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Great Smokey Mountains National Park

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina is a huge and hugely important region of protected eastern American wilderness. This 500,000-acre park, once home to the Cherokee, contains some of the world’s oldest mountains and one of the most biologically diverse regions on the continent. Over 10 million visitors come to the park every year to enjoy its natural grandeur.

Visitors to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park will find it very educational. The Oconaluftee Visitors Center is a main point of entrance where there’s a wealth of information. Pioneer Farm is free to all visitors and is a fascinating look at Southern Appalachia Mountain culture. Kids can sign up here to become junior rangers.

There are endless out-door adventures to be had in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Campers have several options. Developed Front Country campgrounds have flush toilets and cold running water, with parties of up to 8 allowed in Group Camping Areas. Back Country camping is a great way to enjoy the splendor of the park, but permits are required and campers must stay in designated areas.

Visitors can find many ways to see the park. Hikers have well over 800 miles of trails to trod, like Andrews Bald or the Alum Cave Trail. Scenic hikers won’t want to miss the 8-mile, round trip trek to the magnificent Ramsay Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. Bikers will enjoy the Greenbriar, or Cataloochee trails, but Cade’s Cove Loop is their best bet. This 11-mile one-way road offers excellent wildlife viewing and sights of 19th century homes. Horseback riding is permitted on 550 miles of trails. The park allows visitors to bring their own horses, or hire them at one of the park’s stables.

Fishing is a popular activity at the Great Smokey Mountains Nation Park. Year round fishing is permitted in most streams. Anglers can expect to catch lots of trout, but a license is required and park regulations must be carefully followed.

Bird watchers will love the opportunities in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The parks large acreage and diversity of habitats are home to 120 nesting bird species and a haven for 52 species of neo-tropical migrating birds. The American kestrel, the Red-eyed Vireo and the Ovenbird are just a few of the many birds birders might see.

Wildlife viewing is especially rewarding in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. It is home to flying squirrels, brook trout and 1,500 species of flowering plants. The black bear population numbers around 1,800 and the Park Service has worked hard reintroduced species like elk, river otters and the Peregrine Falcon. The park is also the salamander capitol of the world with a whopping 24 species of lungless salamander in its confines, including the Jordan’s Salamander, found nowhere else in the world. The Smokey Mountains’ crests tower nearly a mile above the foothills.