Popular Destinations in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
More than 11.3 million people visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year. Where are they going? What are they doing? What are they seeing inside the park?
The purpose of the following articles is to inform our readers of the most popular destinations in the park, and show you why they are popular.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not even close to being America’s largest national park by square miles, but it is massive nonetheless. Within the park are many waterfalls, historic buildings, wildlife, rivers, scenic overlooks, and much more. Access to these amazing places is exceptional.
Some of these places have become very popular due to their unique setting, amazing view, or historic significance. They all are beautiful in their own right and we want to tell you about them.
We are not including trails in this list. For a list of great hiking trails, see 38 Popular Day Hikes in our hiking section.
CATALOOCHEE VALLEY, NC (GSMNP) - By the early 1800’s, mountain farming communities sprang up throughout the Smoky Mountains. Utilizing trails created by the Cherokees, farmers made their way to areas previously hunted and farmed by the Indians, and built homes there.
Although Cataloochee Valley is the most remote of the Appalachian farming communities, it became the largest and most prosperous, reaching a population high of 1,251 people.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK - Clingman’s Dome is the highest elevation mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. Rising to 6,643 feet above sea level, the observation tower provides a 360° view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you may see as many as five states, up to 100 miles away.
The 45-feet tall observation tower was built in 1959 to allow visitors an opportunity to see the mountains and valleys with an unobstructed view.
ELKMONT, TN (GSMNP) Elkmont is a story of dreams, hope, hard work, disappointments, fortunes made, and fortunes lost. One can hardly tell the story of Great Smoky Mountains National Park without recalling the rich history of Elkmont, Tennessee.
Just a few minutes from Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Elkmont Historic District offers hiking trails, rivers, historical buildings, and a campground, all in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. Let your imagination run wild with images from the not too distant past when wealthy Knoxville residents summered amidst the wildlife.
OCONALUFTEE, NC (GSMNP) - Rather than lose the local mountain culture to the past, land was set aside so farm homes, barns, meat houses, and other remnants of the farm life would live on. The Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum was born.
The buildings were moved from their original locations throughout the Smoky Mountains and brought together in one place. As you wander around the grounds, you will see original structures and a few reproductions.
GATLINBURG, TN (GSMNP) - The narrow road contributes to the feeling you are hiking on a trail, but without the exertion. Trees rise to the sky mere inches from the road and the canopy provides shade for the drive. White-tail deer and black bears roaming around is not unusual. More than 1,500 black bears are home in the Smoky Mountains, and you may see one or two.
Several historic buildings are situated along the trail. Homer Bales Barn, Alex Cole Cabin, Reagan Tub Mill, and Ephraim Bales Cabin are points of interest you may want to explore. While some visitors remain in their cars, we recommend getting out and enjoying a walking tour.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK - Great Smoky Mountains Visitor Centers are here so you can learn about the park. Park Rangers and knowledgeable volunteers staff the centers to answer questions, give directions, and help you enjoy your visit to the most visited national park in the USA.