By Josh Boyd
On the border of Tennessee and North Carolina sets a crowning jewel of our National Park System, displaying proudly the near limitless majestic qualities that the region has to offer. Towering peaks, meandering mountain streams, and a tranquility that resonates deeply within anyone looking to unwind, are all found in abundance here.
Great Smokey Mountain National Park and the more than 520,000 acres that it encompasses, is the destination for more than 11 million visitors annually, making it the most frequented of all the national parks. Visitors come from all 50 states and countless other countries every year to experience the uninhibited natural beauty that the park so eloquently showcases.
Great Smokey Mountain National Park is abundant in its potential for activities of all types for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether it be hiking, back country camping, angling, or photography of wildlife, the park offers among some of the highest quality outdoor pursuits that an individual could dream of.
If an abundance of hiking opportunities is what you desire, Great Smokey Mountain National Park certainly delivers in earnest. With approximately 850 miles of backcountry trails, 70 of which are contained within the Appalachian Trail, options for hikes of various lengths are plentiful to say the least.
Trails can be specifically chosen based upon what one desires the scenery of their hike to be comprised of. Trails with waterfall views, scenic overlooks, and destinations of historical significance are all available for exploration within the park. Any of these trails can be hiked in the fall for an additional element of splendor due to an intense spectrum of color produced by the changing leaves.
For avid campers, it is questionable if any better locale exists anywhere than the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. With more than 100 backcountry campsites available, an individual has a nearly endless array of vantage points from which to behold the wonders of sleeping beneath the stars in the Appalachian sky.
If camping in a more readily accessible location is preferred, Great Smokey Mountain National Park also offers ten individual developed campgrounds with a total of 1000 available sites. Many of these campgrounds can be reached from main access roads and are marked clearly by road signs, as well as pinpointed on maps available at any of the park’s four visitor centers.
For anglers, Great Smokey Mountain National Park does not disappoint. With approximately 2900 miles of streams contained within the park’s boundaries, opportunities for fishermen to get out and wet a line are boundless. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout, as well as smallmouth and rock bass all call Smokey Mountain National Park home.
Great Smokey Mountain National Park affords anglers some of the most scenic fishing imaginable. Ample opportunity exists for an angler to deviate from the beaten path and find adventure on a section of stream where the likelihood of encountering another fisherman is slim.
Wildlife viewing and photography within Great Smokey Mountain National Parks is unmatched in both quantity and quality. The park is home to prospering whitetail deer, eastern wild turkey, and black bear populations. Many other species of wildlife are found in numbers within the bounds of the park, with some being localized to certain areas.
The foremost destination within the park for wildlife viewing is Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a valley between sections of the mountains that features an eleven mile motor loop, giving visitors access to stunning mountain views, locations of historical significance, and diverse wildlife habitat.
Due to the frequency and volume of visitors to Cades Cove, the local populations of many species of wildlife have very little fear of human intrusion. This facilitates an abundance of quality wildlife sightings, some as close as mere feet from the roadway and the vehicles that travel it. The potential for bear, turkey, and deer sightings in Cades Cove go unmatched.
Another popular destination within Great Smokey Mountain National Park for wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds is Cataloochee Valley. The valley is well known for its reputation as the prime spot for viewing the park’s sizable elk population. Elk were first reintroduced into Great Smokey Mountain National Park in 2001 and populations have flourished.
Cataloochee allows visitors frequent viewing opportunities of elk as they gorge upon the open meadows and grasslands that are prevalent in this area of the park. As with most wildlife, elk are best viewed at Cataloochee during the first and last couple of hours of daylight each day.
Great Smokey Mountain National Park is one of just a handful of vast wilderness destinations located within the continental United States that are still in existence today. The largest quantity of the park still stands untouched and unchanged by the progress of man. In large part, Great Smokey Mountain National Park can still be viewed today as it was when the first settlers arrived to the region in the late 1700’s.
If ever you find yourself wanting a reprieve from the breakneck pace of today’s world, look no further than the endless bounds of tranquility that Great Smokey Mountain National Park has to offer. No matter your preferred means of outdoor enjoyment, an abundance of activities for all walks of nature enthusiasts can be had.
So as you pour over fall vacation destinations, set your sites on the adventures that await you at Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Upon your visit, you will be overjoyed that you did. Visitors come to experience all that the mountains have to offer, and leave with a longing to return whenever the opportunity presents itself.