6 Reasons the Great Smoky Mountains Are the Best National Park in the U.S.

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: October 3, 2023
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This national park has a Tennessee side and a North Carolina side. You can drive through it or set up camp. You can go white water rafting or learn about its rich cultural history. There is never a shortage of things to do when you visit! Discover six reasons the Great Smoky Mountains are the best national park in the U.S.!

6 Reasons the Great Smoky Mountains Are the Best National Park in the U.S.

1. Its Accessibility

Highway 441 cuts right through the national park and connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Cherokee, North Carolina. Visitors often take this major roadway to cross state lines while enjoying the scenery. You can certainly drive through and enjoy some popular attractions, including the highest point in the national park.

2. Its Highest Point

The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains is 6,643 feet above sea level — it’s called Clingman’s Dome. If you’re a photographer, you cannot forget your camera when you visit. Either arrive early to catch the sunrise or visit just as the sun starts to set. When you reach the top, there’s an observation tower. The best part is you don’t have to hike to reach it. There’s a paved road that takes you to the parking area, but you can certainly get a workout in and hike the steep 1/2-mile trail that leads you to the top.  

Gatlinburg, Night, Appalachia, Appalachian Mountains, Astronomy

The highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Clingman’s Dome.

©iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

3. The Wildlife

The national park is full of wildlife, providing you with a true nature experience. If you’re just as curious as black bears, this is a great environment to spot one. Not only are there black bears you might run into, but elk and deer call these mountains home as well. Though the elk population was previously an issue, rehabilitation efforts have restored the elk population. There are over 2,000 miles of rivers and streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which makes it a great retreat for anglers.  

4. Its History

There are properties on site that date back to the 19th century. They include churches and barns as well as old homes previously belonging to early settlers. Not only do you get to enjoy the natural beauty throughout the national park, but you also get a chance to learn about the history of the region. To learn more, you can check out the visitor centers and museums found throughout the park.

5. The Jaw-Dropping Scenery

Wherever you turn your head and adjust your gaze, you’re stunned by the scenery. You don’t have to be a photographer to snap a couple of post-worthy photos. Creatives of all types find that the Great Smoky Mountains stoke their creative fire, providing them with a rejuvenating environment that helps them reset. The national park is especially magnificent during the fall season when the colors shift.

Autumn colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Autumn colors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are breathtaking.

©iStock.com/Sean Board

6. Its Versatility

Depending on which side of the national park you enter from, you have different options. For example, if you’re on the North Carolina side of the park, you can enjoy the town of Cherokee and get adventurous, enjoying white water rafting. If you’re on the Tennessee side, you have access to the town of Gatlinburg, which is family-friendly, offering fantastic restaurants and local shops.

Things To Do at the Great Smoky Mountains

You have a plethora of options when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Look for and photograph the wildflowers, take a breather on a picnic table by the river, and view wildlife in all its wonder. Pack your mountain bike and hit the trails or take your fishing gear and catch some wild trout in the streams. You can also keep it simple and hike the many trails found throughout the park. If you choose to hike, make sure to head out to one of the many waterfalls in the national park to enjoy the sound of rushing water. If you can’t decide and need time to try a little bit of everything, set up camp in the Smokies. Both frontcountry and backcountry campgrounds allow you to pick your own adventure!

Learn about the history of the region by visiting the historic buildings found throughout the park. These preserved structures give you a glimpse of what life was like for early settlers. If you visit anytime between mid-March and September, you can book a guided horseback ride. These rides take you on scenic trails for either a quick, 45-minute tour or a much longer tour that lasts several hours. Again, you get to pick your adventure when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © jadimages/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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