Aug 29

Top Ten Things to see in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the United States.  Two springs ago Karen and I decided to make the trek there from the plains and really enjoyed our time.  We wish we would have been able to see it at the height of its beauty which is the summer and fall, but what we did get to see we enjoyed.  It was a good trip and we highly recommend going at least once in a lifetime.  Karen and I have talked about going back sometime in the fall so we can see the brilliant autumn colors that the park is known for.  Maybe someday we will brave the crowds, but as for now we will just have to look fondly on our memories.  Here is a list of our top ten things to see in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Top 10 things to see in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

10. Visit the Gateway Cities

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokiesvia
Gateway cities like Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the rest of the towns that surround the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have a variety of activities, games, amusement areas, adventure parks and shows to entertain the family.  It is a little hard to believe but right there in the Appalachian Mountains is one of the best aquariums in the United States at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg.  So, if somebody in the family including you, ever gets tired, which is hard to imagine, of seeing the scenic beauty of the Smokies go enjoy one of the many offerings of the gateway cities that surround the area.

9. Abrams Falls

Abrams Fallsvia
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has several small but pretty waterfalls to hike to, and one of the nicest ones is Abrams Falls.  It is a five mile hike round trip that follows an up and down trail to Abrams Falls which is located in the area known as Cades Cove.  Abrams Falls is only 20 feet tall but the amount of water that flows over the falls is well worth the trek.  Like most things that are worth seeing if you want to avoid the crowds go early in the day.

8. Mountain Farm Museum

Mountain Farm Museumvia
Mountain Farm Museum is a good place to step back into time.  It is a 19th century farmstead complete with a farmhouse, work buildings, and a barn.  If you go in the summertime you will be able to see live demonstrations of what it would have been like to live on a farm during this time period.  It is worth the stop to see what life was like.

7. Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls (Explored briefly ;)via
Grotto Falls offers it’s visitors the unique experience of walking underneath and behind a waterfall.  It is a unique feeling and perspective watching the water flow over your head as it plunges the 25 feet down the falls.  Grotto Falls is at the end of a three-mile uphill walk, it is worth the effort to see this unique waterfall.

6. Rainbow Falls/Mount LeConte

Rainbow Fallsvia
Rainbow Falls is the highest waterfall in the Smokies at around 80 feet.  It is located on the way to the top of Mount Le Conte which is one of the tallest mountains in the park. It is a strenuous trail but worth the effort to see the falls.  Rainbow Falls makes for a good stop on your way to the great views at the top of the peak.

5. Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road in mistvia
Newfound Gap Road is a 33 mile drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee North Carolina.  It crosses the mountains at an elevation of 5,046 feet and depending on what day you take the drive you will either get spectacular views or come to the realization on why they call this area the Smokies.   The drive takes you to the interesting town of Cherokee where we recommend you stop and see the wonderful Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

4. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls 04-29-2012 (3)via
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular areas of the park.  It is a relatively short but moderately difficult trail to another wonderful waterfall in the park.  The trail is a 1.3 mile uphill hike to the falls on a paved trail.  When we were there the forest was starting to take the trail back over, but who knows what the condition of the trail will be like when you are there.  Whatever condition it is in it is sure worth the hike up to see the falls.

3. Clingman’s Dome

Clingman's Dome - Smokey Mountainsvia
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is not as hard to get to or as natural as Mount LeConte, but makes for some spectacular views from the observation tower.  So, if you are looking for just natural beauty you will not find it here, but if you are somebody that is not willing or able to hike up Mount LeConte, Clingman’s Dome provides a nice alternative.

2. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Golden Roadvia
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a five and half mile one-way road that is just miles away from downtown Gatlinburg.  It is a popular drive in the park so expect long delays if you are there when the park is busy, but it is worth it to see the beauty of the area.  This road also allows visitors to go to several other things on our list including Rainbow Falls, Grotto Falls, and Mount LeConte.  There are also a few historic farmsteads along this road to see.

1. Cades Cove

Cades Cove, Great Smokey Mountains National Park.via
Cades Cove is the most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and besides the views it is a gathering site of a variety of wildlife that call this area home.  Along the one-way 11 mile loop there is a good chance that you will see black bears, deer, turkeys, and other wildlife.  Cades Cove also has a very interesting homestead and an old mill along with several hiking trails to choose from.  Make sure Cades Cove is one of the stops that you make when you are in the Great Smoky Mountains.

We hope you enjoyed our list of the top ten things to see in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Is there anything that you think we left off or if you disagree with our top 10 sound off by leaving a comment.  Happy Travels!

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  1. Peggy

    Great list but next trip be sure to check out Cataloochee Valley on the NC side of the Smokies. It’s where the park service reintroduced the elk. Late in the afternoon they come down to the green fields to eat. Always see dozens of them.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Great info we will have to check it out on our next vacation to the area which hopefully will be sooner rather than later. There was so much we wanted to see that we just did not get during our first trip to the park but there is always next time.

  2. Tim W.

    Hi Guys!
    Love what you are doing with your life, and the site!
    You def need to go back to The Smokies, and make a top 30 things to do.
    There are so many other views and sites that just have to be seen, besides what you mentioned.
    You could spend months there and not get bored, if you like to travel around the area.
    If you like waterfalls, there are about 400, which are usually best in the spring after the thaw, or a good rain.
    The fall season is my favorite time, but June is also great when the Rhodos and Mtn. Laurel are blooming.
    Need lotsa links? let me know…

    happy trails,

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thanks for the comment! We would love to head back that way but we end up saying that about lots of places. There is just so many great things to see in States that it is hard to narrow down our choices and the Smokies is on our list of possible vacation spots every time. Thanks, for the info.

  3. Dave

    Thanks for the List. Very nice list and most of them I have been to. Just a couple of other Smaller Spots are the Deep Creek Area has 3 pretty nice Small Falls in it as well. You can see all of them on my facebook page Dave’s Photography Adventures. And the other Falls is Soco Falls. I guess its around 7 Miles outside of Cherokee, NC heading over to Maggie Valley across Soco Mountain.
    Again thanks for your list and may God Always Bless your family and site.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and giving us some great information! Will have to check it out the next time we are in the area. Happy Travels!

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