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5 Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for First Time Visitors

national park sign
May 6, 2021

Have you never been to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before? You may be wondering what you should do as a first time visitor to one of the most popular national parks in the country! You can go on a scenic drive around the national park and see the incredible sights or you can get out and explore along a trail. Here are 5 things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for first time visitors:

1. Go on a Picnic

picnic area in the smoky mountains

One of the most popular activities in the park is to go on a picnic . There are several picnic areas throughout the park that have tables and charcoal grills you can use. You can bring your own supplies to use the grill, or you can prepare your food at your cabin then bring it with you, ready to eat. There’s also the option of picking up a meal from a restaurant! Some of the most popular picnic areas in the national park are Cades Cove, Metcalf Bottoms, and Look Rock.

2. Drive Through Cades Cove

If you want to drive through the Smokies on your first visit, then you have to go to Cades Cove . This is an 11-mile paved loop through a valley surrounded by mountains. There are several places where you can pull off and get out to explore. Check out the old homesteads and historic churches, as well as several hiking trails off the main road. Cades Cove is also a popular place to look for wildlife.

3. Hike to Clingmans Dome

clingmans dome

Clingmans Dome is one of the tallest points of elevation in the national park. The paved hike to the observation tower is about 1 mile roundtrip, but it is steep. People love visiting this spot on their first trip because of the incredible views and short distance to the top.

4. Drive On Roaring Fork Motor Trail

Another great thing to do as a first time visitor is drive the Roaring Fork Motor Trail . This road has a ton of hiking trails off of it, including Grotto and Rainbow Falls. You can also get out and see the Noah Bud Ogle cabin and homestead. This is another popular drive where you might get to see wildlife. Plus, you can see The Place of A Thousand Drips from the comfort of your car!

5. Hike to Laurel Falls

laurel falls and walkway

If you want to go on an easy hike on your first visit, you should hike to Laurel Falls . This trail is about 2.6 miles roundtrip. The path is paved, making it easy for people of all ages to climb to the top. You’ll see beautiful mountain views along the trail, and in the spring, there is a ton of mountain laurel. Once you reach the waterfall, you’ll be amazed by the 80-foot-tall sight. It is split into two sections, and you can cross it on a footbridge and take pictures in front of the water.

Once you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll want to come back again and again! Before your first visit, check out this guide to the brief history of the national park! Not sure where you should stay while you’re visiting the park? Look through our cabins in the Smoky Mountains to find a cozy place to stay during your first trip to the Smokies!

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