There is no entry fee to the park. The park also has a number of historical attractions, rivers and waterfalls.
The main park entrances are located along U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road) at the towns of Gatlinburg in Tennessee and Cherokee in North Carolina.
- Sugarlands Visitors Center, Gatlinburg
- Oconaluftee Visitors Center, Cherokee
US 441 – Newfound Gap Road is a very scenic highway through the park with access to many trail heads and scenic overlooks. New Found Gap is the lowest gap in the mountains and is situated near the center of the park on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, halfway between the border towns of Gatlinburg and Cherokee. On clear days, Newfound Gap offers the most spectacular scenes accessible via highway in the park.
The most popular attractions of the park include:
- Cades Cove – Historic Buildings, Sightseeing, Trails, Camping, Picnicking
- Roaring Fork
- Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill at Oconaluftee
- Clingmans Dome – Highest point in the park offering spectacular views
- Laurel Falls – Beautiful 80 foot waterfall
- Newfound Gap
Fall Colors put up a spectacular show throughout the park during Oct and early November. At higher elevations, colors change during the first 2 weeks of October. Good places to view Fall Colors would be Clingmans Dome and New Found Gap. During the last week of October and first week of November, colors would have peaked at lower elevations. Cades Cove, Catalochee and Oconaluftee will be good choices.
Here are some photos taken during our trip on Oct 17th and 18th, 2009. On Oct 17th, it snowed at higher elevations of the park. It was a spectacular sight with beautiful fall colors and snow covered tree tops. We visited Oconaluftee, New Found Gap, Clingmans Dome, Meigs Falls and Cades Cove. NC 441 was very beautiful with fall colors at higher elevations.