Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a treasure chest of delights, from cool waterfalls to animal habitats to wildflower walks. Explore these natural and historic sites:
1. CADES COVE
Cades Cove is the historic heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee hunted here, early European settlers homesteaded here, and this is where the national park took root. History lovers can visit restored 19th century cabins, churches, and a grist mill.
Cades Cove is one of the best places to spot coyotes, black bears, deer, turkeys and more. Circle this broad valley on the Cades Cove Loop Road.
2. ROARING FORK
Splitting as it plunges down a rock face, this steep stream lends its name to the area. Roaring Fork is one of several falls here: Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot-high curtain of water, awaits those who try the moderate-to-difficult hike there. Another trail leads to cool, misted Grotto Falls.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail lets you glimpse waterfalls and woods. Take a break to see the preserved Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead with its cabin, mill and wooden plumbing system.
3. SUGARLANDS VISITOR CENTER
Sugarlands Visitor Center is your source for maps, an introductory film, museum, and rangers to answer questions. But Sugarlands is also home base for family-friendly walks: Cataract Falls is a short, easy stroll to a waterfall. Fighting Creek Nature Trail loops past historic cabins. The paved Gatlinburg Trail welcomes dogs and bicyclists—a rarity inside the park, where both are mostly prohibited on trails.
4. CLINGMANS DOME
Your head is in the clouds at Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the national park. Drive up for far-reaching blue views of the Smokies. Another half-mile of steep hiking rewards you with views from the observation tower perched on the summit.
Spring wildflowers spangle the ground here. Blossoms line hiking trails to Porters Creek and the Ramsey Cascades waterfall. Rest and refresh yourself near the river at the picnic area. And with a license you can angle for trout.
Elkmont boasts a popular campground and many visitors spend nights under the stars here. They’re not the first to explore Elkmont. Loggers came for timber, but by the 1920s Elkmont shifted from logging to leisure, as elite resorts sprang up. See the area’s history in buildings preserved by the park, like Elkmont’s rustic Appalachian Clubhouse.
7. FOOTHILLS PARKWAY
Unobstructed, uncommercial, jaw-dropping: Those are your views of the Smokies and the Tennessee Valley from this recently completed, modern Foothills Parkway. Visibility is as great as 50 miles on clear days.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS
For the ultimate vacation experience plan your stay in an amazing Smoky Mountain cabin rental. Our Smoky Mountain cabins are conveniently located near the most popular destinations in the national park. With cabins ranging in size from 1 to 8 bedrooms, we have the perfect place to stay for your next adventure vacation to the Smokies.