Things To Do In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park With Just One Day
So heres the problem: You only have one day, but you really want to experience the joys of nature in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What should you do with your family? Glad you asked, because we have a few suggestions of things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for getting the most out of your brief stay. Put on your hiking boots so you can do some serious exploring!
Where To Stay In Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With the many surrounding towns near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, its no exaggeration that there are a ton of places to stay. Accommodations within the park, however, are limited, unless you want to camp.
When deciding where to stay, it really depends on where you want to spend your time. Here are some options both in the park and in the surrounding towns.
Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail
Another great option for exploring the park by car, this route is named for the rushing stream visible at several points along the way. In addition to multiple streams, youll observe old-growth forests and a variety of historic buildings. Early visits are typically preferable, as traffic can make this journey a lot less pleasant. Good tires are also advisable this narrow, one-way motor trail is definitely not ideal for all vehicles. A low-speed limit is maintained for the entirety of the route, however and if you abide by this speed limit, you should feel perfectly safe as you witness memorable Smoky Mountains scenery.
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Drawbacks Of Visiting Great Smoky Mountains In Winter
The main drawback to visiting in the winter is many of the roads close for the season. Primary roads, such as Highway 441, Cades Cove Road Loop and Little River Road remain open, weather permitting. But, secondary roads close through the winter, you can look at the full list of seasonal road closures here. Clingmans Dome Road closes to vehicle traffic from December 1st to March 31st. Because it is the highest elevation in the park, and can experience temperature differences of 10-20° from the bottom of the mountain to its top.
Another drawback to visiting the Smokies in the winter is the unpredictable precipitation. On average, per year, the lower elevations experience 55 inches of rainfall, and higher elevations could see as much as 85 inches of rainfall. Sometimes the temperature is not cold enough to turn that precipitation into snow, so you get a cold, wet rain in the winterwhich most people dont find ideal for hiking. Always have rain gear with you, in case the weather changes drastically, as it often does.
Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries
The historic town of Dillsboro, NC completely transforms into a winter wonderland each December with Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries. Make a trip out to this community celebration and experience a picturesque town covered in 2,500 candle luminaries along its streets and shops.
Shops open late for some charming Christmas shopping, and Santa makes an appearance too. Visitors can enjoy warm cocoa and holiday treats as they wander the town while listening to live music and carolers.
Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries provides a restful reprieve for your Smoky Mountain Christmas visit, full of nostalgia that will remind you of Christmases past. Be sure to stay for a horse and buggy ride to see all the lights and festive ambience!
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Stay In A Smoky Mountain Cabin
To guarantee you have the best vacation, stay in a Smoky Mountain cabin! Cabin rentals offer all the comforts of home, along with all the benefits of being in the Smokies. Enjoy a private location in the heart of the mountains with gorgeous views, a hot tub, a fireplace and everything else you need for a perfect stay. Cabins range in size to accommodate all vacation types, from romantic getaways to family reunions. Choose from cabins with game rooms, theater rooms, indoor pools and so much more!
These are just some of the cant-miss things to do in the Smoky Mountains in 2020. Check out more ideas of what to do on your vacation, then start planning your visit!
Ripley’s Aquarium Of The Smokies
Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies was voted Best Aquarium in the US by USA Today, and its not difficult to see why. With everything from penguins to stingrays to sharks, the aquarium offers a wide variety of aquatic life for visitors to enjoy, and its educational and fun live shows are a great way for guests to learn about marine biology and enjoy some spectacular sights. In the aquarium, visitors can see 12-foot-long sharks through the glass bottom of a boat, create a masterpiece with the help of an African penguin, or watch mermaids in an underwater show. Read more
88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, Phone: 865-430-8808
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Day 2 Cades Cove Area
Cades Cove is a popular area of The Smokys and has a lot of history. Last time we were here we didnt visit, so we knew this time we wanted to check it out. It can also be a place where you can spot black bears and other animals. Plus there was a cool hike we wanted to do in Cades Cove!
Map of Day 2
Cades Cove Loop
I will start by saying be prepared when you enter the Cades Cove Loop . . . once on it you can only get off it in a few places or else you just have to finish the whole thing. Which can take hours.
It is a one lane road. . . If you dont see any animals in all honesty it can be pretty boring . . .
Luckily we were with our friends ZulaLife so the kids swapped cars and were yelling trivia to each other between the cars. Then for the second half, they rode in the back of the truck so that made it better too.
There are multiple stops along the loop where you can get out and walk the grounds of historical cabins and learn more about the history of Cades Cove.
Abraham Falls Trail
This trail is located off of the Cades Cove loop road. It is a 5 mile out and back trail to a waterfall.
There are a lot of ups and downs on the trail, but our kids did great and it is totally doable. At the end of the trail is a waterfall that you can take in from a far or walk pretty close to just be really careful as the rocks are slippery.
Also note that 2 days a week the loop is closed to cars and can only be done on bikes. I do think that would be a cool experience to try!
Stop To Smell The Wildflowers
The Great Smoky Mountains have an explosion of wildflowers in spring and summer. More than 1,500 flowering plants can be found in the region, including delicate spring beauties, several types of trillium, trout lilies, wild geranium, and orchids visit from mid-April to mid-May for the best blooms. The parks showy flame azaleas and rhododendrons also burst to life starting in April in the low elevations and into June up high.
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Planning A Visit To Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Spanning the border between Tennessee and North Carolina lies Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the countrys most-visited National Park, you might expect to find grand lodges and a variety of infrastructure. Instead, youll find a mostly undeveloped, wild landscape that invites you back to nature.
A visit to Great Smoky Mountains NP will reward you with scenic mountain views, wildlife, historic buildings and a seemingly endless number of hiking trails. While youll find an abundance of tourist attractions in some of the gateway cities, visiting the park requires you to slow down and just enjoy your surroundings.
Like many mountain parks, getting around Great Smoky Mountains NP is not easy. Winding roads with low speed limits means you need at least an hour to drive the main park road, which is only 34 miles between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC. Of course, when you add in a few stops at just some of the many overlooks, youll likely want two or three hours. And that describes Great Smoky Mountains NP is a nutshell, plan for more time than you think you need if you really want to enjoy the park.
Kyker Farms Corn Maze
938 Alder Branch Rd, Sevierville, TN 37876
Up for some fall family fun? Kyker Farms offers all kinds of fun activities for the autumn season. Visit in the month of October and you’ll find corn mazes , hay rides, pumpkin patches, and fun fall activities for younger kids. If you’re looking for something a little spookier, try the nighttime haunted maze or the zombie paintball adventure!
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Ride The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
If you love scenic views of the Smoky Mountains, then you will love the unique sights found from the top of the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge. Not only do you get a clear view of all the fun and exciting Smoky Mountain activities found in Pigeon Forge, but you also get a birds eye view of the majestic mountains in the distance. This means no matter where you look, you are guaranteed a picturesque view you cannot find anywhere else.
The Wheel itself is a 200-foot modern-day Ferris wheel. Each of the all-glass gondolas is climate controlled and can hold anywhere from 2-4 people, depending on which ride experience you choose.
To make your experience at The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel even more memorable, consider riding it at night. With over 1 million LED light bulbs attached to the frame of the ride, you and your family or group are sure to be amazed at the dazzling light show seen each night here.
For an inside look at what to expect when you visit The Great Smoky Mountian Wheel, watch the video below!
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum | Brent Moore / photo modified
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a fun diversion for young and old alike when in Gatlinburg. Featuring more than 40 cars that were used in Hollywood movies, the collection includes vehicles from Gone in 60 Seconds, The Fast and the Furious, and Days of Thunder.
Other famous favorites include the original Batmobile from the 1960s TV show, Batman , and Herbie from the Disney movie franchise of the same name.
Address: 914 Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
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Dark Island Swinging Bridge
7802 W Old Hwy 73, Townsend, TN 37882
The Dark Island Swinging Bridge is tucked behind the Litle River Railroad and Lumber Museum in Townsend, TN. It is one of the last swinging bridges in the area that visitors can try out. It’s a great spot to capture photos of the scenery or even of your group! The bridge is well-maintained and can hold 4 adults at a time.
Why You Should Visit The Great Smoky Mountains
Newfound Gap Great Smoky Mountains. Photo by L. Andrews
If you want to see the most amazing views of the Smoky Mountains, hike to see one of the beautiful waterfalls or, want to camp in the park you will find many adventures in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park!
Its no wonder The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the most popular National Park destinations!
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Ride The Hot Air Balloon At Wonderworks
If the scenic views from on top of The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel we mentioned earlier arent good enough for you and your family or group, then you should experience them from the comfort of the hot air balloon at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge. Not only does the Wonders of Flight ride take you high into the air, you also get a completely unobstructed view of the area around you, including both the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge.
Besides, how often can you say you rode in a real hot air balloon in the Smoky Mountains?
Take In The View From Clingmans Dome
The summit of Clingmans Dome, looming at 6,643 feet along the Smoky Mountain crest, is the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi and the highest point of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail.
You can reach Clingmans Dome via the 7-mile access roadclosed December to March, and during severe weather conditionsand a steep, half-mile paved path to the mountaintop observation tower. If youre lucky enough to visit Clingmans Dome under clear skies, youll be treated to a panoramic view extending more than 100 miles.
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Check Out The Stunning Forbidden Caverns
You havent truly seen the Great Smoky Mountains until you go on a trip deep underground into its Forbidden Caverns. On this 55-minute tour, youll get to explore grottos, streams, and geological formations, including tons of rare cave onyx. Bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy in the outside pavilion once youre done exploring because youll undoubtedly work up a big appetite. Just dont forget to stop by the souvenir shop for a couple of trinkets at the end of your visit.
Welcome To The Smoky Mountains
Masks are required in all National Park Service buildings and on all forms of enclosed public transportation, regardless of location or vaccination status. Additional details are available at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established on June 15, 1934 after overcoming numerous economic, cultural, and political issues. Today the park is the largest protected land area east of the Rocky Mountains and has become the most visited national park in the American Park System. The main entrances are located along US Highway 441.
The history of the Appalachian Mountains is a precious thing and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves this story. These mountains have been around for thousands of years from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to the 18th century European settlements and loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps in the 20th century. The protection of history, wildlife, and nature are very important to the park. There are many great attractions to see while visiting the park. The most popular attraction is Cades Cove. Others include: Roaring Fork, Cataloochee, Elkmont, Mountain Farm museum and Mingus Mill at Oconaluftee. Dont forget to watch out for Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee and the Smokies.
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Ride The Trolley From Pigeon Forge To Gatlinburg
The trolley system in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is a fun and unique way to explore the area at a very low cost. The trolley will take you anywhere from Dollywood to The Old Mill to the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts District to all the way down Ski Mountain Road.
To make sure you experience all of the fun possible on the trolleys, we suggest you and your family or group go on an adventure and ride the system from the beginning of Pigeon Forge to the far end of Gatlinburg. Yes, you will have to make a couple of route switches along the way, but we promise you will not be disappointed with all of the fun places you pass while you are en route.
The easiest way to do this is to pick up two all-day passes, one for the Pigeon Forge Trolley and one for the Gatlinburg trolley. When you are done, you can explore wherever you want to without having to worry about finding parking or using all your gas. This means you can explore the area as much as you want without dipping too much into your travel budget.
To get started checking off these exciting Smoky Mountain activities off of your own bucket list, start planning your next trip to the area today. To begin, start by choosing which of the unbeatable places to stay in the Smoky Mountains is right for you! With hundreds of relaxing rentals to choose from, we guarantee we have the perfect place for your family or group.
About Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies in the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. The park is almost 522,419 acres, which makes it one of the largest area that is under protection in the United States. This is also a certified UNESCO World Heritage site. People generally love going hiking and sightseeing here. Apart from that, fishing is also one of the most popular activities here.
There are also many historic and archaeological places within the park boundaries. The park has an array of flora and fauna. There are several waterfalls inside the park. The national park is famous for the bears and rare flowers which are difficult to find somewhere else. People can explore the place by trekking.
Best Time To Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park: One can visit the park throughout the year. During spring, the number of tourists is very high. In fact, the temperatures in different areas of the park might also differ depending upon the elevation levels. During the autumn, different shades of yellow, orange and green can be seen throughout the forest which makes the view even more beautiful. However, if one wants to visit when there is less crowd, September and November is the ideal time. It is advisable to pre-plan according to the climate and ones own requirements.
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