Recreational activities abound in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! With over 800 miles of trail to explore, 700 miles of mountain streams to fish, almost 80 historic structures to visit, countless waterfalls and scenic overlooks! Every season is uniquely beautiful — from winter's snow capped peaks and trails, to springtime's parade of wildflowers, from summer's cooling swimming holes to fall's kaleidoscope of intense colors. Come anytime — the park is always beautiful!
Bicycling: Although cyclists can ride on most roads within the park, the lack of shoulders on these sometimes steep, narrow twisty roads that are populated with heavy automobile traffic are a deterrent for most. Many prefer instead to ride the scenic Cades Cove Loop Road. This bucolic 11-mile one-way loop is populated with wildlife, wildflowers and old homesites. From early May until late September, the loop is closed to vehicular traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 am to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove. During summer and fall, bicycles may be rented at the Cades Cove Campground Store.There are no mountain biking trails in the Park, only the Gatlinburg Trail, the Oconaluftee River Trail and the lower Deep Creek Trail allow bicycles.
Birding: There are several good locations in the national park to birdwatch including Cades Cove, the Sugarlands Park Headquarters, Alum’s Cave Trail and Elkmont. 240 species of birds have been found throughout the park. Sixty species are year-round residents. Nearly 120 species breed in the park, including 52 species from the neo-tropics. Many other species use the park as an important stopover and foraging area during their semiannual migration.
Camping: The park offers backcountry campsites for backpackers, frontcountry campgrounds for car campers, group campgrounds and horse camps. Firewood is available at most large campgrounds and many local stores. However firewood may not be brought into the park unless it bears the USDA-APHIS-PPQ certification or is purchased from a county that has no quarantine in effect. In addition, park regulations allow for collection of dead, fallen wood for campfires.
Equestrians: Saddle up to enjoy the almost 400 miles of trail that are open to equestrians. Plan to camp out at one of the five drive-in horse camps and if you don't own a horse, there are four rental stables that can provide mounts as well as guides to take you along the trails.
Fishing: The Park has around 700 miles of streams within its boundaries, and protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern US. There's a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, coolwater smallmouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish and offer a great opportunity to catch these species throughout the year. Fishing is permitted year-round in the park, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. You must possess a valid fishing license or permit from either TN or NC and no trout stamp is required. Special permits are required for fishing in Gatlinburg and Cherokee.
Paddling: There are many opportunities for whitewater paddling in the Smokies.
Swimming Holes and Tubing: Or if you're just wanting to cool off and spend a lazy day tubing down the river, you can begin your float at the swimming hole at the Townsend Y, where the Little River exits the Park. Tubers can negotiate the intermittent rapids as they travel from the Townsend Y to the vicinity of the first mill dam, above the Highway 321 bridge.
Trails: This hiker's paradise features over 800 miles of maintained trails ranging from short leg-stretchers to strenuous treks. Whether you plan a day hike or head out for an extended backpacking adventure, the park trails are well-maintain, nicely signed and easy to navigate. There are many camping options available. Leashed dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along the roads, but are not permitted on any of the trails.
Park Size: 520,000 acres
Hiking Trails: 800+ miles
Equestrian Trails: 400+ miles
River Miles: 700+ miles
107 Park Headquarters Rd, Gatlinburg
Winter Road Closures:
Townsend Entrance: Take I-40 to exit 386B to US-129 S towards Alcoa/Maryville. At Maryville proceed on US-321 N/TN -73 E through Townsend. Continue straight on TN-73 into the park.
Gatlinburg Entrance: Take I-40 to exit 407 (Sevierville) to TN-66 S. At the Sevierville intersection, continue straight onto US-441 S and go through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge into the park.
Visitor Centers - directions and hours
Great Smoky Mtns National Park
Great Smoky Mountains Association
Friends of the Smokies
Landforms of Tennessee