With such a diverse landscape, the U.S. has many mountain ranges to enjoy. But have you visited the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee? Known for rolling ridges, winding roads, and black bears, the Smoky Mountains are what you’re looking for.
There’s a lot to do in the area. For this post, we’re focusing on Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is the most visited in the country and deservedly so. Read on to find five of the best activities in the Great Smoky Mountains!
5 Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains
1. Hike Mount LeConte
No list of activities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is complete without a hike up Mount LeConte. The iconic summit towers above Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and even nearby Knoxville.
We recommend taking the Alum Cave Trail and carrying on to the summit of Mount LeConte. All told, the hike is about 10 miles roundtrip, a definite challenge! But the accomplishment is well worth the effort. Plus, remember that the second half of the hike is all downhill.
You can also reach Mount LeConte from the Rainbow Falls Trail. This trail will let you the waterfall and the peak but is longer. Both trails are very popular, so start early in the day to find a parking spot. Try to visit on a weekday if it’s peak season (June-August).
You’ll also want to pack lots of water, especially during the summer. On that same note, consider bringing a hoodie. The temperatures at the top can be 20-30 degrees cooler.
2. Check out Laurel Falls
Rugged and ancient, the Great Smoky Mountains are full of natural waterfalls. One of the largest in the national park is Laurel Falls. Tumbling 80 feet over rocks, Laurel Falls is a sight to behold after heavy rains.
To access Laurel Falls, head past the Sugarlands Visitor Center to Fighting Creek Gap. From the parking spaces here, you can get on a rough, but paved, trail that will take you to the falls. There’s even a bridge near the end of the falls that you can walk across. The entire hike is 2.6 miles roundtrip and isn’t strenuous.
3. Drive (or Bike!) the Cades Cove Loop
Cades Cove Loop is an essential destination in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The road is one-way and stretches for 11 miles, offering amazing mountain and wildlife views.
While commonly traveled by car, it’s also the park’s most popular destination for people on bicycles. From May through September, Cades Cove Loop is closed to cars every Wednesday and Saturday morning so that people can safely walk or bike the area.
4. See the Local Wildlife
The Great Smoky Mountains are brimming with unique wildlife. From the elk in North Carolina to East Tennessee’s iconic black bears, there’s plenty to see. You might see them from any of the trails, but the Cades Cove Loop is a great place to see bears and you might spot elk on the North Carolina side of Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441).
Please respect the rules and stay far away from wildlife. Don’t feed wildlife, especially bears, and take pictures from a minimum of 50 yards away. Any closer is illegal. Also clean up everything, as food scraps encourage bears to come after humans for food. This is dangerous for you and the bears, which must be put down due to human negligence. Do the locals a favor and play by the rules!
5. Head to the Highest Point at Clingmans Dome
The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome. And lucky for you, it’s easy to get to. From Tennessee, you can take Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome Road, which takes you to the top. Do note that Clingman’s Dome Road is seasonal (December 1-March 31).
Once at the top, you’ll find a steep paved path leading to the observation tower. Up there, you’ll get a 360-degree view of the national park from the sky. While at Clingmans Dome, you may also want to hike to Andrews Bald. The hike is a moderate 3.5 miles and offers amazing views from a high mountain meadow.
Camp at Sun Outdoors Pigeon Forge
Don’t settle for uncomfortable camping. Sun Outdoors Pigeon Forge has a variety of ways to stay and top-notch amenities. Whether you choose an RV site or a hillside cabin, comfort is all yours.
When relaxing at the resort, you have plenty of options. Maybe you’ll float along the lazy river and enjoy one of two outdoor pools. Or perhaps you’ll head indoors and visit the family-friendly game room. Bringing along Fido? Sun Outdoors Pigeon Forge features a bark park and dog washing station, just for our guests.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can book your stay today by calling (800) 758-5267 or make reservations online, we’d love for you to visit us.
If you did find these ideas interesting, share this post with your travel buddies. There’s no better getaway than a road trip to the Smokies!