10 Things To Know About The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the entire country. The park is in Tennessee and North Carolina and offers just about every type of terrain imaginable. People enjoy camping, cycling, hiking, and kayaking in the park. Check out these 10 things you need to know about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
1. Annual Visitors
More than 10 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year, making it the most visited park in the nation. One of the top reasons this park is so popular is because there’s no admission fee to get into the park, unlike many national parks in the west.
2. Park Size
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers around 244,000 acres of Tennessee and 276,000 acres of North Carolina. This totals 520,000 acres, which equates to over 800 square miles.
3. Flora and Fauna
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has recognition as an International Biosphere Reserve and serves as home to approximately 4,000 plant species and 140 tree species in 5 forests. The 65 different animal species residing in the park include black bears, bobcats, cottontail rabbits, coyotes, groundhogs, red fox, red wolves, river otters, and wild boar. The park estimates the bear population at around 1500. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also known as the unofficial salamander capital of the world with over 30 species of salamanders calling this area home.
The highest elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park receive an average of 85 inches of rain every year. These same areas get about 69 inches of snow every year, which equates to 6 feet.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for the many waterfalls you can hike or drive to. Some of the many cascading sites to see while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park include:
– Abrams Falls
– Mingo Falls
– Grotto Falls
– Mouse Creek Falls
– Hen Wallow Falls
– Rainbow Falls
– Indian Creek/Toms Branch Falls
– Ramsey Cascades
– Juney Whank Falls
– Laurel Falls
On average, visitors may clearly view distances up to 25 miles away. However, visibility varies due to weather conditions, causing elevated humidity levels that may appear as fog or mist. Either way, you’ll have an incredible view!
7. Forest Fires
Lightning naturally causes approximately two fires annually. Without endangering large portions of the park at any one time, rangers generally allow these fires because they enhance the local ecosystem. Rangers also practice controlled burning on small sections throughout the park.
8. Roads and Hiking Trails
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has around 400 miles of roadways. The majority are paved. A 32-mile length of road meandering through the park connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Cherokee, North Carolina. Newfound Gap Road has mountain streams, picnic areas, and scenic overlooks. Hikers find well over 800 miles of trails at their disposal. The many popular round trip hiking trails extend anywhere from 3,000 feet to 16 miles.
9. Historical Buildings
Before becoming a national park, the land belonged to various communities where many families lived. Approximately 100 historic buildings date back to the 1800s remain standing in the park today. At the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center, guests may explore the Mountain Farm Museum. Once a homestead, the site features a barn, blacksmith shop, and a farmhouse along with an apple house, hen house, and springhouse. Structures scattered throughout the park include barns, cabins, and churches, in addition to farmhouses and schools.
10. Founding Fathers
Creating the park required financial backing, and John D. Rockefeller Jr. provided $5 million. The United States government handed over $2 million for the project. Private citizens residing in Tennessee and North Carolina combined efforts to acquire land for the park section by section.
Now that you know all there is to know about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s time to visit! Check out other things to do in Pigeon Forge while you’re here and start planning your trip.