Great Smoky Mountains National Park Travel Guide

USA  #14 in Best Summer Vacations in the USA
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Getting Around Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The best way to get around Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by car. The park does not offer any guided tours and there is no public transportation to the park from the major cities in the area, although if you enter from Tennessee side, the city of Gatlinburg does offer trolley service to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Laurel Falls parking area and the Elkmont Campground from June through October. Bicycles are prohibited on all park trails, except the Gatlinburg Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail and the lower Deep Creek Trail. 

On the Tennessee side, the nearest airport – less than 25 miles west of the park – is McGhee Tyson (TYS) just south of Knoxville. In North Carolina, the closest airport is the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), about 60 miles east of the Cherokee entrance. Both airports offer car rentals. There are three entrances to the park, two in Tennessee (Gatlinburg and Townsend) and one in North Carolina (Cherokee).

Car

You'll need a car to fully enjoy the scenic drives through the park. Be sure to fill up with gas outside of the park as there are no gas stations in the park itself, although visitors with electric vehicles will find charging stations at the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Tennessee and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina. Car rentals from major companies, including Enterprise, Budget and Hertz, are available at both McGhee Tyson Airport and the Asheville airport. 

Trolley

The city of Gatlinburg offers trolley service to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Laurel Falls parking area and the Elkmont Campground from June through October for $2 round trip. Hop on the National Park/Tan route at the Gatlinburg Mass Transit Center. The trolley departs at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

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