Established in 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is comprised of ridge upon ridge of seemingly endless forest on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. World renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains and its history of southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America's most visited national park. With nearly 80 historic buildings, spectacular displays of wildflowers, and abundant wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a myriad of activities to enjoy.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park region is divided down its length by the Tennessee – North Carolina border. Visitor centers—Sugarlands and Oconaluftee—mirror each other across the state line separated by many miles of deciduous forest. There are waterfalls throughout the park, with larger falls like Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow, and Mingo drawing over 200,000 visitors per year.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Weather
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a temperate forest which means it has four distinct seasons: March through May is spring; June through August is summer; September through November is fall; and mid-November through February is winter. Great Smoky Mountains’ weather includes severe storms—tornados, strong winds, and hail—that can occur especially during the spring and summer months with March having the widest temperature swings. You can expect snowfall at any time during this month. Great Smoky Mountains National Park weather is also dependent on elevation. The base of a mountain can be 10 – 20 degrees warmer than temperatures at higher elevations, so prepare accordingly.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tours and Camping
There are different sites to suit every Great Smokies camper—from backcountry to horse campgrounds. Backcountry camping requires a permit and reservations in advance. Backcountry campers are also advised to check weather conditions against their itinerary before arrival. Bear activity, in addition to weather, can cause sites, roads, trails and shelters to close. The park can accommodate large groups of campers (minimum party size of 7) at several sites. Group campers must use tents only and they must reserve a spot in advance. When traveling or camping in the park, bring a Great Smoky Mountains National Park map and ask Great Smoky Mountains park rangers for additional safety tips.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wildlife
Observing wildlife is one of the most popular things to do in the Smoky Mountains. With a wide variety of animals, including approximately 1,500 black bears, the park is a biologist’s paradise. Over 17,000 species have been recorded at the park and experts estimate that there are thousands more to discover. Fishermen can try their hand at catching brook, brown, or rainbow trout swimming throughout the 700 plus miles of fishable streams in the park.