Great Smoky Mountains National Park Travel Guide

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Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a mecca for outdoor lovers. Along with its abundant wildflowers and wildlife, the park offers stunning waterfalls along wooded trails (Grotto Falls), strenuous climbs (Clingmans Dome or Chimney Tops) and scenic drives (the Roaring Fork Motor Trail). There are also a bevy of educational exhibits, including historic structures from early settlers like those at Cades Cove. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is a perfect starting point to learn the history of the park, pick up trail maps or make reservations for ranger-led programs. 

How we rank Things to Do

Updated May 18, 2018

  • #1
    Roaring Fork Motor Trail
    View all Photos
    #1 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a nearly 6-mile-long, one-way loop road, offers spectacular mountain scenery and access to two of the region's most popular waterfalls: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. You can actually walk behind the 25-foot high falls at theGrottovia the Trillium Gap Trail. You'll also see historic

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  • #2
    Newfound Gap Road
    View all Photos
    #2 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Also known as notches or passes, gaps are the low points in a mountain ridge. The Newfound Gap, which sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet, is the lowest drivable pass in the park. The 31-mile, scenic Newfound Gap Road – U.S. Route 441 – runs through the center of

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  • #3
    Sugarlands Visitor Center
    View all Photos
    #3 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to recent travelers, the Sugarlands Visitor Center should be your first stop in the park. The visitor center features extensive natural history exhibits and screens a free 20-minute film about the park. The center also houses a bookstore, a gift shop, restrooms and a variety of information including trail

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  • #4
    Cades Cove
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    #4 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove is an isolated, fertile valley that was once home to many of the early Southern Appalachian settlers. You'll see 18th- and 19th-century cabins, three churches and a working grist mill, as well as other historic outbuildings. The 11-mile, one-way loop road circles the Cades Cove

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  • #5
    Clingmans Dome
    View all Photos
    #5 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Clingmans Dome is not only the highest point in Tennessee, but also in the park itself. On a clear day, you may be able to see more than 100 miles. Take a jacket along – even in the summer – as temperatures at the 6,643-foot peak will be much colder

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  • #6
    Cades Cove Visitor Center
    View all Photos
    #6 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Cades Cove Visitor Center is located about midway on the 11-mile, one-way Cades Cove Loop Road. One of the most popular areas in the park, theCades Covevalley is known for its abundant wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, turkeys, raccoons and other animals. The visitor center features both indoor

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  • #7
    Abrams Falls Trail
    View all Photos
    #7 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for a Cherokee chief whose village once occupied a spot alongside the creek, Abrams Falls is small, but mighty. While the falls are only 20 feet high, they pump out a large volume of water, creating a long, deep pool at its base. The 5-mile, round-trip hike through the

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  • #8
    Grotto Falls Trail
    View all Photos
    #8 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located along the Trillium Gap Trail – off theRoaring Fork Motor Nature Trail– Grotto Falls is a nearly 3-mile-long, round-trip hike that actually runs behind a 25-foot waterfall. Summer hikers love the cool environment through the old-growth hemlock forest and by the falls, although park officials caution that swimming or

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  • #9
    Laurel Falls
    View all Photos
    #9 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for the mountain laurel (an evergreen shrub) that blooms throughout the park, Laurel Falls is one of the most popular trails in the park. The path has an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway that crosses a stream at the base of the upper falls (which

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  • #10
    Chimney Tops
    View all Photos
    #10 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most popular trails in the park, Chimney Tops is one of the few mountains that has a bare rock summit and the views from the summit are spectacular. It's a short but very steep climb that requires scrambling over rocks to reach the top, so it's not

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Explore More of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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