Deciding where you want to go for a holiday can be genuinely challenging. And when you consider financial constraints, who else is going with you, and convenience—this decision becomes even more difficult.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you precisely with this problem. Because while several destinations would make an incredible vacation spot, none, if any, come close to what the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer. These are a mountain range in the southeastern United States, along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. They’re part of the Appalachian Mountains, known for their dense forests, diverse wildlife, and scenic beauty. To get to the Great Smoky Mountains, you can travel to Gatlinburg, a city in Tennessee known as a gateway to the Mountains. This place is a hugely popular tourist destination that gets close to 14 million visitors each year.
The name “Smoky” comes from the mist and fog that often shrouds the mountains, creating a smoky appearance. And while the whole place has natural landscapes, there are several activities for outdoor and indoor enthusiasts alike.
However, if you’re still having trouble deciding, here are seven excellent reasons to explore the Great Smoky Mountains with your friends.
1. Breathtaking scenery
The scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains is truly awe-inspiring. With its misty blue peaks, rolling green hills, and lush green forests, this region is a natural wonder you can gaze at for hours on end. If you plan on staying in the city, look for lodging in Gatlinburg TN, with a prime location. These are located in an ideal spot for visitors to experience the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the many shops and tourist attractions along the Parkway. The closer your accommodation is, the easier for you and your friends to walk to the nearest attraction whenever you feel like it.
2. Hiking trails
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a vast network of hiking trails that cater to all levels of experience and fitness—from amateurs to professionals. Over 800 miles of trails range from easy strolls along the river to strenuous climbs up steep mountain trails.
Some popular hikes include the Alum Cave Trail, which leads to stunning views of the park. Others, like the iconic Arch Rock and the Rainbow Falls Trail, lead to a magnificent waterfall you don’t want to miss.
For experienced hikers, the Appalachian Trail runs through the park, offering a challenging multi-day hike with breathtaking views. Just make sure to wear the proper weather-appropriate clothes, as it tends to get chilly as the day goes on.
The best way to explore the Great Smoky Mountains is to engage in as many outdoor activities as possible. One such example is that of camping. And luckily, you’ll have various camping options that suit every type of camper—whether it’s their first time or tenth. So, for instance, if you prefer a more primitive camping experience, there are plenty of backcountry campsites throughout the park that you can reach by hiking or horseback riding. These campsites offer a truly immersive experience in the heart of the wilderness.
However, if you’d prefer car camping, many developed campgrounds are also available that offer a range of amenities, including restrooms, showers, and even RV hookups. The Smokys also offers group camping areas for larger parties and horse camps for equestrian enthusiasts. With so many options available, you and your friends can easily tailor your camping experience to your preferences and level of expertise.
4. Exploring wildlife
Discovering and spotting wildlife in their natural habitat can be an enjoyable experience. Since the Great Smoky Mountains are home to diverse wildlife, you can engage in any outdoor activity to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural surroundings. You can do this from your car, on foot, while cycling, or even on guided tours. You may spot black bears, elk, mule deer, mountain goats, and smaller animals like beavers and chipmunks on any given day.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park also offers ranger-led programs, including guided hikes and evening campfire programs focusing on the park’s wildlife. If you’re interested in bird watching, over 200 species of birds call the park home, including puffins and trumpeter swans. Besides these, the streams and rivers between the mountains swarm with fish, making it a popular destination for anglers.
5. Water activities
Although the mountains and forests are the primary hallmarks of the Great Smoky Mountains, there is not all that nature has to offer here. For example, the national park’s waterways also provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation with your friends. The nearby streams and rivers offer some of the best trout fishing in the Southeast, and tourists can also enjoy tubing, kayaking, and rafting on one of the many waterways.
No matter what type of water activity you enjoy, the Great Smoky Mountains offer opportunities for fun and adventure with friends. The Little Pigeon River, for example, is a popular destination for tubing and whitewater rafting. You can also take a refreshing swim in one of the many streams or relax on the sandy shores of one of the beaches.
6. Unique dining experience
Besides enjoying plenty of outdoor activities, you can also experience unique dining experiences in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you’re looking for a taste of Southern hospitality and local cuisine, walk into one of the many restaurants dotted along the path. From small diners to fancy dining—you’ll have plenty of options. Most eateries also provide live entertainment and performances, so you’ll experience something incredible every day.
7. Historical sites
Even for history and architecture enthusiasts, the Mountains have something that doesn’t disappoint. With so many historical landmarks present here, exploring them with friends can be a rewarding and exciting experience that would create unforgettable memories. One of the best ways to do this is by taking a scenic drive through the park’s Cades Cove Loop, home to preserved cabins, churches, and other historic buildings. Besides this route, you can also take a self-guided tour of the historic buildings and structures throughout the park, including the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum.
From learning about the park’s heritage and history of its native inhabitants to the impact of the Civilian Conservations Corps—you’ll find plenty to discover here.
Planning outdoor activities that unite everyone is always the best way to go when traveling with friends. And since the Great Smoky Mountains have plenty of attractions and events that involve nature and are adrenaline-packed—this may be your ideal location.