With 520,000 acres spanning North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest protected land area east of the Rockies and the most visited park in the American Park System.
The park preserves the history of the Appalachian Mountains from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to the European settlers of the 18th century to present day efforts to protect the ecosystem, wildlife and nature.
The park is a great place for hikers of all levels, offering 800 miles of trails. Visitors can choose from a serene wildflower walk all the way up to extreme mountain climbing in thick forests.
The park is world renowned for its abundant wildlife – both in animal and plant form.
Mountain Farm museum and Mingus Mill at Oconaluftee
Ocanaluftee has a busy visitor’s centers and is also the entry point into Mountain Farm Museum. The museum grounds host a unique collection of historic 19th century log buildings that were gathered from throughout the Smokies in the 1950’s and assembled together as a cohesive and preserved piece of the area’s history on a single site.
The types of buildings vary, including a farm house, a spring house, an apple house, a smoke house and a barn. There’s also a working blacksmith shop and a collection of equipment and tools from days gone by.
Cades Cove is the most popular attraction in the park. It consists of a lush, green valley, surrounded by the majestic mountain range.
Motorists start with the 11-mile, one-way road that loops around the cove. It’s a virtual guarantee for sightings of wildlife such as black bear, white-tailed deer, coyote, turkey, ground hog and other animals. It’s a slow pace, especially at peak season, because even though there are formal pullouts as well as abundant signage that prohibit stopping on the main loop, they are largely ignored by motorists seeking photos of the spontaneous wildlife opportunities.