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The Ultimate Great Smoky Mountains National Park Bucket List

Scenic photo of the Great Smoky Mountains
May 25, 2023

Planning a family vacation to the Smokies and overwhelmed at knowing what to do? From hiking trails to overlooks for the best views, here’s the ultimate Great Smoky Mountains National Park bucket list:

Walk a Portion of the Appalachian Trail

Approximately 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail crosses into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and there are several day hikes you could take on this epic trail, including Charlie’s Bunion. You can hike to Charlie’s Bunion and its phenomenal mountain views by starting at the Newfound Gap Overlook parking lot.

Hike to a Waterfall

Grotto Falls waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains are a huge draw for visitors and with good reason! Large cascades and smaller falls alike are breathtaking and offer a refreshing and satisfying experience.

Tour Cades Cove

Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the national park due to its historic buildings, driving and biking loop road, and abundant wildlife. You’ll see elk, deer, turkeys, and even a possible black bear! Tour old homesteads such as John Oliver’s Cabin, beautiful churches, barns, and grist mills that were once inhabited by real families who called the Smoky Mountains home.

Have a Picnic

Spending the day in the Smokies means you’ll need plenty of food and drinks, so it’s the perfect opportunity for a picnic! Located off of the Newfound Gap Road, Chimney’s picnic area is creekside and so peaceful! Metcalf Bottoms is another popular riverside picnic spot where you can enjoy your lunch surrounded by the calming sights and sounds of nature.

Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Trail

roaring fork motor trail next to a river

Driving the 5.5 miles of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is something every visitor to the Smokies should do! Throughout the trail, you’ll find trailheads to waterfalls such as Grotto Falls as well as old buildings to visit if you’d like to get out and stretch your legs. And make sure to stop at the Place of A Thousand Drips!

Take a Horseback Riding Tour

If you feel like doing something different, consider a horseback riding tour. These guided rides are usually between one and two hours of gentle riding through the beautiful mountain scenery and are a unique experience everyone will enjoy!

Explore Elkmont

A historic cabin at the Elkmont Ghost Town.

Did you know there’s a ghost town in the Smoky Mountains? Elkmont was once a logging community that became abandoned after the park was established in the mid-1930s. Today, over a dozen buildings have been preserved and are open to the public, as well as the Elkmont Toll Bridge, a hidden gem!

Catch a Glimpse of Wildlife

Everywhere throughout the park are turtles, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, salamanders, and the bigger animals such as deer, elk, and bears. While it’s natural to want to observe and take photos of what you see, remember not to disturb them or try to feed them, as it can be dangerous for both the animal and you!

Observe the View from Clingmans Dome

clingmans dome

Clingmans Dome is famous for its incredible views at 6,643 feet, the tallest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On clear days, you can get 360-degree views of over 100 miles of jaw-dropping scenery. The half-mile to the top is steep, so wear good shoes and be prepared for a mildly strenuous walk up the paved trail. But the experience at the Observation Tower is well worth the climb!

With our ultimate Great Smoky Mountain National Park bucket list, you’re ready to have the best vacation ever! All that’s left to do is find a place to stay. We have 1-6+ bedroom cabins with pet-friendly options, riverside or secluded, as well as cabins with pools. Get started today and find a cabin that’s right for your family!

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