Exploring...Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, its beautiful ancient mountains and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, it is no wonder this is America’s most visited national park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Whether you delight in the challenge of a strenuous hike to the crest of a mountain or prefer to sit quietly and watch the sun set, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a myriad of activities to engage your adventurous spirit. The hardest part may be choosing which auto tour, trail, waterfall, overlook or historic area to explore!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses more than 800 square miles of rustic mountain ranges and is one of the most pristine natural regions in the East. An auto tour of the park offers a variety of experiences including panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams, weathered historic buildings and mature hardwood forests stretching to the horizon.
There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars. Travel speeds on most of the park’s paved roads average 30 miles per hour; all the better to take in the breathtaking views.
Inexpensive booklets are available to serve as your personal tour guides along the many park roads. These booklets are keyed to numbered posts or landmarks and include information on park history, wildlife and plants.
Ride through Cades Cove on a misty summer morning for a truly memorable way to experience the park. Bicycles can travel on most roads within the park. However, due to steep terrain, narrow road surfaces and heavy automobile traffic, many park roads are not well suited for safe and enjoyable bicycle riding.
Cades Cove Loop Road is an exception. The 11-mile one-way road is a popular bicycling area. It provides bicyclists with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and touring 19th century homesites. During summer and fall, bicycles may be rented at the Cades Cove Campground Store (located near Cades Cove Campground). For information call 865-448-9034.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has about 2,115 miles of streams within its boundaries and protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. The park offers a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, cool water small mouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish and offer a great opportunity to catch these species throughout the year. Fishing is permitted year round in the park, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. Detailed information, including a complete list of regulations and a map of fishable park waters, is also available at any visitor center or ranger station.
Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year with every season offering its own special rewards. During winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along trails and reveals stone wells, chimneys, foundations and other reminders of past residents. Spring provides a weekly parade of wildflowers and flowering trees. In summer, walkers can seek out cool retreats among the spruce-fir forests or follow splashy mountain streams to roaring falls and cascades. Autumn hikers have crisp, dry air to sharpen their senses and a varied palette of fall colors to enjoy.
One of the most daunting tasks facing hikers is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Old-growth forests? Endless views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven’t hiked much recently, be conservative. Five miles round trip is a good maximum distance for novices.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete your hike before dark. As a rule of thumb, hikers in the Smokies travel about 1.5 miles per hour. Many people travel slower. Sunset times vary from just after 5 p.m. in December to almost 9 p.m. in June.
|Did You Know ?
Fun Facts About the Smoky Mountains
|• Seventy-eight historic structures, including grist mills, churches, schools, barns and the homes of early settlers preserve Southern Appalachian mountain heritage in the park.
• At 480 feet, Fontana Dam, located on the southwestern boundary of the park, is the tallest concrete dam east of the Rocky Mountains. The dam impounds the Little Tennessee River forming Fontana Lake and produces hydroelectric power for the Tennessee Valley.
• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley.
• Money to buy the land that became Great Smoky Mountains National Park was raised by individuals, private groups and even school children who pledged their pennies. In addition, the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund donated $5 million to create the park.
• The wispy, smoke-like fog that hangs over the Smoky Mountains comes from rain and evaporation from trees. On the high peaks of the Smokies, an average of 85 inches of rain falls each year, qualifying these upper elevation areas as temperate rain forests.
|• About 100 native tree species make their home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park—more than in all of northern Europe. The park also contains one of the largest blocks of old-growth temperate deciduous forest in North America.
• An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001. Elk once roamed the Smokies, but were eliminated from the region in the mid-1800s by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Other animals successfully reintroduced to the park include river otters and barn owls.
• There are at least 30 different species of salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This gives the Smokies the distinction of having the most diverse salamander population anywhere in the world and has earned the park the nickname “Salamander Capital of the World.”
• More than 240 species of birds have been found in the park. Sixty species are year-round residents. Nearly 120 species breed in the park, including 52 species from the neo-tropics. Many other species use the park as an important stopover and foraging area during their semiannual migration.
|Ask The Rafting Experts
Common questions and answers about Whitewater Rafting.
|1.What should we wear on the trip?
Summer - T-Shirt and bathing suits work great. Secure fitting shoes are important. No bare feet or flip flops are allowed. Old tennis shoes work the best.
Spring/Fall - Avoid cotton clothing on cooler days, it stays wet and will keep you cold. Synthetic clothing (polyester, polypropylene) works the best at keeping
you warm. Wool is a great natural fiber to wear especially on your feet. Once again, no bare feet or flip flops are allowed. Old tennis shoes work the best. We can provide nylon splash suits free of charge to our guest when necessary.
2.Where can I leave my dry clothes?
We suggest that you lock your belongings in your car and leave the keys with the guest services staff for safe keeping while you are on the river.
3. Are changing rooms provided?
Yes, we offer changing rooms and hot showers.
4.What are the age limits?
It depends on the river, however on the Pigeon River’s upper section we can take people ages 8 (or 70 lbs) and up the lower section is great for ages 3 and up.
|5. What are the classifications of the river?
Whitewater rivers are rated on a scale of 1 to 6. Class 1 rapids are the easiest and class 6 are the toughest. Most of the rapids on the Pigeon are class 2 and 3. There are a couple of class 4’s on the upper section of the Pigeon making it a great trip for first timers and veteran rafters alike.
6. How long are typical whitewater rafting trips?
Trips vary in duration from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours of actual time on the river with the Upper Pigeon River section being the longest trip offered in the area.
7. Will we need a guide?
Yes, all of our trips are lead by professional guides. Each guide maintains First Aid CPR certifications and completes a rigorous training program. This is an important consideration when planning a trip.
8. Do I need to make a reservation?
Reservations are recommended but not required. Walk-in guests are on a first come first serve basis. If there is a specific date and time that you want then we strongly suggest that you pre-reserve for you group. A phone call is usually the best way to go about making a reservation.