Top 7 things to do in the Smoky Mountains

The Smoky Mountains beckon countless visitors each year with their mesmerizing beauty and diverse array of activities. This natural wonderland, straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, boasts over 800 miles of lush, scenic …

Top 7 things to do in the Smoky Mountains
Disclosure: We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

The Smoky Mountains beckon countless visitors each year with their mesmerizing beauty and diverse array of activities. This natural wonderland, straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, boasts over 800 miles of lush, scenic trails and captivates millions of adventure-seekers annually.

With almost 12 million visitors in 2020 alone, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds the title of the most frequented national park in the United States. Visitors find solace in the park’s picturesque landscapes, abundant wildlife, and rich cultural history. Hiking, fishing, and horseback riding are just a few activities that draw people to this enchanting destination. With countless opportunities for exploration, the Smoky Mountains promise an unforgettable experience for every visitor.

Discover the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains as you set out on tour through this gorgeous area, where memories and excitement are waiting around every corner.

Hiking on lesser-known trails

Discover the hidden gems of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by venturing off the beaten path and exploring these lesser-known trails. Unravel the captivating beauty of Whiteoak Sink, an enchanting area teeming with wildflowers and a breathtaking waterfall. Marvel at the cascading waters of Spruce Flats Falls, an often overlooked treasure that offers a tranquil retreat for adventurous souls.

Discover more about the enchanting Smoky Mountain trails as you delve deeper into the park. Step into a world of wonder as you traverse the Courthouse Rock Trail, which leads you through dense forests and a mesmerizing creek before revealing the majestic Courthouse Rock, a testament to nature’s artistry. Unearth the secrets of Gregory Cave, a fascinating cavern nestled within the lush greenery of the mountains. With its intriguing history and unique features, this hidden gem is sure to spark your curiosity.

Wildlife watching at Cades Cove

Embark on a journey to Cades Cove, a must-visit destination in the Smoky Mountains, where a serene valley is home to diverse animal species. As you explore, keep a watch out for white-tailed deer grazing in lush meadows. Marvel at majestic black bears foraging for food and spot wild turkeys strutting through the underbrush.

The 11-mile loop road encircling the cove provides excellent vantage points for observing wildlife. Drive leisurely and pause to enjoy the breathtaking surroundings. Early mornings and evenings offer the best chances for wildlife encounters. Bring your binoculars and camera to capture unforgettable moments in this natural paradise.

So, immerse yourself in the beauty of Cades Cove and create lasting memories as you connect with the vibrant wildlife that calls the Smoky Mountains home.

Exploring Cataloochee Valley

Discover the enchanting Cataloochee Valley, a hidden gem in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Immerse yourself in the area’s rich history as you stroll among well-preserved historic buildings, including churches, a schoolhouse, and homesteads. Listen closely to the echoes of the past while you wander through the valley.

Witness the majestic elk as they graze in the meadows or roam the woodlands. Visit during the early morning or late evening hours for the best chances to spot these magnificent creatures. Remember to maintain a safe distance and respect their natural habitat.

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the captivating Cataloochee Valley, where history and nature intertwine.

Exploring Newfound Gap

Experience the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains by driving on the Newfound Gap Road. This scenic 33-mile drive connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina, and offers stunning views of the park’s diverse landscapes.

As you drive, you’ll climb over 3,000 feet, traversing through dense forests, and reach Newfound Gap, the lowest drivable pass in the park. Stop here to admire panoramic vistas and snap memorable photos. Venture along the Clingmans Dome Road, a 7-mile detour, to access the highest point in the Smokies.

Discover picturesque overlooks, marvel at the lush valleys, and immerse yourself in the vibrant colors of the fall foliage or the blooming wildflowers in spring. Pause and explore historical sites like the Rockefeller Memorial commemorating the park’s establishment.

Picnicking at Metcalf Bottoms

Metcalf Bottoms provides an idyllic setting for a delightful picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Surrounded by lush greenery and the gentle sounds of nature, this spot offers a serene escape from daily life. Spread your blanket on one of the many picnic tables or grassy areas and savor a leisurely meal with family or friends.

As you relax, take in the calming presence of the Little River, which flows nearby. Kids can enjoy playing in the shallow waters, while adults find tranquility in the picturesque surroundings. For the more adventurous, consider embarking on a nature walk to discover the area’s rich history and natural beauty.

Fishing in the park’s streams

Discover a serene fishing experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s numerous streams. Cast your line and reel over 2,900 miles of picturesque waterways teeming with various fish species. Home to the brook, brown, and rainbow trout, the park offers anglers a thrilling challenge.

Obtain a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license and follow the park’s specific regulations for a responsible and enjoyable time. Fish during the open season that runs from April 1 to November 30.

Enhance your fishing adventure by exploring remote streams and seeking out hidden spots. Pack a lunch, embrace the captivating surroundings, and appreciate the calming sounds of flowing water as you fish.

Discover the rich history of the Smoky Mountains at the Mountain Farm Museum. Step back in time as you stroll through this outdoor exhibit showcasing a collection of authentic log buildings. The structures, carefully relocated from various locations in the park, provide a glimpse into the life of early settlers.

Mountain Farm Museum

Marvel at the museum’s centerpiece: the Davis House, a historic log cabin dating back to the 19th century. Explore the corn crib, blacksmith shop, and barn furnished with period-specific tools and equipment. Immerse yourself in the past as you learn about traditional farming practices and the daily life of those who once inhabited this region.

With engaging exhibits, hands-on activities, and knowledgeable rangers, the Mountain Farm Museum offers an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages. So, don’t miss this fascinating opportunity to connect with the Smoky Mountains’ rich cultural heritage.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences, breathtaking scenery, and rich history. From hiking lesser-known trails and observing wildlife in their natural habitat to exploring historic sites and embracing the serenity of nature, the Smoky Mountains offer something for everyone. As you embark on your adventure, embrace this enchanting destination’s unique beauty and unparalleled charm. Dive deep into the park’s heart, and create lasting memories in the timeless landscape of the Smoky Mountains.

Leave a Comment