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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

North Carolina

Whether you’re looking for a beautiful hike, prefer to bike your way through the park, want to view nature through the windows of your RV or just want to sit and relax watching the sunset at your campsite, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has you covered! Featuring a wide variety of plant and animal life, endless ridges of forest and panoramic views, rushing mountain streams and so much more, it’s no wonder that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over 500,000 acres, making it one of the largest protected areas in the East. It straddles the borders of the states of Tennessee and North Carolina and has three main entrances, in Gatlinburg, TN; Townsend, TN; and Cherokee, NC.

Elevations in the park range from 876 to 6,643 feet. A tour through the park offers a wide variety of sights and terrain, including mountain scenery, over 2,100 miles of streams and rivers, plant and animal life and mature hardwood forests.

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, weather can vary season to season and even day to day! During spring, temperatures can range from 42-80 F, Summer; 60-90 F, Fall; 50-80 F, Winter can be moderate with most days ranging between 50-70 F, but at high elevations lows of -20 F are possible. Where you are in the park can also have a great impact on temperature, as temperatures can vary 10-20 degrees from mountain base to top.

There is always something to do inside the park, including plenty of ranger-guided programs and special events. Find the full event calendar here. If you’re hoping to explore the park on your own, there are plenty of activities including hiking, bicycling, auto touring, horseback riding, fishing and much more.

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Weather
Spring
Summer 60-90 F
Fall 50-80 F
Winter 50-70 F
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Nearby Cities
Gatlinburg, TN
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RV Resorts & Campsites in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

When it comes time to rest your head down at night, there are plenty of campground options both inside and out of the park. To find a full list of campgrounds, click here. We’ve narrowed the list down and chosen some of our favorites:

Keep in mind that during the summertime, many of the campgrounds may be busy and advance reservations are recommended. For registration and reservation information and rules and regulations, click here.

RV Rentals Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Nearby RV Rentals

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Hit the Trails

There is never a bad time to hike at the Great Smoky Mountains, because each time of year offers something special: beautiful vistas and views during the winter, gorgeous fall color during the autumn, wildflowers in the spring and cool retreats in the forest for the summertime. No matter when you’re hitting the trails, there are plenty to choose from, with over 800 miles of trails available, ranging from a half mile to 70 miles long. Here are some of our favorites, but for the full list, clickhere.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails

Appalachian Trail

Distance: 4.0 miles one way to Charlies Bunion

Terrain: Elevation change of 1,600 feet; this is a firm-packed trail that traverses some exposed cliffs

Rainbow Falls Trail

Distance: 2.7 miles one way to Rainbow Falls. The trail continues past the falls for a total of 6.7 miles up to the summit of Mt. Le Conte.

Terrain: Elevation change of 1,700 feet; trail contains switchbacks and is rocky in sections

Alum Cave Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles one way to Alum Cave Bluffs. Alum Cave Bluffs Trail continues past Alum Cave Bluffs for a total of 5.0 miles to just below the summit of Mt. Le Conte.

Terrain: Elevation change of 1,200 feet; the trail is steep and follows the edge of the ridge in sections.

Chimney Tops Trail

Distance: 4 miles round trip

Terrain: Elevation change of 1,400 feet, this is a steep, newly-renovated trail with a rocky outcrop at the summit of the mountain.

Forney Ridge Trail

Distance: 1.8 miles one way to Andrews Bald. Forney Ridge Trail continues past Andrews Bald for a total of 5.6 miles down to Springhouse Branch Trail.

Terrain: Elevation change of 1,200 feet.

Deep Creek Trail

Distance: 1.6 miles round trip to waterfalls

Terrain: Easy

Laurel Falls Trail

Distance: 2.6 miles

Terrain: Moderate, paved but rough and uneven, trail has short, steep sections which can be slippery in wet weather. Portions of the trail have steep drop-offs.

Kephart Prong Trail

Distance: 4 miles round trip

Terrain: Kid-friendly for elementary and up. Moderate difficulty

Restaurants

What to Do at
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you’re ready to leave the park but not quite ready for vacation to end, there are plenty of other activities to experience, including museums, delicious restaurants with fantastic views and much more. Here are some of our favorites.

Restaurants

From steakhouses with amazing views to a classic drive-in with burgers and milkshakes everyone is sure to love, there are some great places to eat around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here are some of our favorites from each of the surrounding entrances.

The Peddler Steakhouse

Type: Steakhouse

Location: Gatlinburg

Smoky Mountain Brewery

Type: Brewery, American

Location: Gatlinburg

Crocketts Breakfast Camp

Type: Breakfast

Location: Gatlinburg

Calhoun’s

Type: Barbeque

Location: Gatlinburg

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro

Type: Vegetarian/Vegan, Farm Fresh Southern Cuisine

Location: Townsend

Trailhead Steakhouse

Type: Steakhouse

Location: Townsend

Burger Master

Type: Classic Drive-In

Location: Townsend

Rancho Viejo

Type: Mexican

Location: Cherokee, NC

Shopping

Whether you’re looking to bring home a unique souvenir or just want some new items, there are plenty of shops to peruse around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Tanger Outlet Center Sevierville

Location: Sevierville, TN

The Incredible Christmas Place

Location: Pigeon Forge, TN

Gatlinburg Village Shops

Location: Gatlinburg, TN

Wood Signs of Gatlinburg

Location: Gatlinburg, TN

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc.

Location: Cherokee, NC

Museums

If you catch a rainy day or are just looking to move from the outdoors to inside, there are plenty of museums in the area for some fun and learning. Here are some of our top recommendations.

Sightseeing

There are so many amazing sights in the area, the National Park can’t hold them all! Here are some other places to visit that are sure to provide beautiful scenery and loads of fun.

Zip Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg Space Needle
Dollywood
Sky Lift Gatlinburg
Oconaluftee Indian Village
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How to Get to
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are plenty of ways to get to the Great Smoky Mountains. To get to the Gatlinburg, TN entrance, from interstate highway I-40 take Exit 407 (Sevierville) to TN-66 South. At the Sevierville intersection, continue straight onto US-441 South. Follow US-441 through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge into park.

By Car

For the Townsend, TN entrance: From the north: From interstate highway I-40 in Knoxville take Exit 386B to US-129 South to Alcoa/Maryville. At Maryville proceed on US-321 North/TN -73 East through Townsend. Continue straight on TN-73 into the park.

From the south: From interstate highway I-75 take Exit 376 to I-140 E towards Oak Ridge/Maryville. Merge onto I-140 E via Exit 376B towards Maryville. Turn onto US-129 South (Alcoa Highway) at Exit 11A and travel towards Alcoa. Turn onto TN-35 and follow it to US-321 North. Follow US-321 North/TN -73 East through Townsend. Continue straight on TN-73 into the park.

To enter the park through the Cherokee, NC entrance, from the north, from interstate highway I-40, take Exit 27 to US-74 West towards Waynesville. Turn onto US-19 and proceed through Maggie Valley to Cherokee. Turn onto US-441 North at Cherokee and follow the road into the park.

From the south: Follow US-441/US-23 North. At Dillsboro merge on US-74 West/US-441 North. At Exit 74 merge onto US-441. Follow US-441 through Cherokee and into the park.


By plane

If you prefer to fly, a nearby major airport is the McGhee-Tyson Airport (TYS) in Tennessee. It’s 45 miles from the Gatlinburg entrance to the park. In North Carolina, the Asheville Regional Airport is about 60 miles east of the Cherokee entrance.

By RV

Of course, we think the best way to travel to and throughout the park is via RV! Renting an RV lets you see this expansive park in true style and comfort. Plus, you can stay in the park itself, experiencing its beauty from sunrise to sunset. Don’t own an RV?RV rentals are available across the country. Whether you want to start at your location and drive the whole way, or fly in and pick up an RV closer to the park, there’s a perfect option available to you.

Keep in mind that trailers, RVs and buses are prohibited on some secondary roads in the park

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Entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are no fees to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, although there may be some fees for activities like camping or pavilion rentals. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few national parks with no entrance fee. For more information, click here.

Now that you’re in the know about all our favorite Great Smoky Mountains National Park sites, things to do and trails, you’re all set for your trip! At RVshare, we love getting outdoors and spending time with friends and family, and we know you’ll be able to do just that on your upcoming trip. We can’t wait to hear all about it - send us photos at [email protected], tag us on social media, share your favorite trails and sights, and anything else you want others to know about your upcoming trip for a chance to be featured on our blog or social media channels.

Frequently Asked Questions About Great Smoky Mountains National Park

What is the climate of Great Smoky Mountains National Park ?

The climate at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is humid and warm during the long summers. Winters can be cold with snow in higher elevations and warm lower down. Skies are hazy or cloudy a lot of the year, but fall usually brings clear skies with cooler weather.

Are pets allowed at Great Smoky Mountains National Park ?

Yes, pets are allowed at Smoky Mountains National Park. Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads. They must be leashed. Pets are allowed on the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. They may not be left unattended in vehicles or RVs.

What are the top things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park ?

Top things to do at Great Smoky Mountains National Park include driving Newfound Gap, checking out the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and driving the Roaring Fork Nature Trail. There is also plenty of hiking and fishing, along with other outdoor activities.

Are there designated camping spots in Great Smoky Mountains National Park ?

There are designated campgrounds at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are ten frontcountry campgrounds to choose from, and Cades Cove and Smokemont Campgrounds are open year-round. There are no showers, electrical, or water hookups in the campgrounds but there are spots for RV camping.

How large is Great Smoky Mountains National Park ?

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 522,427 acres or almost 817 square miles. The park is divided almost evenly between North Carolina and Tennessee.