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Best Outdoor Activities in Great Smoky Mountains

By: Cityseeker
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Clingmans Dome

Climbing to the top of Clingmans Dome may be challenging, but the view at the top is well worth the strenuous half-mile (0.8-kilometer) climb. At 6,643 feet (2,024 meters), Clingmans Dome claims the title of both the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the highest point in Tennessee. This spot offers unparalleled views of the Appalachian Mountains, rolling hills, lush forests, and pristine streams that are a treat to the eye. Visitors at the top of the dome can enter the observation tower to witness stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. This spot is a must-visit for those who wish to enjoy breathtaking views of the national park.

107 Park Headquarters Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the United States' most-visited national park. Sprawled across a luxuriant expanse of 522,419 acres (211,416 hectares), the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is split down the middle by the State Line that demarcates the territories of North Carolina and Tennessee. The park is renowned the world over for its remarkably diverse flora and fauna, sheltered by a series of ridges drenched in the cool spray of cascading waterfalls. Dressed in a blanket of dense forests and wildflower-laden meadows stitched together by babbling streams and gushing rivers, spellbinding vistas lay around every corner amid the ancient Appalachian mountains. The scenery transitions with the seasons from the vivid green of summer and the riotous colors of spring to the warm cast of fall and the white shroud of winter. Amid this vibrant and varied landscape, close to 80 historic buildings preserve the southern Appalachian mountain culture, of which the pioneer homestead at Cades Cove is just one. With ample opportunity for activities like hiking, biking, fishing and more, the ethereal allure of the Great Smoky Mountains is impossible to ignore.

107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops is a mountain in the central Great Smoky Mountains, and one of the national park’s most iconic geological features and popular hiking destinations. Legend has it that the mountain was given its name by Appalachian settlers before the national park was formed, and that the mountain was once covered in soot. The Chimney Tops trail ends at the foot of the southern, tallest capstone, at 4724 feet (1440 meters) above sea level.

Chimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains, TN, United States, 37738
Alum Cave Trail

The Alum Cave Trail, also called the Alum Cave Bluff Trail, is a moderately difficult 5-mile (8 kilometer) hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Considered the most scenic of the five trails that lead to Mount Le Conte, the trail begins its ascent of the mountain at 3,830 feet (1,170 meters) and passes streams, scenic viewpoints, and landmarks such as Inspiration Point, Arch Rock, and Cliff Top. Near the end of the trail hikers will find the rustic cabins of LeConte Lodge, the only commercial lodge in the park, and the peaks of the mountain itself.

Alum Cave Trail Trailhead, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

An interesting delight amidst the nature-rich Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail offers a chance to glimpse the power of one of the park's mountain streams. The 5.5-mile (8.8 kilometer) long loop road lets drivers get up close and personal with this mountain stream, particularly after a heavy rainstorm. Also in the area are old growth forests and preserved log cabins that are beautiful and lonesome-looking. However, it is important to keep in mind that the road is not accessible during the winter months.

Roaring Fork Road & Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Grotto Falls

A three-mile round-trip hike will take you to Grotto Falls, one of several beautiful falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This trail winds behind the 25-foot-high falls. Due to the excessive moisture, several salamanders flock to the area. Visitors to the falls may be able to spot several different species of salamander at a particular point in time. You can also explore the mysterious cave which is situated behind the ethereal waterfall. These waterfalls are a true marvel of nature and are sure to soothe your eyes and calm your mind.

Trillium Gap Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Laurel Falls

The name Laurel Falls was inspired by the evergreen Mountain Laurel, a plant that grows and blooms near the falls in the Spring. These falls feature a height of 80 feet and cascade down smooth rocks, creating a beautiful mist that fills the air. Visitors to Laurel Falls can gaze at both the upper and lower sections of the falls from on top of a walkway that runs across the base of the upper falls. These falls can be reached by hiking along the moderate Laurel Falls trail, where hikers can also see the famed Mountain Laurel. This is a great spot to relax and admire the ethereal beauty of nature.

Laurel Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37862
Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and one of its most spectacular. The waterfall spills 100 feet (33 meters) down a sandstone cliff close to Mount Guyot’s western slope, and can be accessed through the Ramsey Cascades Trail, which begins at Ramsey Prong Trailhead and is lined with tulip trees, silver bells, and yellow birches. The stunning falls, old-growth forests, and beautiful trail offer a memorable experience to all hikers who set foot here.

Ramsey Cascades, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Cades Cove Riding Stables

The Cades Cove Riding Stables are the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's only authorized riding stables in Cades Cove. The stable offers guided horseback, carriage, and hayride trip rides for both experienced and first-time riders. Explorers of the national park with an adventurous spirit will love the opportunity to see the park and the wildlife of the Cades Cove area from a unique perspective.

10018 Campground Drive, Great Smoky Mountains, Townsend, TN, United States, 37882
Bent Creek Golf Course

Bent Creek Golf Course is a par 72-course that opened in 1972. Designed by Masters and British Open champion Gary Player, the course leads players through a valley floor and a cheerful stream, and up mountainous foothills. The course has been voted one of the top golf courses of the American South. The golf club also hosts meetings and business events.

3919 East Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Cades Cove

Despite its name, Cades Cove is a stunning valley, not a cove. Located promiscuously on the border of both Tennessee and North Carolina, the valley is known for its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. Visitors to Cades Cove will marvel at the Thunderhead Mountains towering over the valley. Keep a sharp eye on the landscape - bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, ground hogs, and turkeys have been spotted throughout the area. Visitors can also learn about the Cherokee tribes that used the valley as a hunting ground for hundreds of years and explore the 19th-Century buildings left behind by the area's first European settlers.

Cades Cove Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake is a pristine site encased with lush forests and rolling hills. This is a massive reservoir that spans about 17 miles (27 kilometers) and forms part of the southern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the northern border of part of the Nantahala National Forest. The lake is named after the local Montvale Lumber Company logging town. Visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, swimming, and picnicking at the site. This attraction warrants a visit during your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fontana Lake, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, United States, 37738
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