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Where Are the Great Smoky Mountains Located?

The Great Smoky Mountains have long been considered one of the most beautiful parts of the United States. 

The peaks in this region have beautiful fall foliage and endless hiking trails. If you love to get outside and enjoy the crisp mountain air, then you need to know about this spot.

Today we’ll cover the majesty of this American treasure.

Let’s drive! 

Smoky Mountain National Park
The Smokies are one of the most stunning nature areas in the USA.

What Are the Great Smoky Mountains?

Considered a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, you’ll find the Smokies in the eastern U.S. The tallest, Clingmans Dome, reaches over 6,600 feet. It’s also the highest point in the state of Tennessee. This region often becomes blanketed in fog resulting in the name. 

All kinds of critters call these forested peaks their home. With nearly 200,000 acres of old grove forest, the 412 species living here can spread out. You’ll find the most diverse salamander population outside of the tropics in the Great Smoky Mountains. Black bears and elk also inhabit the area. 

Where Do the Great Smoky Mountains Start and End?

These mountains sit on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The range begins in the north at the Pigeon River and stretches to the Little Tennessee River in the south. It rises between the cities of Knoxville and Asheville. 

Because the Smokies make up larger ranges, it can be hard to tell where you can find them. Experts have a few tricks to recognize when you’re in these mountains. 

First, look for fog. The cliffs release a lot of isoprene into the air, which causes their characteristic blue, smoky look. Secondly, you might check out the wildlife. Don’t be surprised if you see black bears or salamanders. They’re a sure sign that you’re in the right place.  

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Smokies?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees over ten million visitors each year. Most come during the summer. During June and July, the weather remains temperate, usually below ninety degrees. Patrons of the destination enjoy hiking and watching for wildlife at this time of year. 

In the autumn, many guests come to gander at the foliage. The region has famously dramatic fall color changes. Pleasant temperatures continue through the season, making it a lovely time for a scenic drive or walk.

Winter and spring are less common times to head to the Great Smoky Mountains. It can get cold and tends to be very wet as the weather starts to warm up. There’s still plenty to do, so if you want to avoid the crowds, you may consider visiting during the off-season. 

Smoky Mountain National Park in the spring
Smoky Mountain National Park is in its full glory during the summer and the fall.

Things to Do While Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains

We probably have already made you excited to head to the Tennessee mountains, but we wouldn’t want you to go without ideas of things to do. No matter how you enjoy the outdoors, the Smokies have you covered. 

Climb Clingmans Dome

Hikers will love a chance to climb to the highest point in Tennessee at Clingman’s Dome. You can get there by walking half a mile from the access road. The path may be short, but it’s steep. Allow plenty of time to complete the walk. 

Don’t forget your camera! You can head to the observation tower atop the peak for stunning panoramic views.

Go for a Scenic Drive

If you’d prefer to get views from your car, the park offers several scenic drives. The 11-mile loop through Cades Cove curves through a valley surrounded by mountains. It has historic stops along the way. 

You can also take the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail to get your fill of scenery in your automobile. If you go leaf-peeping in the fall, try some higher-elevation roads for sweeping views of the changing colors. 

Chase Waterfalls

You’ll find over 100 waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains. They’ll be gushing in the spring and summertime. Sometimes they freeze in the winter making for a unique experience.

Some of these features are easy to access by driving to them. Sinks Waterfall, for example, can be found right off of the River Road scenic drive. Other spots require a walk or a hike from the car, like Rainbow Falls. 

Waterfall in mountains
The Smokies are full of stunning scenery to enjoy while you hike.

Hike the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail winds across 2,200 miles. It stretches along the entire range from Georgia to Maine. The path cuts right through Great Smoky Mountain National park. Even Clingmans Dome is a part of this storied travel way. If you want a chance to hike the legendary route, or a part of it, you can hop on here. 

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for these Most Dangerous Creatures on the Appalachian Trail during your hike.

Spot the Wildlife

The forest throughout the park comes to life with wildlife during dawn and dusk each day. The bears will be especially active in the fall, preparing for winter. Elk and foxes are common in the area. You might even get to glimpse a river otter with a little luck. 

Birdwatchers will also enjoy the variety in this region. The area is home to hundreds of species, including Indigo Buntings and Eastern Bluebirds. 

Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Just outside of the national park, you’ll find Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic drive will take you all the way to Shenandoah in Virginia. You don’t have to travel all 469 miles of the road to see the beauty it has to offer. This road can be an excellent way to see the brilliant fall colors in the Smokies. 

Pro Tip: Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway with ease by using our Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Guide.

Get out and Explore the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains offer something for any type of adventurer. You can enjoy the views from the passenger window or get up close and personal with nature by hiking.

The wide variety of wildlife and abundant waterfalls make this an exciting place to explore. If you’ve been thinking about making a trip to the Smokies, now’s the time!

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