The Great Smoky Mountains National Park brings in over 11 million visitors every year! The scenic views are unmatched and there are countless spots for photo ops. With over 850 miles of hiking trails and over 380 miles of roads to auto tour, it can be hard to pick a place to start. However, we’ve put together a guide of the top 5 destinations in the park for your convenience.
1. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is hands down, one of the most popular destinations in the park! This gorgeous valley is great for wildlife viewing and is home to a large number of white-tailed deer. You might also spot a few black bears, groundhogs, and other native species. There are also a variety of places to hike and picnic around the cove. You can even auto tour around it on a scenic, 11-mile loop. There are even pullouts along the road where you can stop to take pictures and enjoy the views.
2. Laurel Falls Trail
Laurel Falls Trail is another top spot in the national park, and it features an 80-foot waterfall! The roundtrip distance to the falls and back is around 2.6 miles and takes about 2 hours to complete. However, it might take a little longer because you’ll want to stop for pictures and admire the views when you arrive. There are two levels to the falls with a walkway crossing the stream at the upper half. The best spot for pictures is right after you cross the bridge, where you can stand directly in front of the falls!
3. Clingmans Dome
Standing at 6,643 feet tall, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the state of Tennessee. The 360-degree views of the mountains are well worth the half-mile climb to the observation tower to see them. Although the tower is open year-round, please note that the road leading to it is closed from December 1 through March 31, and when weather conditions require.
4. Sugarlands Visitor Center
The Sugarlands Visitor Center is open every day except Christmas. When you stop by, you’ll receive free admission to a 20-minute film about the park. You can also walk through the natural history exhibits and learn more about the native plants and animals of the Smokies. There is even a bookstore and shop where you can buy all the best souvenirs to remind you of your time in the national park.
5. Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap is an excellent road for an auto tour, offering some of the national park’s best scenery. It’s the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and runs all the way from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC. A few highlights of the drive include the Rockefeller Memorial where President Roosevelt dedicated the national park, and the Appalachian Trail, which crosses the road.
Now that you know all about the best places to go in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s time to start planning your visit! Learn more about the park’s history and popular areas before you arrive so that you can get the full experience.