America's most visited national park (nearly 20 million visitors in 2003 alone) is over 500,000 acres (816 square miles) of federally-protected land riding the North Carolina/Tennessee borderline. Now an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park includes portions of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains (a portion of the larger Appalachian Mountain range), and is crisscrossed by the legendary Appalachian Trail. Hiking, fishing, horseback riding, sightseeing, and scenic driving are just some of the park's many offered activities. A fun fact worth noting is that portions of Disney's iconic 1950s television series, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, were shot inside the park.
Cades Cove offers fantastic wildlife-viewing possibilities (black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, raccoons, and various birds) in a wide, mountain-surrounded valley. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park, and visitors can enjoy many miles of landscape from its circular observation tower. Newfound Gap, at an impressive height of 5,048 feet, is still the lowest mountain gap in the park, and served as the historic spot where Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the park in 1940.
Entrance to the park is free, a rarity among national parks, though there are fees for overnight camping ($14-23 each night) and the rental of picnic area pavilions.
Best time to visit
The park is open all day and night, every day of the year, though winter sees the closing of certain roads, camping areas, and visitor centers.
Near by POI
The mountain resort city of Gatlinburg is a popular vacation spot, bordering the park along U.S. Route 441. Pigeon Forge, five miles north of the park, contains the Dollywood theme park, outlet shops, and live music venues.