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5 Reasons To Avoid Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park treats visitors to misty green valleys, abundant waterfalls, and loads of wildlife. Why wouldn’t you want to explore it?

Visiting our country’s national parks is the highlight of many road trips. There are so many great parks on people’s bucket list, and for good reason.

Unfortunately, some of the most popular parks do come with some downfalls that you’ll want to consider. Today, we’ll tell you specifically why you might want to skip Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 

Let’s explore!

An Introduction to Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Gatlinburg, eastern Tennessee, and branches into North Carolina. Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the 522,000 acres as a national park on September 2nd, 1940. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of all 63 national parks. As a matter of fact, in 2020 the park saw approximately 12.4 million visitors. It sees substantially more people than any other national park. In fact, the park sees more than the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most visited national parks combined. 

While we’re sharing why you should avoid the park, we will also say that Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful area. There are many excellent hiking trails and much wildlife to see. Part of the popular Appalachian Trail runs through the park, bringing in additional people.

Hiking is a large draw to the park for visitors of all ages and abilities. There are 150 official trails at Smoky Mountains National Park, ranging from easy, flat paved paths to rugged trails that only experienced hikers should traverse. You’ll certainly reap the rewards for your effort with waterfalls, wildlife viewing, and forests. 

Smoky Mountains National Park is easy to get to for many people. It’s centrally located on the East side of the United States, making it within driving distance for much of the population.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, neighboring tourist towns, have many restaurants, dinner theaters, shopping, and activities. The park is an easy place to visit where you can enjoy both nature and convenience. 

5 Reasons to Avoid Smoky Mountains National Park

#1 – Overcrowding

As we said, this is the most visited national park. If you’re looking for serene solitude, it might be hard to find here. You aren’t likely to have an area to yourself, especially on the more popular trails. Wildlife viewing can also be difficult when there are crowds as the animals are more likely to be hiding from the commotion. 

Numerous people, means numerous cars. Unfortunately, parking can be a bit tough to navigate. Often the trailheads have small parking lots, making it difficult to find a place to park while you hike.

It isn’t uncommon for hikers to abandon their desired hike simply because there was no available parking. Great hikes aren’t as great if you can’t even get onto the trail.

#2 – Dogs Aren’t Allowed on Most Trails

Those who enjoy hiking with their furry family members will be met with frustration. Smoky Mountains National Park doesn’t allow dogs on trails except for two short walking paths.

Additionally, dogs are not allowed to remain in your RV or vehicle. If you have a dog, you won’t be able to enjoy the hiking the park has to offer because they can’t stay behind but also can’t go with you. 

#3 – Crazy Traffic Jams

Throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the roads are winding two-lane roads. These tend to create slow-moving traffic.

Also, because people often see bears near the road, they can’t help but stop and block traffic while watching them. Visitors have reported sitting in traffic for two hours only to realize it was due to drivers stopping to watch wildlife. 

#4 – Overrated “Tourist Trap”

There isn’t a singular showstopping attraction at Smoky Mountain National Park. Sure, it’s pretty. But there isn’t one iconic must-see landmark. Visitors may feel like they’re driving around the trees trying to find something to look at.

It isn’t uncommon for guests to walk away feeling that they were promised a bit more, and some feel it’s an overrated park.

Once they’ve driven around the winding roads looking for something to see, visitors find themselves in the overpriced tourist trap area of Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. The cities are filled with pricy dinner theaters and gimmick “museums.” You’ll likely find yourself spending way too much money on a mediocre meal and show. 

There are great things to do and see, but you’ll need to put in some serious research to find the hidden gems. Rangers and visitor centers will likely point you to the well-known (i.e., crowded) locations.

Do some digging and ask for their favorite lesser-visited spots. 

#5 – Lack of Amenities in Park Campgrounds

Thinking about staying in an RV within the national park boundary? You’ll need to be prepared to dry camp. There are several backcountry campsites, but those require hiking several miles to access. That’s obviously not an option for RVers. The only place for RVs to camp overnight within the park is at one of the ten “frontcountry” campgrounds. 

Two of the campgrounds are open year-round, with the rest only open seasonally. Each campground has a restroom with cold water and toilets. However, there are no showers, electric hookups, or water hookups in any of the campgrounds. The only electricity you will find at a campground is a 5-amp electric outlet for medical equipment, and it’s only at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. 

Don’t expect to work remotely while camping at this national park. Campers report little to no internet connection while in the campgrounds. 

Pets are permitted, but they’re not allowed anywhere other than along the road or one of the two trails mentioned above. And, you cannot leave them in your RV while you’re exploring, which makes it difficult for pet owners to enjoy the park. 

Even with the lack of amenities, campers should expect to pay $17-$25 a night. The upside is that campers can reserve their spot in advance at 

Pro Tip: Here are our favorite campsites near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Is Great Smoky Mountains National Park Worth the Effort?

All national parks come with their pros and cons. Sadly, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some cons that are difficult to overlook.

Between overcrowding and the difficulties for dog owners, it may not be worth your effort. If you’ve visited this highly trafficked park, do you feel it’s overrated or worth the trip?

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  1. George says:

    Thanks for sending these every day Kyle! I’m kinda of hooked on them and you always have great information. Hope Olivia is doing well.

  2. KT says:

    I think overcrowding is just a problem at most of the NP’s. We were at Arches in April 2021 and can’t find parking at Devils Garden and that was early in the day. Us and many others just circling the parking lot trying to find a place to park.

    We live near and hike the Smokies many times a year. It is beautiful and you do have to figure out how to beat the crowds, but it can be done. Also, we have discovered the state parks in our travels. They are usually les crowded.

    Great site…thanks!

  3. TA says:

    Obviously the pros must outweigh the cons since the 12 million visitors continue to come back year after year.

  4. Laura Morgan says:

    Disagree! We have gone twice during the fall and it is so big that we stayed away from “tourist traps” and never ran into crowds.

  5. Bailey J Gorman says:

    GSMNP is absolutely incredible and a must see! We went during one of the busiest times of year and it was breathtaking, the traffic wasn’t bad and we even got to see 4 bear! Reasons to avoid Great Smoky Mountains National Park should actually be 0.

  6. Jacinta Cannon says:

    I could have used this article a few months ago before I booked a trip to Gatlinburg, LOL! Everything in this article is 100% true. My traveling companion and I usually do quite a bit of research before we travel but we definitely were not prepared for this trip. We found out AFTER we visited Great Smoky Mountain National Park that it’s the most visited park in the US, by a lot, and this was obvious when we arrived. There are plenty of fun things to do in Gatlinburg, but slim to no parking and if you do find parking, it’s $20+. I will say that we did have a great time though. We rented a cabin up in the mountains just outside of Gatlinburg with an amazing view of the Smokies and they really do wake up looking like that every morning. We also hiked a short trail in the Cades Cove area of the park and between the Rockies and the Smokies, the Smokies for me are the more breathtaking of the two. I would still say visiting Gatlinburg and Smoky Mountain National Park is worth the trip, just be sure to plan better than we did :-).

  7. Beverly Schultheis says:

    We visited SMNP 20 years ago and never wanted to go back. We moochdocked so no cost. The vegetation was so thick along the trails could not see anything. At the top the views were always the same, tree tops. Just mot impressed.

  8. Mark Levin says:

    Well, I’ll have to agree with most of what you say. I live in Western North Carolina and always enter the Smokies from the North Carolina side at Cherokee. It is also a tourist town, but small and a bit more “authentic” than the Tennessee side. I’d say to future visitors, just plan to slow down and enjoy the park. Come after Labor Day and before Memorial Day and things won’t be nearly so busy. The elk are plentiful and it’s pretty common to see black bear. And, the park is free.

  9. Eno Hiker says:

    I’ve visited and hiked the Smokies many times over the years as a resident of NC. I understand what you’re saying regarding overcrowding (I’m allergic to crowds!) and the fact that you can’t take your dog on the trails nor leave them in your camper. However, look into daycare options for your dogs so they’ll have fun with other dogs while you are out hiking the trails. No matter how many times I’ve hiked in the Smokies, I never tire of seeing the awe-inspiring views. The photos never do it true justice. If you’re willing to get to an eastern-facing viewpoint prior to sunrise during clear weather, be prepared for a sunrise unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. My favorite spot for this is Myrtle Point near the cabins on Mt. LeConte (there is also an AT shelter nearby). Another breathtaking sight in the Smokies is a cool/cold clear night sky- how is it possible to see so many stars in the night sky???? The lack of light pollution allows for an amazing experience. I still haven’t been to the Smokies in June to see the synchronized fireflies but that is one bucket list item I fully intend to experience soon! Do your research and plan ahead but seriously, don’t write off the Smokies! This N.P. is wildly popular for a reason. Don’t miss it.

  10. LB says:

    If people are disappointed with GSMNP, they probably aren’t going more than 50 feet from their cars. There are good trails to hike and terrific waterfalls to see. Stay outside the park in an Air BnB and then you don’t have to worry about where to leave Fido when in the park. Bonus: Better accomodations than a tent or RV, complete with, in most cases, internet and cell service. Bryson City is more laid back and inviting than the overpriced areas like Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

  11. Hannah says:

    We have traveled to almost all of the National Parks in this country and by far the Smokey National Park is the best. IT IS FREE. Out west you must pay a LARGE fee to enter national parks and some state parks.The campgrounds do not have a lot of amenities because it would disturb the natural habitats and environment. If you are going camping you should not be worried about how many channels you can pick up and if there is wifi or lattes available. I live about 2 hours away and have visited a lot, sometimes every weekend in the summer. There can be some crowsding but most people have learned to be patient and share the area with each other. We just make sure not to go to the most popular spots during leaf season. You can still visit during leaf season without crowds, just get up a little earlier or plan your visit during the weekdays.

  12. Bonita L Dunlap says:

    My husband and myself have been coming to smokies since 2010….with our family….we love the smokies and fine Wi-Fi…tv signals and phone service offensive we enjoy hiking and have hiked most of the popular trails and then some including hiking the boulevard 8 mile long. Boulevard trail to the top to stay at the the my leconte logee at the top…the food is excellent and lodge is excellent…the only way to get there is on foot…the llamas bring supplies up the mountain via the grotto falls train and at the beginning if the season helicopter brings supplies…grotto falls is beautiful!!! Abrahmsfalls is my favorite hike well worth the lovely scenic walk in the woods!! I love the woods…my husband and I love the smokies so much we are volunteers at deepcreek campgroung in the gsmnp…we have helped run this camoground since 2013…cove hardwood trail out of the chimneys picnic area is very beautiful this time of the year spring…the wildflowers cover the forest floor… Trilliums of many colors are aplenty usually walk it every year so beautiful…i could go in and in and on about the beauty of the smokies but will just add two more favorite trails…one is Charles bunion very beautiful…and the jump off trail but again one must walk to both viewpoints I can’t say enough about the smokies in all season I love the mountains dearly!!!…

  13. Reason 4 is the only legitimate reason. If you go to GSM park with a backpack with the intention of primitive camping you can hike and camp for days without seeing a soul. Any park you go to gets crowded when the location is easily accessible. Most people don’t want to travel more than a few miles from the trail head. Also, if you start just a little early by our before 8 then you can do just about any trail and only see people on the way back because once again people are generally lazy and don’t like to wake up.

  14. James Lynch says:

    From around the Smoky,,, your article hit it died on

  15. Mark Foster says:

    Just came back to avoid crowds try off peak season trips. Yes half of the eastern seaboard comes in June to see the Fireflies at Elkmont “no single attraction”. There are other times to go. I do have at agree on Gatlinburg being a cesspool of junk to feed the consumer. It’s the stereotypical American trap on steroids with 200 stores selling the exact same tee-shirt dozens of homade candy that is identical to the candy shop 3 stores down with a dozen mini golf and Alpine coaster that don’t even go up a mountain that asked you to fork over 24-32 dollars per ride.

    I would share where I go and time but I like being the only person on the trail and the 3rd car at Cads Cove, and fly fishing without hearing a steady stream of cars passing by as 100s of people yell are they bitting. The town to the south is not a tourist trap with a few mom and pop places to eat. A few $32 dollar hamburger did I mention I travel alone yah one hamburger $32 dollars. I rent a cabin it has a kitchen for a reason.

  16. Jessica says:

    As someone who regularly volunteers at a state park nearby that has a lot of dog visitors, it is a blessing dogs are not allowed in the smokies. You cannot get people to clean up after them, and they scare wildlife. If you do bring a dog, the ranger might not get you but the people who couldn’t bring their dogs certainty will. I saw one woman get harassed last week by other visitors for her dog and told to leave by park staff. Plus it’s posted on trailheads they are not allowed.

    I live close to the park and only visit in off season or do the really remote trails. It’s the best way to avoid the crowds. I also avoid Gatlinburg like the plague and go through other entrances.

    No offense to dog owners but leave your dogs at home. Don’t think you are special or that the park is too big for anyone to care. Someone will get you.

  17. Richard Goldstein says:

    I have two words for people who are concerned about these 5 “reasons” (they are really tips to go and have more fun): Plan Ahead. From education and history to waterfalls and wildflowers, relaxation and exercise, the Smokies has it all. For free!

  18. Micki GFellers says:

    I agree about the traffic and crowds during peak seasons. The internet is bogged down during this time. But this area has so much to offer besides the tourist trappings. The surrounding counties are rich in historical places to visit, one of a kind Mom and Pop eateries, craftsmen and women, beautiful lakes and rivers, bed and breakfast inns, and you can even visit farms with the kids and pick your own fruit and vegetables. I advise to do a little research of all of East Tennessee and you won’t be disappointed.

  19. Shannon Price says:

    I have visited this park for over 30 years on a yearly basis. Nope it doesn’t have the one spectacular feature for instant gratification like other parks but that’s just fine with those of us that love it. There is so much more than Gatlinburg aand Pigeon Forge (double yuck) to do or see. The traffic is an issue but that’s to be expected, unless you want them to bulldoze and strip the very beauty people travel here to see. Instead of telling people to avoid the park how about giving pointers on better times and places than the over-used and over-visited.

  20. Melissa says:

    Though the park doesn’t have “show stopping” attractions, it has some great beauty. You say people are riding around the trees looking for something? Well, how about the trees, the mountains and the wildlife. I mean what exactly do you expect a park to have to make it worthy enough for your standards? Also, there is so much more to the smoky mountains than just Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It’s the quiet, scenic areas that some of us love. Maybe if you take time to explore before you write fluff pieces about places. Or is this a fake article just to get us riled up enough to reply name and email so you can sell it? Well, it worked.

  21. ADAM BLANTON says:

    No entrance fee to get into GSMNP contributes to the amount of people. Next time try the NC side of the park plenty to see. Of the 37 years of going to the park I have never had to wait in traffic in the NC side of the park. Towns on the NC side are way less busy. The no dog on trail I hear complained about the most but dogs vs bears, elk, wild boar, or even a bob cat is a bad combo.
    All in all I still think it’s a must go even with all your cons. My great great grandfather’s home still stands in the park so I am a bit bias.

  22. Keaton says:

    Well well written but the lack of knowledge in the area is evident and unfortunate. Regarding landmarks, they are everywhere. For the history buffs and the native American enthusiasts there are absolutely a treasure trove of landmarks. Just remember to truly experience East Tennessee you can never stay in a hotel or resort. These landmarks are nowhere near there. However on second thought stay in the city if your looking for amenities, the mountains aren’t for everyone.

  23. Charlie Sommers says:

    My wife and I visited the Smokies about 20 years ago and were disappointed by one thing, the lack of facilities in which visitors can relieve themselves. We drove down Parson’s Branch Road and stopped at about the halfway point and had lunch on the truck tailgate. After eating I felt the call of nature and hopped across a log into the forest to pee. My eyes were greeted by about an acre of poop piles each with a wad of tissue next to them. This was not the only place I saw this, the areas behind many of the attractions in Cades Cove were similarly decorated. Things may have changed over the years but a few strategically placed porta-potties would have been nice.

  24. Grc says:

    Enormous potholes!! Not repaired in season!!

  25. Roxie says:

    Number One Reason to avoid Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Because you’ll fall in love with it and never want to leave. Oh, wait… maybe that’s just me. But I grew up there and those mountains are my home. I’m only a short drive from there now and I still go every chance I get. It never gets old. Yeah, the traffic is annoying, but it is still worth it to me.

  26. Sharon says:

    The Great Smoky Mountains NationL Park is a wonderful place. I’ve hiked and ridden horses there for over 60 years. Can never get enough. Every park has bear or wildlife jams so that shouldn’t be a negative for GSMNP. Also you don’t have to go to the Gatlinburg entrance. The Townsend entrance to the peaceful side of the park is very laid back. I’ve visited about 30 other national parks and they all are beautiful. To put out an article about why not to go to GSMNP is ridiculous.

  27. Kristie says:

    I strongly disagree with this article. We live just outside Sevierville and yes, during heavy tourist times travel is a nightmare. Even with the congestion it is WORTH it!! Every morning we see the smokies and they are breathtaking. The park is a beautiful drive, I would recommend getting an early start to go hiking to beat the busy times, but it is worth it!!

  28. Lizzie says:

    Oh boy I got to the “field of poop” comment and had to jump in. That poster was talking about a trip 20 yrs ago and I can’t speak to the smokey mountains area of TN but I can say that I am continuously disgusted by the poop fields that are everywhere people congregate for outdoor activities on the Cumberland plateau! It is incredible that the state seems to have never heard of porta jon’s! But it shouldn’t be a surprise apparently they also missed that commercial that aired in the 70’s featuring the American Indian crying when pelted with trash from a moving car. The endless littering along every highway and byway is even more unbelievable when you realize – the dump is free again THE DUMP IS FREE! That’s right if you cannot afford trash pickup at your home you can take it and throw it in dumpsters for free!

  29. Bill mahgaha says:

    I Can’t believe what I just read, I happen to live in the backyard of the great smoky mountains and it seems like who ever wrote this must have had a bad time when traveling through. There’s plenty of camp grounds that has electric and water hook ups,so just maybe you didn’t see except a small portion of these beautiful places in the smoky mountains and just thought it was all that way you didn’t mention all the great trout fishing, or anything about the natural swimming holes and the friendly people who are happy to lend a hand if needed. Maybe you should come on back and don’t forget to bring a gold pan and try your luck because there’s definitely Gold in these hills.

  30. Susan T says:

    We used to camp in the Smokies from the 60s-early 80s. It was heaven. Last time was in 96 and I swore I’d never return. Bumper to bumper all around Cade’s Cove loop. Couldn’t believe the crowds then and that was almost 30 years ago. It’s a travesty with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge exploding with trash and trashy tourists and “attractions”.

  31. GB says:

    Do you think your at a motel? In the woods stupid!! GO TO CA

  32. Debbie Daigler says:

    We took our honeymoon in the great smokies! We didn’t have animals, and we were young. We took many trails and drove the seinic roads! Loved seeing the smokies!

  33. My Wife and I got Married 42 Years ago and along with going to the Worlds Fair in Knoxville in 1981 we went on to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were just in Awe of How Absolutely Beautiful the Park was 👍 We been going back at least once every Two Months but many times more for the Past 42 Years 💙 We live in Southeastern Kentucky and it’s only 100 miles from where we live 👍 If you went every month for the next 50 Years You Still Couldn’t see everything and Do everything that is there to Offer ‼️ we been Dollywood Pass Holders for the last 21 Years and Love that Place so much ❤️ I could start to tell You a Thousand different things to See and do but it would take forever 👌 I do want to say though that Everyone we’ve talked to About the Trip to the Mountains Simply Love it and Some even break into tears from the thought of Having to Leave Such an Awesome Place 🫠 There are Different Websites that have Reviews about their Experience and You Will See for Yourself How much Everyone Loves the Smokey’s and Surrounding Areas from Sevierville to Maggie Valley North Carolina ❤️🤍💙 See You There

  34. Mark says:

    About dogs, nobody wants to deal with your dogs shit that you are not going to pick up. Leave your damn dogs at home and give the rest of us a break.

  35. Charlotte Elrod Hardin says:

    I don’t know how you could possibly say that there is nothing special to see in the Smoky Mountains National Park. You are most definitely wrong about that. There are several beautiful waterfalls, caves, Pioneer buildings, cemeteries and many beautiful animals.

  36. Brenda Jill says:

    Screw you. It is a wonderful place. Been many times and feel grateful that I am close enough for day trips. It is a beautiful place. Trees are awesome. So many are being destroyed for building things.

  37. I’m one who thinks it is a wonderful park and we’ve been to many great ones in California, Michigan, Maine, Florida, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, even British Columbia. But we go in March and November when very few people are there. We always rent a cottage out of view of other cottages. Seeing a highlight like a geyser or waterfall doesn’t ‘make’ a trip.. the whole Smoky Mountain trip is a delight.
    It’s proximity is also a big plus!

  38. J Oehlson says:

    You’re not going to a resort. You’re going to the mountains. It’s called NATURE!!! JUST like Yellowstone without the volcano!!!! You spoke about park amenities. It’s nature!!! You are suppose to bring your own food and drinks napkins, etc. There is a little store at cades cove campground, but the rest we and whoever comes, well we bring whatever we think we need. There’s no swimming pool, but there are swimming holes all over the place. I think whoever wrote this is just picky.

  39. CHAD says:

    Never had a problem with crowds at any of the back country sites. Thank goodness most are a several mile hike to access. Love the solitude. Lack of amenities in front country is a good thing. I’m sure you’ll survive without a shower or electrical outlets. As far as dogs, they are not permitted on trails because they would leave scents and interfere/scare off wildlife.

    Duh Der.

    Don’t ruin the Smokies KAREN.

  40. LC says:

    Your review of the GSNP is accurate; esp. during the busy season. The main attraction in the area is DollyWood. There is a quiet side to Smokies but it’s getting noisier. A new parking fee started a couple of months ago; however beyond the parking fee the park is free. Many tourists who are unfamiliar with the land, weather, & wildlife end up doing something stupid (ex. feeding a🧸 or cliff diving headfirst 🤕or getting lost & dying 😵) and we’re left dealing with the consequences (after we laugh about evolution thinning the herd 😉 ) Many locals (such as myself) no longer enjoy “the mtns” due to the increasing crowds. The park is also one of the most polluted due to all the tourists & the way the wind blows down on the Jet Stream. I’ve watched the trees die from acid rain. Ppl forget that the park used to be home to 1,000+ families whose land was confiscated to make a NP.

  41. Kathy Rhyne says:

    We have visited every state and numerous parks in each one. I totally disagree with your comments. Of course there are times when traffic is an issue. That goes along with being the number one most visited NP!! The Smokies are beautiful and diverse. There are numerous hiking trails, swimming holes, amazing vistas, picnic areas, tubing , fly fishing opportunities etc. I know a person who told me he wasn’t impressed with Yellowstone NP. It turned out he had driven through the park in one afternoon! We stayed there a week and wanted more because there’s so much to do and see. It’s the same with the Smokies. You have to get out of your car to appreciatetheir beauty!!

  42. Carl Burkhardt says:

    I live in East Tennessee. It’s a great park to visit. The person who wrote this must have simply not known what to do, couldn’t do a lot of walking, didn’t know where to go to see the animals, went at the wrong time of day or year, etc.

    The dog thing is due to the black bears. Not only would dogs be at risk of attacks, but the main problem is then pooping and peeing along the trails would risk more children getting attacked.

    It’s not crowded, if you go early in the morning, and if you go on a non-holiday weekend. If you go on Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend, it’s going to be crowded for the same reason Florida beaches are crowded during Spring Break.

    I don’t know what no landmarks means. There are plenty of good waterfalls to see, and the Smokies are better known for the great overlooks and views; particularly, Clingman’s Dome, Mt. LeConte, Newfound Gap, and Swinging Bridges are probably the best. There is only one small waterfall that can be seen from the road, so if someone can’t walk much, and wants something big viewed from the road, then Bald River Falls off Cherohala Skyway might be better for them.

    Also, anyone spending a long weekend or week in the mountains should really take the time to visit Newfound Gap Rd., the Dragon on US 129, and Cherohala Skyway, if they can’t walk much.

  43. Anonymous says:

    The park is definitely overrated and is not free anymore. I used to go frequently, but have not been back for several years. Prices at the tourist traps are higher than ever and the add on entertainment tax is ridiculous. Save your time and money and go somewhere else.

  44. April says:

    Clingmans Dome & Newfound Gap are two landmarks where the view is BREATHTAKING!!!!!! Elkmont is an old forgotten town where the rich from Knoxville use to stay for the summer and has just had a lot of upkeep done! Cades Cove is an old community with homesteads still there to walk through and is absolutely beautiful! There is actually tons of things to see and do in the Smokies that don’t cost anything! For hikers, look up Mt Leconte! The only way there is to hike and it’s breathtaking! There are many other places to see there! So your article is not truthful or correct! It is so much worth the trip as we have done for the past 30 years!

  45. Suzette Burger says:

    I agree with you. Thank God we go there for the trees streams wonderful people. It’s God’s country. I’m hoping all the rest go somewhere else.

  46. Nancy says:

    As a resident of East Tennessee and a patron of this great park, much of what you stated is true. However, it is beautiful, there are a lot of things to do inside the park and camping is great. I love my mountains which are the oldest in the United States. As with any national park that charges a fee, my park if free. Yes you do have to purchase a parking pass ($5 a day) which is great compared to other entrance fees. On your next article, please show some positive things about my Great Smokey National Park!

  47. B. C says:

    Great Smoky mountains are beautiful! The best time to visit is the the fall for the colors.


    This park is beautiful ,but is way over rated tourist trap.many others are far better.

  49. Larry Stewart says:

    As a Knoxville, TN resident I agree with your comments about why to avoid GSMNP. However you left out one NEW reason. Although it’s free to enter this park, there is now a parking fee that everyone must pay to park longer than 15 minutes in any one spot. This applies to everyone including those with America the Beautiful passes.
    Go here for details –
    or just google GSMNP parking passes

  50. Patricia Campbell says:

    Have you really been to GSNP? What kind of show stopper attraction are you looking for? If it’s manmade, try getting out of your car in Cade’s Cove. Or hike to LeConte Lodge. Look at the amazing stonework done by the CCC. If you’re wanting stunning natural attractions, just look around you, anywhere in the Park, and any time of the year. I’ve lived in the foothills here all my life. I’ve driven, hiked and rode horseback there. Even now, every time I visit the Park, I see something that takes my breath away.

  51. Leelow 55 says:

    Hi, east Tn native here, born and raised in the foothills of the GSMNP. While this article gave food for thought, there are some minor inaccuracies. First, the park isn’t in Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg borders the park. If the touristy thing isn’t for you, it’s ridiculously easy to avoid. Try Townsend, it’s quiet, gorgeous, and also borders the park. Second, the only place I’ve ever sat in a two hour traffic jam (outside of Gatlinburg) is on Cades Cove Loop Road. Annoying? Sometimes, but always worth it. The scenery, wildlife, and history of that community is addictive. Next, anyone who travels habitually with their dog already knows there are places the pup won’t be allowed, I don’t care where you are. Finally, I love to see people appreciate our mountains,there is no place like them. But if y’all don’t visit, my feelings aren’t hurt, just makes it easier for me to enjoy them. Happy travels!

  52. Don says:

    I lived in NC for 20 plus years it is nothing but a money Trap. Come and visit and we will clean your wallet out at no charge.

  53. Ron W. Frye says:

    Ron Frye
    for someone that is supposed to be a professional writer your article is much to be desired, it lacks research, fact, checking, and in general common sense.
    The great Smoky Mountains national Park is fantastic. I grew up within 40 miles of there. I travel back-and-forth across the mountain from North Carolina to pigeon Forge several times a year for years. The only time I had logjams i.e. traffic, jams were high, traffic months, vacations, holidays, etc. oh by the way you left at one of the most beautiful times across the mountain, that is during the winter. They are very good about closing the mountain when the snows are expected to be deep or winter they are doing during winter but if you have a good four-wheel-drive vehicle even during that. It is nothing less than spectacular the snow falling the trees being covered is breathtaking. We made that trip a number of times and twice had to beg the park rangers to let us go. They finally did because we had four-wheel-drive i.e. jeep grand Cherokee, and we made it just fine by taking our time and being extra cautious.
    The other seasons of the year are just spectacular spring of the year and the leaves are changing early fall early winter, and everyone in the shops when we have been into Gatlinburg and stopped to walk around are so accommodating, so friendly and so helpful.
    Other times of the year there are so many craft shows and exhibitions that will let you participate and enjoy those activities and you will gain a more positive attitude about the folks of the mountains when you do this, not to mention the trout fishing right through the middle of Gatlinburg and up parts of the mountain you can cross over the mountain and go to the Indian reservation get a five day pass, and a fishing permit and enjoy miles of open stream, and extremely large, and I might add catchable trout there are cabins to rent there are campgrounds, hiking trails, motoring trails people have mentioned Mount Leconte, and several other just absolutely breathtaking views offered, and how anyone with apparently your lack of travel experience could possibly write an article such as the one you wrote is beyond me, and I would say your editor, or fact, checker or researcher, which by the way, I think should be your job did not do their job. The great smoky mountains is an excellent getaway cabins on both sides of the mountain on top of the mountain in the mini little towns, surrounding Gatlinburg, and pigeon Forge, like towns and etc. offer all kinds of restaurants eateries places to swim in the river crystal clear and fish or played your hearts content so before you write an article such as you just did please please do your homework go more than one trip certainly Christmas time crowded certainly Fourth of July crowded certainly other holidays crowded however, each of those even though crowded offers so much in the way of shops, antique shops, Christmas shops, food shops, candy, shops, yes even the occasional T-shirt shop, however, nothing as severe as you are indicating to come back to our great Smoky Mountains enjoy yourself, rethink your article and re-presented to this forum thank you God love the USA and the great Smoky Mountains

  54. Lou says:

    Let me give you one more reason, I live near the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Asheville North Carolina area and I am on the Blue Ridge Parkway nearly every day when traveling back and forth between Asheville and Hendersonville Road area. There are drivers on that road, which is 35 mph sometimes 45, who are driving upwards of 60 mph. I’ve seen Wildlife crushed mercilessly under speeding cars and the driver never even stopped. I’ve had people who are mad because I’m driving the speed limit or a little bit over actually, who have passed me on a double no passing line with cars clearly coming straight at us, with no regard for my safety or anyone else’s. It’s a death trap and the rangers and police here do absolutely nothing about it. I’ve called several times and complained about how I’ve nearly lost my life at least twice on that road and still nothing’s been done.

  55. John says:

    Been there many times with no disatisfaction . Why was gburg mentioned and not cherokee . No standout destinations ??? How bout clingmans dome (highest point east of the mississippi . So many others . Sounds to me like some high class yuppie did this article .

  56. Tina Rush says:

    Absolutely GSMNP is worth the effort!

    It’s the most visited for many reasons, one including you don’t have to buy a ticket in advance just to drive thru the park, you can go whenever you want.

    It’s close to very populated areas , Knoxville TN, Asheville NC…..

    It offers everything the parks out west offer without having to drive thru hundreds of miles of ‘nothing’ to get there!

    Yes its crowded, but do your research and decide what’s most important to you.

    Wildlife viewing, backcountry camping, hiking, shopping!

    You can do it all within the park.

    That’s what makes it so special!

  57. Austin Axley says:

    The fuck you mean “nothing to see”? It’s nature not a fucking dinner show, there’s no grand finale (unless you’re here for synchronicity). Here’s a novel idea, why don’t you drive around the woods and appreciate taking in the majesty of the OLDEST mountain range in the US, one of the oldest in the WORLD. When the Appalachians were young Earth didn’t even have BONES. THE MOUNTAINS ARE OLDER THAN FUCKING BONES! If that’s not enough stay home and watch a movie, you’ll get your finale.

  58. Joseph P Manguno says:

    Oh please! You should have played outside more as a child. That way, when you see something like the GSM, you would be able to identify and appreciate the beauty and splendor that the park offers.

  59. Josh says:

    And every issue you mention is the Tennessee side. Just avoid it all by actually vacationing on the NC side, meaning kick back and enjoy solitude in a cabin without the crowds. Needing a vacation from your vacation when you get home is not a vacation.

  60. Jenny Lewis says:

    What a horrible article to write about where I live.
    How about this: stay away if you think it’s so awful. We don’t want people here who don’t appreciate it anyway.

  61. Doug says:

    What a terrible article!

    It is apparent that the author does not see the beauty in SMNP. If you only look at your conveniences, like this author, you will miss everything. The fact that dogs are not allowed in the trails is a good thing. The fact that there are over 14 million people that come through this park each year should tell you there is something here that is worth seeing.

    Too many articles talk about conveniences rather than what the parks have to offer. The beauty in SMNP is the best in the country, in my opinion, and there are plenty of other writers who focus on that.

  62. Robert mccoy says:

    Pets should never be allowed.. most idiot owners let them run loose.. cades cove loop, clingmans dome, townsend at the river are but a few great places to go.. i quite agree that pigeon forge and Gatlinburg suck due to too many yankees coming down here… please do us a favor and go elsewhere… !!!!

  63. Robert mccoy says:

    Pets should never be allowed.. most idiot owners let them run loose.. cades cove loop, clingmans dome, townsend at the river are but a few great places to go.. i quite agree that pigeon forge and Gatlinburg suck due to too many yankees coming down here… please do us a favor and go elsewhere… !!!!

  64. T Redwine says:

    Most true hikers are looking for tent camping within the park anyway, not that RVs aren’t welcome it’s just not ever been developed for that.
    Over the Mt into NC as a day trip or staying on that side of the park is Cherokee NC which is rich in history, culture and hiking and I’m not sure if quantity but I see many RV spots there. Gatlinburg has a very interesting history in itself, just take the time to research it and you’ll have a few interesting tidbits to the trip.

  65. Will says:

    Disagree. GSMNP is amazing. Not sure what your talking about. I live three hours away and have been to the Smokies on average twice a year over my 40 year life. Skip Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and get a chalet or cabin. You people are crazy. It’s amazing unless you have no clue what your doing or have done zero research.

  66. Amanda says:

    We visit the Smoky Mountains a couple times a year. We love visiting in the fall and while yes it can get crowded, to me I’m not going to let anyone or anything ruin my time in the mountains. Know what to expect and try to do your best to plan around it. Most times you can make friendly conversations with people in the same boat you are and make the best of a crowded situation so to speak. I’ve never come home wishing i never visited. We keep coming back for a reason. We love it!

  67. Caryl says:

    I live right next to the Park and hike there. It’s beautiful here.

    Don’t blame the park for its lack of amenities or lack of maintenance. Instead quit voting for idjets in Washington who worship smaller government. This is the result of the nutcases who want all of America to be privatized.

    They’ve been robbing all of our national parks of funding for years.

    Plan better next time. There are a plethora of wonderful experiences in the Smokies.

  68. Debra Carpenter says:

    I spent 21 years living in Knoxville and that many years hiking the Smokies. It can be crowded but there are plenty of ways to avoid the crowds. Get up early, tourists tend to sleep in. Get a map and adventure beyond the easy hikes. Honestly, I hated the hot summers so I spent more time hiking in the fall and winter, mostly alone on the trails, even the popular ones. Don’t skip the Smokies, just be smart about when you go.

  69. Anonymous says:

    Without a doubt the lamest & poorest researched article I’ve ever read online. You’ve got to fo better than this!

  70. Traci says:

    Last time there, we rented a cabin outside of Townsend, TN and entered GSMNP from the west side. Walked up the trail to Laurel Falls on the way to Gatlinburg. Not near as much traffic there and very peaceful. A mama bear and her triplets even visited the back yard. We had a delightful time. Plenty of places to stay other than Pigeon Forge, which is nothing but Myrtle Beach in the mountains. Gatlinburg is ok to visit for the day and walk around but staying away from the beaten path was a good decision for us.

  71. DS says:

    As a NC native, I have visited GSMNP many times over the years. It is breathtakingly beautiful. You mentioned pros and cons which every park has but unfortunately, the cons to GSMNP are fast overtaking the pros with the most recent con being the new parking fee. Because this country will not fund our national parks so they can continue to operate, this fee apparently has been introduced in an attempt to raise money to repair the roads and parking areas throughout the park. You get 15 mins of free parking then the fee kicks in. But unless you park, walk 10 feet from your car, look then return, there is no way to get around having to pay. I read many comments about avoiding the Gatlinburg area by staying in NC but Cherokee is becoming just as bad because of Harrah’s Casino. It is almost impossible to find camping or lodging near Cherokee anymore that doesn’t require you to bust your budget, the Cherokee KOA being a prime example. When we began venturing into camping, we would frequently use this KOA as a base camp. It has now turned into a resort campground with prices above what I am willing to pay. Cherokee does have an abundance of history with a newly renovated museum and historical village but beyond that, it is fast becoming overrun with commercialism because the main reason people visit Cherokee anymore isn’t because of GSMNP, they are there for the casino. Most towns around Cherokee have been caught up in this so it is very rare to find a place to stay or a non chain restaurant that is reasonably priced. All of Western NC is in the midst of a tourist boom and GSMNP has become the lesser of the reasons to visit..the road through the park from Cherokee to Gatlinburg has now become a main artery between the two towns. As of 7/4/2023, it was reported that Cades Cove had become so overrun with visitors, the park rangers finally had to close access to the area. GSMNP has moved into the realm of Yellowstone and Yosemite with the accompanying badly behaved tourists and with the now added parking fees, which you will have to pay, there simply is no way to visit this park without parking and getting out of your car so that fee adds up if you stop multiple times during your visit…I think my family will chalk GSMNP as a been there, done that, beautiful place to visit but we will no longer make it a destination park

  72. Justin D Cofer says:

    I live in East Tennessee 30 minutes away and I use to love taking off my Jeep top and driving Cades Cove loop and picnicking with family. It is simply not worth it anymore. People are idiots for example a mama bear and cubs were in view and morons were running at the bear for pics. Then you have the losers that have zero patience and basically has road rage every 30 seconds when sitting in the same spot for 10 minutes without moving. Very few shops are American owned so do not understand the culture and very overpriced. Police are a joke and care only about generating revenue via tickets (fines) so be ready to get pulled over by a former high-school bully who now has a badge and the judges are also a joke. It is a beautiful place but it has became sad. Also a new Buckeys has just opened at the primary exit to GSMNP so that has added an additional hour of dealing with idiot drivers.

  73. Barry says:

    Bunch of bullshit

  74. Jacob Hughes says:

    I have lived in the Smoky Mountains my entire life. I have never seen traffic as bad as rush hour Richmond VA or D.C. Even during rod run it’s not as bad. If your biggest complaints are traffic that, at it’s busiest is still not as bad as city traffic, and lack of technological amenities inside campgrounds. Then maybe national parks just are not this authors thing.

  75. Jeanie says:

    Great Smokey Mtn.NP is my favorite park and I live within 2 hrs travel. I enjoy the trees and rocks. The rushing river streams and wildlife. Oh, to catch sight of a bear. Finally got to see Elk. The wildflowers and butterflies are always a welcomed treat. Picnicking and enjoying the beauty of the mountains makes my day. Hate that the once quaint little towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have become such gaudy, tourist attractions that have nothing to do with the park. Lack of planning is most likely the fault that has forever ruined a very special gateway to the park. I use the by-pass , but I do frequent the art district using back roads when I can. Sad that so many visit the area for the “fun” and miss seeing the splendor of the the park.

  76. Ashley says:

    Try Helen, GA. Much better than the Smokey Mountains (from a local to the area I was raised in TN and originally from GA)

  77. Anonymous says:

    Some of your statements
    are true, but Don’t agree with several of these assessments,i’ve been going for 40 years and even though this is a very popular location. There are lots of great amenities and lots of great things To Do & there are ways to navigate Traffic jams.
    have a great day.

  78. Josh R. says:

    This is a terrible article and here’s why. It’s misleading. 1. The wildlife is unreal. Black bears are everywhere. We saw over 20 bears in our 7 day stay. The article suggests there’s no wildlife and then later he writes cars are backed up from wildlife. So which is it? For us, we had a quiet cabin in the mountains and saw black bear every day. They are used to the commotion, not deterred from it. So they’re around a ton. 2. G’burg is crowded for sure, but we never had issues with parking anywhere we went downtown or in the mountains. And that was on 4th of July weekend with two vehicles of 8 people. One of the most popular restaurants, Apple Barn, was jam packed on July 2. But we were in, ordered food, ate food, paid and left in an hour. 3. Traffic is only nuts in G’burg. So if you’re wanting to be somewhere else, take the bypass. This is not difficult 😂🤦🏻‍♂️ 4. Hiking has other people on it and yes, it can take away from the serenity. So go early mornings before the crowds start around 9-10am. Or go early evenings before it gets dark. We did the motor trail on a rainy day and it was beautiful. Only saw half dozen cars and hardly any people on trails.
    5. If lack of dog amenities really throws you that far off, then don’t take national park tours. We lived in Utah for 7 years and that’s very common for NP. Had more to do with preserving natural streams and reservoirs than it being some way to offend dog owners. We have two dogs in our group that we took to boarding for this trip and they were just fine 😉 Seems the writer felt that was a dealbreaker and for me, to see the Great Smokey Mountains far outweighs whatever dog wants I have.

    This article is just terribly misleading and uninformed. The Smokies are amazing, get you a cabin up near Ober where it’s quiet and have a good time. We’ll go back again next year.

  79. Tina Lowery says:

    This is of course the writer’s opinion. As we all are,you’re allowed to have an opinion. But this article is hilariously naive! It is evident that the writer doesn’t understand the concept of NATURE trails. The statement “There isn’t a single show stopping attraction in the park” and “there are no landmarks.” are both proof that they are clueless about why people go to parks/trails such as The Smokey Mountains are visited by millions for the exact reasons that this clueless writer’s listed as overrated tourist traps! I literally laughed out loud when I read this comment. So let me help educate the person who definitely didn’t need to write this article. People don’t go to the Smokies to be entertained by the wildlife.Those who go to the parks don’t have to have things and others to entertain them. They go for the nature and the peace and quiet of the nature trails. They know not to expect warm Jacuzzis, spa treatments, and room service at the campgrounds! Lol. It’s nature! It’s not a presidential suite at a 5 star hotel and your expectations of anything close to that is not only ridiculous but also absurd. You need to understand that in order to write reviews/articles on destinations such as Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and the trails of the Appalachians that readers will respect, you need to understand and educate yourself on what that particular location is all about! You don’t go to New York and write an article complaining about the noise and you don’t go to The Smokies and complain about all the trees!🤣 It makes yourself and your articles look more like a comedy. Because readers will never believe that you are being serious and that you so naive and unable to grasp the concept of the places you are attempting to write about. No. I do not live there or close to the area. But I do know what to expect to see whenever I go to the mountains and it isn’t landmarks. 🤣 I also know what to expect whenever I choose to camp in those mountains and it isn’t warm bath water and room service! Get a grasp on the reality of the place you decide to write about next time. Otherwise you will have readers laughing at the stupidity of your article. Just like you have on this one!

  80. Harry Wilkin says:

    Your statements are totally untrue. There are numerous pull-outs on the Parkway to enjoy the view and take pictures. No one should try driving fast on the Parkway, Go slow so what if someone is ahead of you. Relax and enjoy your vacation. There are many campgrounds with all the amenities. If your a hiker the trails take you to fabulous sights not seen by the Parkway. Besides, a hiker can’t expect to have amenities,that are found elsewhere. I have traveled and camped with my 5th wheeler all over the Smokey Mountains. Any type of camping you want can be found and there are great fishing spots. If you are looking for expressways to get you to crowded amusement parks like Disney then by all means don’t come to the fabulous Smokey Mountains where there is fresh air and serenity.

  81. Tim Smith says:

    11+ million visitors a year, love coming to the most visited park in the country. That number grows each year. All those people they might have a different opinion about this park being overrated. There are incredible places to go visit: Cades Cove, The Chimney Tops, Climgmans Dome, Newfoundland Gap, Alum Cave, Charles Bunion, Fontana Dam just to name a few. These places do become congested, because they’re so awesome. The Smokey Mountains are situated in a rainforest, with wild animals everywhere. For that reason, dogs are not allowed on trails for their safety, your safety and the safety of the wild animals. When it comes to caming and no amenities, this place will help your kids and you to unplug and wake up from the norms of society. It is truly freeing and fun to watch kids will find other activities. I go to the smokies at least once a month to recharge. Unfortunately I’m part of the problem of loving this park to death. Maybe we need more articles like this to keep people away from enjoying a true treasure of North America.

  82. Conan says:

    I’m a native of east Tennessee, and I wish everyone would, not come to the park, and throw there trash out, and dirty diapers, and stuff, and a lot of the folks that come obviously don’t know how to drive, they act like idiots, stopping in the middle of the road, when theirs parking places everywhere, I almost got fkn killed, one day I was coming back from cades cove, on my motorcycle, and some gd fkn idiots were stopped in a curve,and there was a parking spot about 15 feet from where they stopped, I friggin hate whenever, tourist start coming every year.

  83. If you know when to go, you won’t get in heavy traffic of overcrowding.

    Most NPs have a dog restriction, including ones like Yellowstone, they can be in the car, but not outside on trails.

    National Parks are not about one showstopper item, it is the beauty of nature in total. And I disagree here, there are many waterfalls that are prime attractions, but if you are looking for off the roadway items, many old the great features of NPs involve effort to see, such as Grotto Falls. Cades Cove is also an easy attraction.

    Instead of putting out an article on to avoid, maybe talk about ways to beat the crowding, that would be much more helpful to people.

  84. Kevin Kitts says:

    Living here in Knoxville I’ve found a lot of info and sights to see in the smokies. History was made at newfound gap. And in cades cove. The cligmans dome is under years of history with the trail of tears. Yes traffic is bad but it’s all in the prospect of what your looking for.

  85. Anonymous says:

    Don’t know who had written this rubbish! The next time you decide to write a article about a area try doing a little more research! Every single thing other the fact you can’t take a dog with you being for your safety and the safety of others is complete bullshit. Your lies only hurt people doing there best to make a living

  86. LSH says:

    I know my husband and I were married almost 40 years ago and as we were kids he came with his parents my parents brought us then we brought our kids and now our kids are bringing their kids so there’s what 1234 baby five generations that love the Smoky Mountain national Park, Illinois thing we don’t like is a $40 parking fee that the One in charge of the park has done where it was supposed to be a fee, free part and now he’s change the rules. We’ve even gone as far as buying land here in North Carolina and we live in Florida we come up to three times a year sometime so all our kids and grandkids come up to, and we could love it more sit here at our home and stare out at the tree that shaking and find a baby bear up in it or a mama bear , we love it more than anything you can imagine

  87. Carolyn Ireland says:

    I love the smokies, Gatlinburg and pigeon forge!!
    Well worth the traffic and crowds. Gatlinburg is very dog friendly allowing them in many shops.

  88. N. McBride says:

    Try Tennessee or Arkansas!

  89. Katie says:

    I live near the Smokies and go hiking multiple times a year, if not multiple times a month. The park is honestly stunning, and we are so amazed we get to live near so much beauty. There are definitely some areas notorious for crowds, but most national parks have that issue. Do your research and you’ll be fine. Do try to avoid Gatlinberg unless you enjoy crowds and super touristy stuff.

  90. Debbie says:

    The good news is that if you’re not there, it will be less crowded. The GSMNP is very much worth visiting. It’s beauty alone is worth a trip. Like any other national parks,it depends on when you go. Summers are always crowded. #smokystrong

  91. Joy says:

    Jealous much? You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  92. Elizabeth says:

    Tennessee native here. So many of the locals have already explained the situation in the GSNP so well already. This is a request to the valued visitors. With all my heart, I beg you to please make every effort to preserve it when you are here. Post-fire(2016) and park funding cuts make preservation extremely challenging. Thank you to all the park volunteers. “Pack out” your trash and leave no trace. “Latrine” your pitstops on trails. Pour water on your campfires and stir twice then check that it is confirmed “out” with the back of your hand. Please.

  93. Roger Donald Kortes says:

    Pretty much nailed it. We are here right now and everything you say is spot on. We find the parks in the West to be much more spectacular and bang for your travel and time buck!

  94. Noah says:

    Just went to the smoky mountains and gatlinburg for 10 days and it was absolutely amazing. Yes I agree it was very crowded but the rest of this article I disagree with entirely. Everything about gatlinburg was perfect to the point where I didn’t want to go home at the end of the trip.

  95. Anonymous says:

    This article should be called “5 reasons to stay away from Gatlinburg”. That’s a huge tourist area. If you’re going to enjoy the actual mountains you won’t encounter any of the stuff listed in this article.