The Great Smoky Mountains
are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee–North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. They are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province. The range is sometimes called the Smoky Mountains
and the name is commonly shortened to the Smokies
. The Great Smokies are best known as the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
, which protects most of the range. The park was established in 1934, and, with over 11 million visits per year, it is the most visited national park in the United States.
Inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors can explore visitor center museums, working mills, and historic homesteader communities. Other attractions are just a hop outside of the park. On the Tennessee side of the park, visit Dolly Parton’s Dollywood and theaters in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Aquarium in Gatlinbury. On the North Carolina side, don’t miss the Cherokee Indian Museum in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Cataloochee Ski Area
The Cataloochee Ski Area is located in the southwestern region of North Carolina, with 18 slopes and trails for skiers and snowboarders of varying abilities. The resort also has areas for snow tubing and offers lessons for kids and beginners all season long. Visitors can purchase day passes or season passes for the ski area, and lodging is offered there as well.
Chimney Tops Trail
The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular in the entire park, and although the going is tough, the views at the end make it all worth it. A round trip from the trailhead and back again is only 4 miles, but the elevation gain during the 2-mile trek out is about 1,400 feet, with a steep scramble over rocks that can get quite slippery in wet or icy weather. The trail extends over flowing streams, rocky terrain, and switchbacks along the slopes of the mountain before reaching the rocky pinnacle known as the Chimney, where hikers will be treated with rewarding views.
The gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, always busy Gatlinburg provides everything travelers need after a long day exploring the surrounding countryside. The main thoroughfare, Parkway, is where most of the action is, and is home to as many mom-and-pop stores and restaurants as it is to big brand names. For those with younger travelers in tow, there’s no better place to blow off some steam than at the numerous attractions here, including arcade style amusements, theater shows, and aquariums. Of special note is the Gatlinburg Space Needle
, a tall steel tower with a 400-foot-high observation deck with stunning views.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
If you’re staying in the Gatlinburg area, you can’t miss this dazzling, 6-mile drive, dotted with old farmsteads and the must-see Rainbow and Grotto waterfalls. Get out of your car for a leisurely trek and you’ll be treated to even better views.
It’s hardly surprising that 10 million people choose to flock to Pigeon Forge every year.
One of the biggest draws to the city is, of course, Dollywood. In case you didn’t know, Dolly Parton grew up in Smoky Mountains. The theme park is an apt depiction of her local heritage. There are fairground rides for the whole family. You won’t want to miss some amazing performances, including from Dolly’s family members.
Museum of Salt & Pepper Shakers – Gatlinburg
View more than 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers from the 16th century to the present day at the only salt and pepper museum in the United States (there is actually a sister museum, the Museo de Saleros y Pimenteros, in Castell de Guadalest, Spain)! Learn interesting facts about the history and functionality of salt and pepper shakers. The amazing collection reflects the more than 30-year obsession of owners Andrea and Rolf Ludden. The Museum of Salt & Pepper Shakers is located in Winery Square in downtown Gatlinburg.