The Gatlinburg Lodge at

The Gatlinburg Lodge at
The Wears Valley Chalet at
The Wears Valley Chalet at

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Information, including Trails and Visitor Centers

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is the most-visited national park in the country, with over 9,000,000 visitors per year... that's well over twice the yearly visitors to the second most-visited National Park. You can bet that means this is one special National Park, deserving a vacation to the Smoky Mountains. The 1-bedroom cabin The Wears Valley Chalet at, as well as the 28-guest cabin The Gatlinburg Lodge at, both have entrances to the park within a few minutes' drive. 

Ranger-Guided Walks and talks, Picnicking, Bicycling, Horseback Riding, becoming a Junior Ranger, Hayrides, Carriage Rides, Wildlife Watching, Fishing, Hiking, Trail Walking, Auto Touring, Waterfall Visiting, and Camping are some of the most popular activities in this park.

The park is made up of 521,085.66 acres, and contains 800+ miles of trails and 2,115 miles of streams, requiring approximately 250 permanent and 100 seasonal personnel, as well as about 4,000 volunteers donating well over 100,000 hours, each year.

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Biking, fishing, hiking, picnicking, walking, auto touring, and bird watching are just a few of many activities you can enjoy in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is unique from almost all major national parks, in not charging an admission fee. Admittance to the park is free.

If you would like to camp overnight or rent a picnic pavilion, there will be small fees. The one and only place providing sleeping accommodations in the park is Le Conte Lodge, high on Mount Le Conte. For details, view our Le Conte Lodge information.

Auto Touring
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If you prefer to enjoy the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from your car, there are several options for you, including Newfound Gap, Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, and Roaring Folk.

The Newfound Gap auto tour is yet another name for the US-441/Parkway road. Enter through the Parkway entrance in Gatlinburg, and continue following US-441 when you reach the Sugarlands Visitor Center (don't turn onto Little River Rd/Old State Hwy 73). If you keep driving about 30 miles from the Parkway entrance, you'll pass through the entire park and come out in Cherokee, NC.

Cades Cove, an 11-mile one-way loop, is probably the most popular auto tour this side of the park. To find this auto tour, follow Wears Valley Rd until it ends against E Lamar Alexander Pkwy. Turn left onto E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, and after about 2.5 miles turn right onto Laurel Creek Rd. After 7.5 miles, you will be in the Cades Cove Loop area, where signs will direct you to the starting point for the Cades Cove Loop.

Clingmans Dome ends at the beginning of an easier hiking trail, at the end of which you will be rewarded with the stunning view from a giant man-made structure lifting you high above the treetops. If you aren't interested in the hike, you can just enjoy the auto trail. Enter through the Parkway entrance, and follow the Parkway for about 15 miles. At this point, turn right onto Clingmans Dome Rd, and enjoy the scenery.

The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is the closest auto tour in the area, and among the most beautiful, with most of the trail following the Roaring Fork river. Enter through the Cherokee Orchard Rd entrance, and follow Cherokee Orchard Rd for about 2 miles, until you reach the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Trail. 

Bear Safety
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Familiarize yourself with proper procedure in the event of a bear sighting, before you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These are the suggestions from the National Parks website:

Bears in the park are wild and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat bear encounters with extreme caution and follow these guidelines:

If you see a bear remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.)-you're too close. Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don't run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting, try changing your direction. If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground. If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it. Act aggressively and try to intimidate the bear. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. Don't run and don't turn away from the bear. Don't leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.

Most injuries from black bear attacks are minor and result from a bear attempting to get at people's food. If the bear's behavior indicates that it is after your food and you're physically attacked, separate yourself from the food and slowly back away.

If the bear shows no interest in your food and you're physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available object--the bear may consider you as prey! Help protect others, report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears! 

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There are a few beautiful trails where you can enjoy the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from your bike.

The most popular trail for biking is the Cades Cove Loop. At certain times of year, this loop is actually closed off to motorists until 10:00 am on Wednesdays and Saturdays, giving bikers and walkers the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the trail without the disturbance of vehicles. The Greenbrier area in the Gatlinburg portion of the park, and Tremont area off of E. Lamar Alexander Pwky are also good biking options. 

Camping back to Planning 
Camping overnight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is allowed, with campgrounds available.

  • Backcountry Campgrounds are sites for backpackers, and require a several-mile hike to reach the backcountry where these campsites are available. Find a Backcountry Campsite here
  • Frontcountry Campgrounds are closer to a location where you can leave your call. These sites also have restrooms, running water, Fire Grates, and Picnic Tables. Find a Frontcountry Campsite here.
  • Group Campgrounds are suitable for groups of 8 or morE, and accommodate tents only. Find a Group Camground here.
  • Horse Camps are small camps accessible by vehicle, which offer hitch racks for horses and primitive camping facilities. Find a Horse Camp here.

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A few of the park entrances most convenient to The Wears Valley Chalet at and The Gatlinburg Lodge at include the Lyon Springs Rd entrance, the US-441 (Parkway entrance, the Greenbrier Rd entrance, and the Cherokee Orchard Rd entrance.

If you are staying in The Wears Valley Chalet at, from April - December the Lyon Springs Rd entrance is closest (the entrance is closed January - March). There is not an address assigned to this location, so use the map below to identify and find directions.

The US-441 (Parkway) entrance is a good option from either cabin. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is located a few minutes from this entrance, so if you are looking for Rangers, maps, history, or any other help, try this entrance, shown below.

The Greenbrier Rd entrance, marked below, is just a few minutes from The Gatlinburg Lodge at, and follows the beautiful Little Pigeon River into the park. 

The Cherokee Orchard Rd entrance is accessed from downtown Gatlinburg, and offers a connection to the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Trail, which lets out just a few minutes from The Gatlinburg Lodge at See below for location.

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Fishing is permitted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park year round.

Any stream or river found in the park is open to fishing within regulations, except currently the Lynn Camp Prong, upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead prong -- fishing prohibited to allow repopulation following restoration work. 

  • Valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license required for those over age 13 (either state's license allows you to fish throughout the park, either side of the state border). 
  • Fishing may occur from half an hour before official sunrise to half an hour after official sunset. 
  • Equipment:
    • One hand-held rods only permitted.
    • Artificial flies or lures with a single hook and dropper flies may be used, up to two flies on a leader.
    • Use or possession of any form of fish bait or liquid scent other than artificial flies or lures on or along any park stream while in possession of fishing tackle is prohibited. Prohibited baits include, but are not limited to:
      • Minnows (live or preserved)
      • Worms
      • Corn
      • Cheese
      • Bread
      • Salmon Eggs
      • Pork Rinds
      • Liquid Scents
      • Natural Baits found along stream
    • Use or possession of double, treble, or gang hooks prohibited.
    • Fishing tackle and equipment, including creels and fish in possession, subject to inspection by authorized personnel.
  • Daily possession limits:
    • 5 Brook, Rainbow, or Brown Trout, Smallmouth Bass, or combination. Total not to exceed 5 fish.
    • 20 Rock Bass may be kept IN ADDITION to 5 listed above.
    • Fishing must be stopped immediately upon reaching these limits.
  • Size limits:
    • Brook, Rainbow, and Brown Trout: 7 inch minimum.
    • Smallmouth Bass: 7 inch minimum.
    • Rockbass: No minimum.
    • Any fish that does not meet these requirements will be replaced in water immediately.

Grist Mills
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There are four historic Grist Mills in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two of which demonstrate corn meal milling. The Cable Mill and the Mingus Mill give demonstrations, while the Ogle Mill and the Reagan Mill no longer operate but are gorgeous and historic spots to visit.

  • The Cable Mill is located at approximately the midway point along the Cades Cove Loop auto tour.
  • The Mingus Mill is located about 2 miles south of Cherokee, NC, along US-441 (Parkway). Enter the park at the Parkway entrance, and follow US-441 for about 30 miles to reach this operating mill.
  • The Ogle Mill is located through the Cherokee Orchard Rd entrance. Follow Cherokee Orchard Rd and then continue onto Roaring Fork Motor Trail, where you will pass the Ogle Mill.
  • The Reagan Mill, like the Ogle Mill, is located along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. This mill is found near the end of the trail.

GSMNP Contact
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

LeConte Lodge
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There is nothing quite like LeConte Lodge, which sits high on Mount LeConte -- the lodge is accessible only by hiking one of 5 long trails leading up the mountain; no roads, no driving. Another fascinating feature of this unique business is its daily blog, High On LeConte, written by staff up at the top of the mountain.

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There are over 30 species of Salamanders in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, giving the park the nickname "Salamander Capital of the World."

From the common Red Eft, to the Hellbender that can grow up to 29", the many Salamanders in the park actually outnumber any other vertebrate in the park... including tourists. There are five different families of Salamanders living in the park: Cryptobranchidae, Proteidae, Salamandridae, Ambystomatidae, and Plethodontidae.

Smartphone App
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The Smokies iPhone and Android app includes the Smokies Visitor Guide, and covers all the basic information for the park. Best of all, all guides and maps are available without a cell phone signal. Some features include:

  • Favorite Destinations
  • Black Bears
  • Recreation (auto touring, camping, picnicking, horse camping and riding, and more)
  • Concerns, guidelines, and tips (including what to do if you see a bear)
  • Services (including restrooms, visitor centers, and concessions in the park)
  • Offline Park road map
  • Auto Touring in the Smokies (Tour 5 of the Smokies most scenic roads)
  • Caves Cove Tour (Enjoy nature and human history on the Cades Cove loop road and the Cable Mill area
  • Day Hikes Favorites (Hike 32 of our favorite trails with these directions to the trailheads)
  • Self-Guiding Nature Trails (Enjoy a stroll along 11 of our quiet walkways and nature trails
  • Waterfall Favorites (Hike or drive to our favorite waterfalls)
  • Park Trail Map (Find any trail or roads in the park with the map, available offline)

Synchronous Fireflies back to Planning 
Did you know that at certain times of year you can see lightning bugs flashing their lights in synchronization, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

The one species of fireflies that can do this is the Photinus carolinus, found right here in the park. During mating season, the mail fireflies zip around flashing their lights, as the females watch and flash back. This two-week period is usually sometime late May to early June.

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Whether you'd like a stroll under the trees, ending at a gentle waterfall, or a miles-long uphill trek with a top-of-the-world view at the summit, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the trail for you.

You might want to start planning your hike by viewing this map of all trails in the park, with a guide indicating entrances and location, as well the type of trail. Click here to view PDF map (will open in new tab). If you'd rather not plan too much, and just want to enjoy the park, you might find starting at a Visitor Center in the park your best option. Tell a Ranger what sort of trail you're looking for, and what you'd like to see along the way... Park personnel are very helpful and will give you all the information you need about trailhead locations, difficult-level, and sightseeing.

  • Cades Cove Visitor Center Information back to Visitor Centers top  
    • Located approximately halfway through the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop, the Cades Cove Visitor Center includes a Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Indoor and outdoor exhibits of Southern Mountain life and culture, Cable Mill (a grist mill which operates spring through fall), the Becky Cable house, and other historic structures, as well as seasonal ranger-led programs are among many attractions at this visitor center.  
Cades Cove Visitor Center Hours:

January 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
February 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
March 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
April - August 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
September - October 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
December 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

  • Clingmans Dome Visitor Center back to Visitor Centers top 
    • Located at the Clingmans Dome trailhead, 7 miles off US-441 on the Clingmans Dome Road, this visitor center includes a Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop, as well as park information.
Clingmans Dome Visitor Center Hours:

April - October 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center back to Visitor Centers top 
    • Located 2 miles north of Cherokee, NC, on US-441, this visitor center features a museum telling the story of life in the Great Smoky Mountains, from native Americans and early European settlement time periods, through the Civilian Conservation Corp and the development of the national park. The Mountain Farm Museum contains log structures including a farmhouse, barn, smokehouse, applehouse, corn cribs, etc., with demonstrations of farm life conducted seasonally. Ranger-led programs conducted seasonally, as well as a Great Smoky Mountain Association bookstore and shop, public restrooms and telephones, and soda and water machines wrap up the attractions at this visitor center.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center Hours:

January - February 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
March 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
April - May 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
June - August 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
September - October 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
December 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

  • Sugarlands Visitor Center back to Visitor Centers top 
    • The Sugarlands Visitor Center is located 2 miles south of Gatlinburg, on US-441. In addition to ranger-led programs conducted seasonally and a Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop, public restrooms and telephones, and soda and water machines, this visitor center also features free admission to a 20-minute film about the park, and extensive natural history exhibits.
Sugarlands Visitor Center Hours:

January - February 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
March 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
April - May 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
June - August 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
September - October 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
November 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
December 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

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Today's weather forecast for Gatlinburg, TN, "Gateway to the Smokies." Current park conditions are also available by dialing (865) 436-1200, ext. 630.