America’s Smoky Mountains National Park is truly one of the nation’s most amazing sites for outdoors beauty and activities. The park attracts about nine million visitors each year, making it the most-visited in North America.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the border between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee and also houses part of the famous Appalachian Trail.
( Photo Credit: numbphoto)
It was dedicated back in 1940 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and is 814 square miles in size. There is so much to do and see in the park that many visitors keep returning year after year. The scenery and historic sites are fantastic as are the camping, hiking, fishing, and wildlife. The park boasts five types of forests and more than 4,000 species of plants. Some sections of the park are classified as rain forest.
While the Smoky Mountains National Park has so much to offer, it’s also an ideal destination for a day trip. But to get the best out of the park, it’s recommended to camp out there for at least a few nights if possible. There are 10 campgrounds in the park and all of them have flush toilets, fire grills, and running water. However, there aren’t any hookups on the sites.
For those who love hiking, there are close to 900 miles of hiking trails to explore. This will allow you to exercise while you check out the beauty of the area. Some of the trails are quite easy to navigate and others are a bit more difficult. You’ll find that 70 miles of walkway belongs to the Appalachian Trail.
Walking the trails will also enable you to get a good glimpse of the park’s diverse wildlife, especially during the early mornings and late evenings. There are dozens of species of animals in the park, such as bears, red wolf, bobcats, coyote, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, foxes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, elk, bats, beavers, river otters, wild hogs and snakes.
The only poisonous snakes in the park are Timber Rattlers and Copperheads. In addition, there are well over 200 species of birds as well as reptiles such as salamanders, frogs, and toads. In fact, there are 27 different kinds of salamanders in the park.
One of the most popular activities is fishing, but be aware that you can’t buy a license in the park. Fishing is available all year long and there are more than 40 different species of fish, such as bass, darters, suckers, trout, and shiners. When fishing, hiking, or camping in Smoky Mountains National Park, you also need to be aware that the weather can change pretty quickly.
The park has a moderate climate, but the elevations range from about 800 feet to just over 6,600 feet, meaning the temperatures can vary quite a bit, depending on how high you are in the park. The lower areas of the park receive about 55 inches of rainfall each year with the higher areas getting about 85 inches. Some of the higher sections are classified as rain forest.
The park’s vegetation is also spectacular and there are more than 1,600 kinds of flowering plants along with about 100 different types of shrubs and trees. When the leaves change color in the fall months the scenery is simply breathtaking.
There’s no entrance fee to the park and a lot of people take advantage of this by visiting for the day to enjoy picnics, cycling, and horseback riding. There are also many historical exhibits on display and several guided tours are offered. If you’d like to learn more about the history and culture of the park and the Smoky Mountains region then a trip to the Mountain Farm Museum is recommended.
There are also several locations where you can tour homes and buildings that were constructed by early settlers. These include Cataloochee, Roaring Fork, and the Cades Cove areas. Cataloochee and Cades Cove also offer some of the best wildlife viewing areas.
If you’d like to get a good look at the Smoky Mountains, you can try heading to Clingmans Dome and/or Newfound Gap.