The National Park Service maintains four official visitor centers inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are Sugarlands, Cades Cove, Clingman’s Dome, and Oconaluftee.

NOTE: The featured photo above is Cades Cove Visitor Center. Photo: Marc Bowman

Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Visitor Centers Map

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Centers | Copyright: Ann Bowman

An additional four information centers are located outside the park in Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Townsend.

Visitor centers are a great place to get acquainted with the park. Helpful Park Rangers and park volunteers staff all the visitor centers. Feel free to ask questions, get directions, or just chat.

On a recent visit to Sugarlands Visitor Center, we stopped a Park Ranger on the sidewalk and ended up talking for nearly half an hour.

We had a great conversation about the Synchronous Fireflies event in Elkmont, the park, how he became a ranger, and Tennessee and Alabama football.

Do not let the uniforms intimidate you. Park Rangers are approachable and some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

When you enter the visitor centers, look for local newspapers, maps, souvenirs, t-shirts, posters, coffee cups, trail patches, hiking sticks, snacks, books, and a lot of other cool stuff.

1. Sugarlands Visitor Center

Sugarlands Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sugarlands Visitor Center | Photo: Ann Bowman

Sugarlands Visitor Center is on the corner of Newfound Gap Road (US 441) and Fighting Creek Gap Road, just 2.0 miles from traffic light #10 in Gatlinburg.

Park Rangers conduct seasonal programs for the public at this location. Check with the visitor center for times and exact locations.

A free twenty-minute film about the park runs on a loop inside the visitor center. I found it interesting and learned quite a bit.

The exhibit featuring a natural history of the park is worth seeing.

Operating Hours

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is open year round, except Christmas Day.

January – February 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
March 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
April – May 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
June – August 8:00 am to 7:30 pm
September – October 8:00 am to 6:30 pm
November 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
December 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Facilities

  • A Comfort Station (official jargon for restrooms), is located next to the visitor center.
  • Great Smoky Mountains Association Bookstore is inside the visitor center.
  • Snack, soda, and water machines

RELATED: Fighting Creek Nature Trail is very popular with visitors to Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trailhead is located between the visitor center and the comfort station. It is an easy trail to hike and takes less than an hour.

2. Cades Cove Visitor Center

Cades Cove Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove Visitor Center | Photo: Marc Bowman

Cades Cove Visitor Center is located inside Cades Cove about half way around the loop road. It is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day.

Park Rangers conduct seasonal programs for the public. These programs are educational and fun and the children especially love it. There is no fee for participating, so check with the visitor center for the times and locations.



Southern Mountain Life & Culture Open-Air Museum

Just down the sidewalk is an open-air museum. These structures are original to the park and give visitors a first hand look into southern mountain life and culture.

Southern Life Open-Air Museum | Cades Cove Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Southern Mountain Life Open-Air Museum | Cades Cove | Photo: Marc Bowman

The gristmill is a fully operating mill and is open from spring into the fall. You may purchase flour milled here when the mill is in operation. The Becky Cable house, a barn, and other structures may be toured also.

Operating Hours

January 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
February 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
March 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
April 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
May – July 9:00 am to 7:30 pm
August 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
September – October 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
November 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
December 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

Facilities

  • Public Restrooms are located on the opposite side of the visitor center next to the parking area.
  • A bookstore operated by Great Smoky Mountains Association is inside the Cades Cove Visitor Center.

RELATED: Cades Cove is the most popular destination in the park. Hikers come here to enjoy these amazing trails: Abrams Falls, Elijah Oliver Trail, Rich Mountain Trail, and Gregory Ridge Trail.

3. Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center

Clingman's Dome Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center | Photo: Billy Hathorn

Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center is located at the Clingman’s Dome Trailhead on Clingman’s Dome Road. Turn off Newfound Gap Road (US 441) and drive 7.0 miles.

Visit the Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center from April through November. It closes in winter due to weather conditions.

Operating Hours

January to March Closed
April to June 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
July 10:00 am to 6:30 pm
August to October 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
November 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
December Closed

Facilities

  • Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and gift shop.
  • Park information
  • Public restrooms

RELATED: Clingman’s Dome is the tallest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a moderately difficult hike, but the views are amazing. You don’t want to miss this experience.

4. Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Oconaluftee Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Oconaluftee Visitor Center | Photo: Billy Hathorn

Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road (US 441) about a half mile past the entrance to Blue Ridge Parkway.

Great Smoky Mountains Association Video

As with the other visitor centers, Park Rangers conduct seasonal programs for the public. Check with the volunteers, or ask a Ranger, for information about times and locations.

Inside the visitor center are exhibits detailing mountain life from the times of the Cherokee Indians through the establishment of the national park. Themes include European American settlement, Civilian Conservation Corp work, and the development of the park.

Outside the center, visitors can enjoy the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, an open-air museum with a collection of some of the oldest log structures original to the park.

Operating Hours

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is open year round, except Christmas Day.

January to February 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
March 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
April to May 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
June to August 8:00 am to 7:30 pm
September to October 8:00 am to 6:30 pm
November 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
December 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Facilities

  • Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and gift shop
  • Public restrooms
  • Soda and water machines

RELATED: Oconaluftee River Trail is a popular spot for anyone who wants an easy trail close to civilization. This is also one of two trails where you may take your dog.