The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has several superlatives to its belt, so to speak, and deservedly so. It is one of the largest protected areas on the eastern part of the contiguous United States with a total land area of 814 square miles. It is undoubtedly the most visited park of its kind in the United States.
Indeed, among all the state and national parks in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park stands head and shoulders above the rest. Its beauty is beyond compare, its vastness is beyond imagination and its history is a testament to Mother Nature’s generosity.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site straddling the mountain chain that bears its name. The mountains are, in turn, part of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. In fact, the Appalachian Trail passes through the national park’s center on its route from the states of Maine to Georgia.
By virtue of its status as a national park, the United States Congress passed a charter for the area in 1934. It was only in 1940 when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was dedicated as such by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Within the 814-square mile area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are hundreds of places to go, activities to do and animals to meet – at a safe distance, of course. Visitors can quietly watch the sun set from atop a hill or strenuously climb the summit of a mountain, whichever takes their fancy. Other activities within the national park include:
- Auto-touring is made possible with 384 miles of paved, gravel and dirt roads running through the length of the park that even a standard passenger car can safely navigate. Take note that the speed limit is 30 miles per hour on the paved roads for the safety of both man and animals. The most popular routes are along Cades Cove Loop Road, Cataloochee Valley and Newfound Gap Road. Of course, other forms of transportation like bikes and horses as well as on foot are allowed for exploration inside the park. There are over 800 miles of trails for bicycling and hiking that can range from a quiet walk in the park for a few hours to multi-day backpacking treks. Camping is also allowed.
- Fishing is an enjoyable sport in the national park, thanks to the 700 miles of streams. Popular catch include wily brook and rainbow trout, among others. Waterfalls are also plentiful in the area.
- Picnicking can be done, too. Choose from the 11 picnic areas like Big Creek, Collins Creek and Metcalf Bottoms many of which have for-rent pavilions.
- Watching for wildflowers and wildlife is also a great way to spend the time in the park. In fact, it is also known as the wildflower national park because of the wild show put on by these plants the whole year-round although summer and spring are the best times to see the show. Wildlife from elk to black bears is also common sightings in the area.
Before visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to coordinate with the National Park Service to ensure your safe and secure stay. And then, you can truly love the place as much as the people who did before you came hundreds of years ago.