Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains: discovering Appalachian crafts and theatrical resorts on a road trip (2023)

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Rising along the eastern flank of Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains are known for their hiking trails, waterfalls and wild bears. But a road trip through its old-growth forests reveals a more human story.

ByZoey Goto

Photographs ByShell Royster

Published November 13, 2022

20 min read

(Video) Top Things You NEED To Do In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This article was adapted from National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Driving through Pigeon Forge is nothing short of euphoric. The small mountain city, deep in the beating heart of East Tennessee, boasts a main drag like no other, all twinkling lights, curious characters, gaudy billboards and eye-popping attractions. The kerbside carousel makes it hard to keep my eyes on the road.

I pass a gaggle of sightseers, among them Amish holidaymakers in bonnets and boaters, craning their heads back to admire a giant King Kong clinging to the outside of a tall building, his jaws frozen in an endless roar, his clenched fist grasping a retro aeroplane. This is perhaps the kitschiest monument in the city — which has marketed itself as a ‘family vacation hub’ since the 1980s — but it’s certainly not alone in vying for that title. There’s a replica of the doomed Titanic; a souvenir shop claiming to sell live alligators; and a waffle house boasting no fewer than 100 singing animatronic chickens. Up ahead, a Bavarian-style mansion appears like a mirage. An actor dressed as Father Christmas stands out front, sweating in the blazing midsummer sunshine next to a colossal, bauble-decked fir tree. This hotel, I gather from a painted sign, celebrates Christmas every single day of the year. It’s a lot to take in.

Yet, beyond this razzle-dazzle main drag of artifice and entertainment, waterfalls cascade in hushed 300-million-year-old woodland and hawks patrol the heavens. A road trip through the Great Smoky Mountains offers up almost impossible contradictions.

I tackle backcountry roads, driving through deep forest towards the neighbouring town, Gatlinburg, until I spot Ogle’s Broom Shop, a higgledy-piggledy wooden dwelling that’s tumbled straight from the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen tale. Inside, David Ogle, a third-generation broom maker, sweeps a pile of corn from a chair and offers me a seat. He tells me how the relationship between tourism and the local mountain communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville has long been a symbiotic one, existing even prior to the grand opening of the popular Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934.

Behind him, curling sepia photos show David’s grandfather when he was starting the family business from a roadside cabin in the 1920s. “Back then, travellers would drive these backroads on the lookout for handcrafted goods,” says David. “If a couple of visitors stopped by when lunch was ready, my grandaddy would invite them into his home.” He adds that curious visitors often bit off more than they could chew — sometimes literally.

“Grandaddy was heavy into bear hunting, so that was the meat that often ended up on the table!” The plaid-shirted artisan chuckles fondly, surrounded by his creations. Around the shop are brooms with knotted handles carved into the faces of wizardly old men representing his forebears — plus the odd Father Christmas thrown in for good measure.

Like a magician performing a well-practised trick, David takes meticulous care as he bindsthe bristles of a broom. They’re considered collector’s items, he tells me. “People want me to sign and date them. I have a woman in Florida who has 48 of my brooms hanging in her office. Every one is unique, because Mother Nature don’t give you two pieces of wood alike,” he says, peering over wire-rimmed spectacles at his handiwork.

It may have started life as one man and his lonesome cabin, but Ogle’s Broom Shop is now part of a far heftier collective. The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community in Gatlinburg’s Glades district is the largest collective of its kind in the US — an eight-mile, snaking loop of studios, galleries and independent shops with the common goal of keeping the home fires of traditional Appalachian crafts burning.

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Having navigated hairpins that test my driving skills, it’s a relief to arrive at Fowler’s Clay Works, also on the Gatlinburg craft trail, to try my hand at its pottery wheel. A more idyllic studio space would be hard to imagine: out the back, a creek babbles as stacks of handcrafted ceramics dry alongside it, mirroring the landscape in gentle hues of river rock green and mountain honey. Ceramicist Mike Fowler has been known to plunge himself into this stream during creative reveries to plug deeper into the natural landscape.

Back inside the cool of the studio, under the watchful eye of Mike — a laid-back, ponytailed Floridian who fell in love with Appalachian crafts while here on his honeymoon, and opened his own studio in 2015 — I attempt to tease an oozing fist of clay into something vaguely resembling a vase, while Mike talks of the early European settlers who, in 18th and 19th centuries, spread throughout the vast Appalachian region, a sweeping brushstroke that covers sections of 13 states, from New York down to Mississippi in the Deep South.

“They really came on a wing and a prayer, hoping for a better life,” he says. “Everything they produced had to be pared back and utilitarian, including pottery. I still try to continue that tradition here, although I do allow a fancy splash of colour.”

A row of gurning ‘face pots’, all gargoyle expressions and dripping, mottled glaze, catches my eye. It turns out they chronicle the untold stories of these hills and hollows as succinctly as any textbook. “Before the Civil War, enslaved people were involved in the pottery trade, making grain jars and fermentation crocks,” says Mike. “But they weren’t allowed grave markers to bury their dead. Instead, they used African traditions to create effigy jars to ward off evil spirits.” The custom lapsed after emancipation, but the ceramic idols were resurrected in the 1960s as part of the so-called ‘craft revival’ movement in Appalachia. Potters like Mike have since kept the heritage alive. “I nod back to where they came from, but I also try to flow with the times and add my own flavour,” he says.

Lingering around Mike’s creations is an unmistakable undertone of Southern gothic, an artistic genre born in the American South in the early 19th century, often involving grotesque characters, irrational desires and twisted humour, drawing from the grotesquery of slavery and the Civil War. It’s something I’ve frequently encountered over the two decades I’ve been visiting Tennessee’s Smokies, a place where the tales can be as tall — and dark — as the mountains. “There’s always someone who’s seen a ghost in the swamp or the biggest bear in the woods,” says Mike, slowly turning a macabre-looking pot in his hands. “Around here, storytelling is a big part of our creative culture.”

Weird and inexplicable sightings are part and parcel of life in these ancient mountains. Sasquatch, a mythical, ape-like creature also known as Bigfoot, is ‘spotted’ with such regularity that its ragged silhouette is celebrated in local merchandise with an enthusiasm only otherwise reserved for Appalachia’s most honoured daughter, musician Dolly Parton. Having bid Mike farewell, I drive past countless Gatlinburg gift shops boasting racks of T-shirts and key rings branded with either Dolly or Bigfoot.

To honour the Queen of Country, I head to her 160-acre Dollywood theme park, back inPigeon Forge. Here, in the shadow of arching roller coasters with folksy names such as Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine, a cast of blacksmiths, candlemakers and fast-picking banjo players perform their Appalachian traditions before crowds of cheerful travellers(many licking fingers sticky with the sweet, buttery residue of fresh cinnamon bread, a speciality of the traditional Grist Mill bakery on site).

At Dollywood, these craftspeople share equal billing with Dolly, the great matriarch of the Smokies. Her glittering image is sprinkled lavishly throughout the park, from her all-singing, all-dancing hologram greeting mesmerised fans, to a replica of her hard-scrabble childhood cabin where, according to the lyrics of her hit song My Tennessee Mountain Home, life was once “as peaceful as a baby’s sigh”.

Some visitors might feel uncomfortable about the Disneyfication of Appalachia, but Mike sees it another way. “If we’re talking about cultural preservation and economic growth for the Smokies, I see it as a positive thing for the region,” the ceramist had told me earlier that day, as a pair of potential customers entered his studio. “Dollywood attracts huge crowds and sparks curiosity to keep exploring beyond the gates of the theme park.” After all, crafts in these parts have been entwined with travellers and commerce long before Dolly was even born.

Natural wonder

Bedding down in a remote log cabin in Sevierville, I read a welcome manual that points out I’m now in bear territory, subsequently ensuring a fairly restless night’s sleep. Tennessee’s Smokies are home to two black bears per square mile, making the odds of an encounter fair to middling.

The following morning, adventure guide Dave Harlow, from Smoky Mountains Guides, casually peppers our conversation with a couple of anecdotes of close encounters with bears. It cranks up the anticipation as we strap on walking boots and tightly clasp hiking poles, venturing past the trailhead and ascending into the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Weaving through this lush tapestry of land is the legendary Appalachian Trail. The granddaddy of long-distance hikes marches 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia and requires up to seven months of gritty commitment to complete. Today, however, we’re tackling its younger sibling, the Alum Cave Trail, which offers all the perks of the park —tumbling waterfalls, stunning panoramas and a haven of biodiversity — within a few moderate miles of terrain.

We pass children playing in a clear-water stream and, further along, poker-faced anglers keeping their eye on the prize while reeling in slippery trout. But we encounter only a few other walkers on our climb, which seems strange given that up to 14 million people visit the park annually, attendance boosted considerably by the lack of entrance fee. Perhaps would-be hikers got the memo about the incoming rain, which pitter-patters down as we walk through this temperate rainforest. Thankfully, we remain mostly shielded by a canopy of red spruce, beech and birch trees, as their tangled mess of roots wrap around boulders to dip languidly into streams.

The pandemic caused Dave to reassess his entire career, trading in a corporate job to instead lead small group tours by day and starlit camping trips by night, sharing his affection and encyclopaedic knowledge of the park. Striding through the light-dappled forest, as an earthy musk radiates from the forest floor, he pauses briefly to point out slithering salamanders and wildflowers bearing curious monikers such as devil’s walking stick and hearts-a-bustin’-with-love, the latter an outrageous peacock of a shrub overflowing with bright orange seeds.

Climbing higher still, we gain altitude before finally reaching the trail’s peak to inhale magnificent vistas as the mountains before us break like shadowy waves on the horizon. It was the Cherokee — who were almost entirely removed by force from thisland by the US government during the Trail of Tears from 1831 to 1850 — who named these distinctive hills ‘Shaconage’, meaning ‘Land of Blue Smoke’. Looking out over the halos of mist crowning the peaks, which is a result of moisture emitted by the dense vegetation below, I forget my disappointment that no bears crossed our path today. With views like this, it’s their loss.

At sundown, I head to Sevierville and pull up a chair at The Appalachian, a hip new restaurant where the menu reads like a passionate love letter to rural cooking. I order frog’s legs covered in a tangy ranch sauce, topped with crumbling rocks of melting blue cheese. They arrive plump and juicy. Manager Dan Estes assures me the dish is an authentic Appalachian delicacy. “My daddy would take me frog gigging by the light of the moon,” recalls Dan. “The frogs would raise their heads above water to catch flies, and then — Bam! — I’d spike them with a three-pronged fork,” he continues, driving an invisible spear through the air with gusto, while over his shoulder the flames of a wood-fire cooker crackle invitingly.

Folk revival

For my final stop, I head 50 miles upstate to the foothills of Norris Dam State Park on crooked country roads hugging creeks and valleys. White clapperboard churches dot the route, while mountains capped with crosses loom large on the horizon.

If I’d quietly hoped to unearth a preserved cove of rootsy, unspoiled mountain culture, arriving at the Museum of Appalachia feels like a welcome reward. Showing me around his family’s 65-acre living history museum is Will Meyer, whose grandfather, John Rice Irwin, the museum’s founder, dedicated his life to collecting artifacts and documenting the vanishing folkways of the southern Appalachian people, a melting pot of immigrants from the UK, Ireland and Germany, among other European nations.

We wander through pastures dotted with historic cabins, including, much to my excitement, author Mark Twain’s childhood shack, which was moved to the museum in 1995. Multiple galleries overflow with colourful curiosities; it would require a lifetime to do all the exhibits justice. An intriguing section showcases items from local death rituals, alongside makeshift children’s toys with dried apples for heads. Elsewhere, there’s the home of a mountain settler who, inexplicably, decorated every surface in a riot of polka dots — like contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, only a couple of hundred years prior.

Over an unpretentious lunch of fried chicken, okra, pinto beans and cornbread in the museum’s restaurant, Will reveals he’s part of a growing flock of younger Appalachians returning from big cities to the rural setting of their childhood. “As adults, we’re garnering more of an appreciation of and curiosity forour history and culture,” he says. “It feels good to come home.” I can see why.

Well fed, we follow the sound of music wafting lazily on the breeze and find musician John Alvis sat on a wooden porch playing a fiddle made from a dried gourd. His teenage twin daughters, Kylee and Sadie, accompany him with a spirited display of clogging — the high-kicking cousin of traditional Irish dancing. “We’re keeping our heritage alive by teaching youngsters in the community to dance, but we also mix things up a little by clogging to contemporary pop or ballet,” says Sadie. Between performances, she checks her phone, making graduation party plans for that evening, flitting seamlessly between the old ways and the new.

“When I was growing up, there were programmes like The Beverly Hillbillies, which poked fun at us,” John tells me, later, deep in thought as he gazes out over the rolling fields, flecked with grazing sheep. He says his people have been dogged by stereotypes, pretty much since the first Europeans set up homesteads here. “Today, you switch on the TV and we’re all snake handlers or moonshiners.” These caricatures miss the nuances of Appalachia, he adds, pushing the brim of his straw hat forward as the sun beats down. “The people of this region didn’t all get off the same boat, they wound up here from different areas at different times. The mountain folk weren’t, and still aren’t, just one kind of people.”

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Now serenaded by a chorus of cicadas, I join John on the porch, the very place where he once learnt songs by ear from elders in the community. I tell him his music feels deeply reminiscent of that of my own Celtic heritage. That’s to be expected, John insists. “The ballads and jigs brought over by early settlers became trapped and reverberated around these isolated, high mountain ridges. I’ve met a lot of people from the old countries — from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales — who come here to study their ancestors’ songs and stories. I guess the appeal is that without outside influences they’ve been kept kind of pure,” he says, his rocking chair slowly creaking back and forth on the buckled slats. As I stand up to leave, John offers a final, melodic farewell. “I wish I was in London, orsome other seaport town, I’ll set myself onasteamship and I’ll sail the ocean round,”he sings from the porch, as I head off on my journey back home to the UK. As the storied old hills become just a smudge in my rear-view mirror, I experience a wave of sadness and longing. It’s surprising how easy it is to put down deep roots in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.

Getting there & around

Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Finnair, Iberia andBritish Airways fly nonstop from the UK to Nashville, a four-hour drive into the Great Smoky Mountains. Several other airlines fly with one stopover to Knoxville, an hour’s drive to the mountains.
Average flight time: 10h.
Car rental is advised, with airports and cities offering multiple hire companies.

When to go

Spring is mild and sunny, while autumn brings richly coloured foliage; the seasons average 10C and 17C respectively. Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville light up as winter wonderlands in the festive season, when the mercury can easily dip below zero. Tennessee summers can feel humid, with average highs of 28C.

Where to stay

LeConte Lodge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From $162 (£145).
Historic CCC Cabins, Norris Dam State Park. From $132 (£120).

More info

Tennessee Tourism.

How to do it

America As You Like It has a seven-night fly-drive to Tennessee from £1,295 per person, including return flights from Heathrow, car hire and accommodation.

Published in the December 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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What is the big thing that brings visitors to Great Smoky Mountains? ›

One of the most popular activities in the Great Smoky Mountains is hiking. The Park offers more than 800 miles of hiking trails, including hiking on the famous Appalachian Trail. Those 800 miles are divided across more than 150 different trails.

Are the Smoky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains connected? ›

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, encompassing some of the oldest mountains on earth, is located in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The state boundary line bisects the park, which is one of the largest in the eastern United States.

Where does the Appalachian Trail go through the Smoky Mountains? ›

The Appalachian Trail, also known as the A.T., runs for more than 71 miles through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It enters the park from the south at Fontana Dam, and exits in the northeast at Davenport Gap. The highest point anywhere along the 2180-mile trail is 6625 feet, at Clingmans Dome.

What is the difference between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains? ›

The Appalachian Mountains are a large range that stretches all the way from Newfoundland, Canada down to Alabama. In comparison, the Smoky Mountains are just a subrange of the Appalachians that only cover parts of Tennessee and North Carolina.

What are 3 interesting facts about the Great Smoky Mountains? ›

10 Fun Facts About the Smoky Mountains That Might Surprise You
  • Home to a Large Diversity of Plants and Animals. ...
  • No Entrance Fee to the National Park. ...
  • Most Visited National Park in the United States. ...
  • Salamander Capital of the World. ...
  • Some of the Oldest Mountains in the World. ...
  • More than 800 Miles of Hiking Trails.
Oct 2, 2018

What should you not miss in the Smoky Mountains? ›

Top Attractions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Clingmans Dome. 3,090. Mountains. ...
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. 1,767. Hiking Trails. ...
  • Cades Cove. 5,519. Nature & Wildlife Areas. ...
  • Alum Cave Trail. 458. Hiking Trails. ...
  • Newfound Gap Road. 776. Scenic Drives. ...
  • Foothills Parkway. 600. ...
  • Mount LeConte. 299. ...
  • Sugarlands Visitors Center. 1,061.

How many days do you need in Smoky Mountains? ›

Like most national parks, you could spend just a day glimpsing the scenery at Smoky Mountains while passing through on a road trip or stay for a week full of hiking, camping and scenic drives. I recommend a minimum of 2 to 3 days in the Smoky Mountains to get a decent overview.

Why is Gatlinburg so popular? ›

Gatlinburg became a tourist attraction because it's easy to get to, offers endless opportunities for recreation, and its own unique Appalachian culture. Gatlinburg is home to a wide variety of unique things to do.

Can you see 7 states from Smoky Mountains? ›

On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles including seven states from the top of the tower. (Clockwise: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.) Even on a cloudy, “smoky” day, the view is breathtaking.

Why is Great Smoky Mountains so popular? ›

Called the Smokies due to the ever-present morning fog, this mountain range is world renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and its history of southern Appalachian mountain culture.

How difficult is the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee? ›

Sections of the trail are far from easy but overall it's just a walk in the woods. Hiking along the Tennessee section of the trail will take you through some of the most fairy-tale-like forests that you've ever seen.

Where is the best part of the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains? ›

For spectacular views and horizons make sure to take the Appalachian Trail via Clingmans Dome. There you will be treated to the highest point, not only on the Appalachian Trail, but in all of Tennessee at 6,643 feet. There you will also find restrooms and fresh water.

Where is the best place to start the Appalachian Trail? ›

Most thru-hikers start their trips in March or the first half of April at Springer Mountain in Georgia and finish at Katahdin in Maine in September.

Are the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains the same? ›

The Blue Ridge Mountains encompass the Great Smoky Mountains, the Great Balsams, the Roans, the Blacks, the Brushy Mountains, and some other lesser-known ranges.

Why is the Appalachian Mountains so special? ›

More than 400 million years ago, natural forces conspired to make the Appalachians one of the most resilient, diverse and productive places on Earth. Affectionately known as the Apps, this ancient chain of forested mountains, valleys, wetlands and rivers spans roughly 2,000 miles from Alabama to Canada.

Are the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains the same? ›

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains range. The mountain range is located in the Eastern United States, and extends 550 miles southwest from southern Pennsylvania through Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

What are three 3 rules you have to follow when camping in the Great Smoky Mountains? ›

Stock may not be left to water unattended, may not water directly from springs and may not stop, stand or travel directly adjacent to any spring. Stock may not be tied within 100 feet of any water source. Stock may water from streams.

What is the difference between Smoky Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains? ›

“Smoky Mountains” is the official name. That being said, this is America after all. If you want to use the phrase “Smokey Mountains”, it is your God-given right to do so. While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is always going to be spelled without an “e”, the mountains themselves are up for grabs.

What Indian tribe lived in the Smoky Mountains? ›

When the first white settlers reached the Great Smoky Mountains in the late 1700s they found themselves in the land of the Cherokee Indians. The tribe, one of the most culturally advanced on the continent, had permanent towns, cultivated croplands, sophisticated political systems, and extensive networks of trails.

What time of year is best to visit Smoky Mountains? ›

According to when most visitors come to the Smoky Mountains, the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains national park is during the months of June, July, and October. The months with the lowest visitation tend to be in the winter and spring.

How can we avoid bears in the Smoky Mountains? ›

Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. If you are carrying bear spray, begin to discharge it when the bear comes within 20 yards of you.

What is the busiest month in the Smoky Mountains? ›

Summer: A Favorite Time to Visit Smoky Mountains

One of the most popular seasons for visiting the Smokies is summer. As a result, the summer months are the most crowded time to visit the Smoky Mountains, with July being the busiest month.

Can you drive to any waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains? ›

Not all Smoky Mountain waterfalls are only reachable via a strenuous hike. There are numerous waterfalls and cascades that you can drive to or view along a peaceful auto tour. There are also several hike options to see large waterfalls, but plenty of them are short and easy nature walks.

Does it cost money to go to the Great Smoky Mountains? ›

Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not charge an entrance fee.

Why is Gatlinburg a tourist trap? ›

Similar to communities around the Grand Canyon, Gatlinburg's designation as a so-called “tourist trap” began with its national park opening. In 1934, the Great Smoky National Park first opened, and an incredible 40,000 people came through Gatlinburg to experience the beauty of that national park.

What food is Gatlinburg known for? ›

Famous Foods of Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge & Where to Get Them
  • fresh rainbow trout.
  • stone ground cornmeal and grits.
  • local wildflower and sourwood honey.
  • homemade candies like taffy and fudge.
  • homemade maple syrup.
  • locally grown preserves and jellies.
  • homemade biscuits and sawmill gravy.
  • apple butter and apple dumplins.

What is the famous house in Gatlinburg? ›

Biltmore Estate is a Destination Attraction

You can be there in a little over an hour. The Biltmore estate was built by the Vanderbilts in the 19th Century.

What city is closest to the Smoky Mountains? ›

Maggie Valley and Waynesville are the closest towns to the Cataloochee Valley area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, known for elk herds and a ski resort.

How long does it take to drive across the Smoky Mountains? ›

A driving tour through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park only takes about two hours. But I recommend planning to spend a lot more time! Clingmans Dome. The highest mountain in the Smokies—in fact, the highest peak on the whole Appalachian Trail—is just a short hike away.

How long is the drive through the Smoky Mountains? ›

The 5.5 miles (8.9 kilometers) long one-way loop begins in Gatlinburg. Along this scenic drive, you will be able to see the spectacular scenery of the Smokies, as well as well-preserved historic cabins and grist mills. There are various overlooks where you can stop and take in the scenery.

Which is better Shenandoah or Great Smoky Mountains? ›

Shenandoah is a far more accessible and recreation-friendly park than the Smokies. Skyline Drive provides cycling opportunities and easy access to trailheads for the Appalachian Trail. The grade of the Appalachian Trail is relatively flat through Shenandoah, making it far more enjoyable for day-hikes.

Why is there so much smoke in the Smoky Mountains? ›

The millions of trees, bushes, and other plants in the Great Smoky Mountains all give off vapor, which comes together to create the fog that gives the mountains their signature smoky look.

Why are Smoky Mountains blue? ›

As noted by the Cherokee, the fog in the Smoky Mountains often takes on a blue appearance. The reason for this is that the vapor molecules released by the mountains' vegetation scatter blue light from the sky. This phenomenon is not unique to the Smokies.

How long does it take the average person to walk the Appalachian Trail? ›

A typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to hike the entire A.T. After deciding when and where to begin and then registering your thru-hike, you will need to plan your resupply points and know the camping regulations along the A.T.

Is it safe to walk the Appalachian Trail? ›

Although the Appalachian Trail is safer than most places, it is not immune to criminal behavior-including crimes of violence. Acts of kindness and "trail magic" are so common on the A.T. that it's easy to forget you could encounter someone who does not have your best interest at heart or who may even seek to harm you.

Is the Appalachian Trail good for beginners? ›

Despite how intimidating that may sound, beginners can scale the Appalachian Trail's numerous mountains and treat themselves to some of the most gorgeous views on earth.

What is the most beautiful drive in the Appalachian Mountains? ›

Perhaps the most famous scenic byways in the North Carolina mountains is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Built during the Depression, the road was designed from the outset to be a meandering drive through the Appalachians from Virginia to Western North Carolina.

What time of year is best for Appalachian Trail? ›

Late spring and early fall are the prime hiking time for much of the A.T., but the trail is open year round, and each season has something special to offer.

What town is called the friendliest town on the Appalachian Trail? ›

The welcoming nature of the town's residents and businesses has earned Damascus the “Friendliest Town on the Appalachian Trail” moniker, and it was one of the first towns along the footpath to be designated an A.T.

How much money should you have to do Appalachian Trail? ›

Most hikers spend an average of $1,200 – $1,400 a month during the hike itself. Disciplined, frugal hikers willing to forego motels, restaurants, and other amenities can get away with less; those who like to stay in motels and eat at restaurants when they have the opportunity can easily spend much more.

How much money do I need for the Appalachian Trail? ›

There are several ways to be frugal when hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, travelers must expect to budget $5,000 to $7,000 for a thru-hike. This includes the trail expenses, the cost of gear, and expected expenses when visiting towns.

Where to sleep when going to the Appalachian Trail? ›

It is wise to bring a personal shelter along for your hike, as designated shelters often fill up quickly in bad weather. In addition to tents, tarps and backpacking hammocks are becoming popular shelter options for long-distance hikers.

What is the difference between Smoky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains? ›

The Appalachian Mountains are a large range that stretches all the way from Newfoundland, Canada down to Alabama. In comparison, the Smoky Mountains are just a subrange of the Appalachians that only cover parts of Tennessee and North Carolina.

How much does it cost to go to Smoky Mountain Water Park? ›

Our prices start at around $24.95 +tax per person and do vary. Please be sure to visit our Gatlinburg waterpark website for additional information.

Is Asheville Blue Ridge or Smoky Mountains? ›

Asheville & the Foothills

Nestled in North Carolina's southern Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville and its neighboring foothills towns exude quirky charm and character.

What is the difference between Appalachia and Appalachian Mountains? ›

While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, to Cheaha Mountain in Alabama, Appalachia typically refers only to the cultural region of the central and southern portions of the range, from the Catskill Mountains of New York southwest to the Blue Ridge Mountains which run ...

What is the Appalachian Mountains rich in? ›

The two large deposits of zinc, iron and manganese contain the ore minerals franklinite (Zn, Fe, Mn)(Fe, Mn)2O4), unique to the area, willemite (Zn2SiO4), and zincite (ZnO).

What is the oldest mountain in the world? ›

The Barbertown Greenstone Belt (3.6 Billion Years)

The Barbertown Greenstone Belt, or Makhonjwa Mountains is the very oldest mountain range in the world. These mountains are full of ancient fossils, volcanic rock and, you got it, gold.

Where do the Smoky Mountains start in Tennessee? ›

According to The Encyclopedia Britannica: The Smoky Mountains start in Knoxville (just to the west), Tennessee and end in Asheville, North Carolina (just to the east). The Great Smokies lie between these two cities, blending into the Blue Ridge escarpment to the east in western North Carolina.

What are the mountains in Tennessee called? ›

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, encompassing some of the oldest mountains on earth, is located in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

What is the golden rule of camping? ›

Keep it clean. The golden rule of camping is to leave the campsite better than it was. Clearing out old brush and plant debris and raking a spot for the tent are great ways to improve a campsite and it also deters insects and critters.

Which side of the Smoky Mountains is best? ›

The Tennessee side of the national park is famous for its many attractions and tourist towns located right outside of the park, such as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. According to Brent McDaniel, a member of Friends of the Smokies, visitation rates are higher on the Tennessee side of the park.

How much does a Cherokee Indian get a month? ›

Each of 12,500 enrolled tribal members, children and adults alike, receives biannual checks averaging $3,500 that are drawn from the 50 percent of casino revenue that is distributed to the Indians.

What is the ghost town in the Smoky Mountains? ›

After the park service purchased the land and the leases expired, over 70 buildings stood in the park with nobody to maintain them. They began to deteriorate and turned into what is known as the "Elkmont Ghost Town" in the Smoky Mountains.

Why do so many people visit Smoky Mountain national park? ›

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to an array of natural and man-made attractions. The park offers miles of wooded trails, stunning waterfalls, winding scenic drives, more than 90 historic structures and lots of educational exhibits.

What is special about Great Smoky Mountains? ›

World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park.

What made Gatlinburg a tourist attraction? ›

One of the most iconic attractions, The Gatlinburg Sky Lift, opened its doors and 1954. The tourism industry continued to boom in the 60's and the area began to see some of its iconic restaurants and attractions arrive – many that you can still enjoy today.

What are the visitor impacts on the Smoky Mountains? ›

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 12,095,721 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2020 spent $1,024,024,000 in communities near the park. That spending supported 14,707 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $1.38 billion.

How common is it to see a bear in the Smoky Mountains? ›

Location of Bears in the Smokies

With approximately 1,500 bears in the park, the population density is roughly two bears per square mile! This means that bear sightings in the park are not uncommon, especially during the early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer when they are the most active.

What is the least visited national park? ›

1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska: America's least-visited national park contains no roads or trails. It's a true wilderness experience.

How much does it cost to go to Smoky Mountains? ›

Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not charge an entrance fee.

What is the best month to visit Gatlinburg Tennessee? ›

The best time to visit Gatlinburg is during the fall – specifically in September and October. During these months, beautiful fall foliage takes the stage, and temperatures are mild(highs between 65 and 80) which attracts travelers from all over.

How many days is enough in Gatlinburg? ›

If you're going to Gatlinburg, plan for at least three days. You can do it in two, but you'll feel a little rushed. Anything past three days and you're going to want to reach out to Pigeon Forge and explore what's happening over there.

Is Gatlinburg Skybridge worth it? ›

Anytime you can enjoy a Gatlinburg landmark, I think it's worth it. Plus, they've added a lot of value to the price of your admission. I suppose the question is whether you choose SkyLift or Anakeesta. Personally, I prefer Anakeesta's views of the Smokies.

How is the driving in the Smoky Mountains? ›

There are 384 miles of road in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars. But driving in the mountains presents new challenges for many drivers. Roads in the park are narrow and winding with blind curves and low shoulders.

Do people get altitude sickness in the Smoky Mountains? ›

If you begin to experience shortness of breath or severe nausea while resting, you need to descend immediately and may require emergency care. Elevation sickness is a real possibility in the Smoky Mountains. It must be treated as a serious concern.


1. Gatlinburg - Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains Travel Guide
2. 10 Best Things To Do In Gatlinburg Tennessee - Full Gatlinburg Travel video
(TheAeroWorld Investigation)
3. Smoky Mountain Cabin Resort in WEARS VALLEY. #smokeymountainridge
(Vacation Station TV.)
4. Camping In Cades Cove, TN - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
5. The most beautiful Smoky Mountain Cabin that we have ever vacationed in, arrival and full tour.
(It's The Carrs!)
6. Great Smoky Mountains HIGHEST POINT - Clingmans Dome Hike + Mountain Roads thro NC & TN (road trip)
(Super Enthused)


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