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Our journey around the USA to some of the country’s many national parks continues today. This park is actually located in two states – read on for more!
Name: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Year Established: 1934
Location: Tennessee and North Carolina
Season: The park is opened 24 hours all year long. Some roads, campgrounds and other areas are closed during the winter and during times of bad weather.
Cost: Entrance to the park is free.
Accommodation: There are several campgrounds available in the park for $14-$23 per night. There are also two rustic cabins in the heart of the park; Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin.
Brief Description: The Great Smoky Mountains, called ‘the Smokies’ by many people, is a mountain range that is part of the Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern United States. With over 9 million visitors per year, it is the most visited national park in the USA! The name ‘Smoky’ comes from the fog that forms naturally and hangs over the mountain tops. It looks like large smoke plumes from a distance. The Great Smokies are a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the 78 ancient structures and communities it preserves. They were once part of the many large Appalachian communities that were scattered through the river valleys and coves of the mountains. Many people have called these mountains home throughout history, but they were largely controlled by the Cherokee Indians until the European settlers arrived. Now visitors can see how people lived in those old societies in one of the many destinations in the park.
Personal Experience: Since the mountains straddle the Tennessee-North Carolina border, it is possible to see two different sides of the park. We visited the North Carolina side on our most recent trip. We began our visit at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center where we got some information about the park and then checked out the exhibits that helped tell the story of life in the mountains. The Mountain Farm Museum next door had several log structures to explore such as a barn, farmhouse and smokehouse. We also walked around the train that took you in a circle around the river. From there we drove up the mountain, stopping along the way to take in the views. At the top of the mountain we walked up to the top of a platform that would normally have stunning panoramic views of the surrounding scenery, but unfortunately it was very rainy that day and the fog was so thick we couldn’t see anything. The Appalachian Trail is a very popular foot path that runs through the mountains from Maine all the way down to Georgia. The path crosses through part of the Great Smokies National Park so we headed there next and walked along it for about a mile. Then we had to switch to the loop trail so we could get back to the car and head back into town. We only had enough time to make a day trip to the park. It spans two states so it is quite big and there are so many different places to see. Your time there would be much more enjoyable if you could camp or stay at one of the lodges. My hometown is in that area so I definitely plan to spend more time exploring that park as soon as I can.