Top 5 Highlights of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you think you need to go to the American West for majestic landscapes and wilderness scenes, you’re greatly mistaken. In the East, too, there are a couple of amazing natural destinations. Arguably the most impressive of those is Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. To make planning your trip somewhat easier, I’ve listed the best five Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights for you below.

Make sure not to miss these five wonderful attractions/activities.

5 Great Smoky Mountains National Park Highlights

5. Clingman’s Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights: Clingman's Dome
Sunrise from Clingman’s Dome: Photo Tim Lumley / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Rising 6,643 feet to the sky, Clingman’s Dome is the highest mountains in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Traversed by the Appalachian Trail, the summit can be reached on foot, but there is a road as well, leaving you with two excellent options. The observation tower on the summit is one of the main Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights, offering breathtaking panoramic views in all directions.

4. Waterfalls

Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights: Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls: Photo Anissa Casey / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Numerous scenic waterfalls dot the park, an area made up of rolling hills and forests. Many of those waterfalls can be reached on wonderful hiking trails. Make sure not to miss Grotto Falls (one of the iconic spots in the park) and Laurel Falls.

3. Cable Mill Historic Area

Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights: Cable Mill Historic Area
Cable Mill Historic Area: Photo Steve Ornberg / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is more than mountains and waterfalls; it’s also a hugely important historic region. A major pioneer center in the early-1800s, the Great Smoky Mountains used to be home to many homesteads, farms, mills and churches. The greatest preserved collection of those buildings is found in Cades Cove, more specifically at the Cable Mill Historic Area and Visitor Center. This is a must-visit place to get a sense of the pioneering history of the Smokies.

2. Fauna and Flora

Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights: Black bear
Black bear: Photo Pat (Cletch) Williams / CC BY 2.0

The fact that the Great Smoky Mountains are home to an astounding variety of plants and animals is why it was designated World Heritage by UNESCO. For example, there are more tree species in the park than in all of Western Europe combined. It is one of North America’s largest regions with remaining old-growth forest. Additionally, there is a thriving black bear population. You also have the chance to spot otters, bobcats and elk.

1. Fall Foliage

Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights: Fall foliage
Fall foliage, Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Photo Jerry and Pat Donaho / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of the main reasons this park is the most visited in the entire United States and arguably the greatest of all Great Smoky National Park highlights is the spectacular fall foliage. With its millions of deciduous trees, the park turns into all shades of yellow, orange, red and purple in the fall season. This attracts huge crowds, who come to enjoy this phenomenal natural spectacle. Fall is probably the most scenic seasons to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, also making all above-mentioned Great Smoky Mountains National Park highlights even more attractive.

About Bram


Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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