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© Kate Marshall
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is easily the most visited national park in America.
With over 9 million visitors a year, it is busy, but surprisingly, never really crowded.
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."
- John Muir
Great Smoky Mountains National Park covers 521,085.66 acres. Of this total, 276,343.88 acres are in North Carolina and 244,741.78 acres are in Tennessee. More than 9 million recreational visits in 2008, which is the highest visitation of any of the 58 national parks. The second most heavily visited national park is Grand Canyon with 4.4 million visits, third is Yosemite with 3.4 million, fourth is Olympic with 3.1 million. - National Park Service.
BEAR WARNINGS, TRAIL & CAMP NEWS
UPDATED APRIL 28, 2011
• Lamar Alexander Parkway at Walland, single lane open due to work on rock slide
• East Lamar Alexander Parkway (TN 73-Scenic) at Stables Drive, near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Townsend will be reduced to one lane controlled by a temporary traffic signal at various times for the bridge construction project on Stables Drive. Traffic on Stables Drive is also being controlled by a temporary traffic signal. Two travel lanes will be open on Scenic 73 during periods when the contractor is not present and during times when work activities are being performed on the opposite side of the Little River that do not require additional space alongside the roadway. The temporary traffic signals that are currently in place will be set to a cautionary flash during times that both lanes are available for travel. When the lane restriction is in place, the traffic signals will be activated to control the traffic movement one direction at a time. Motorists in this area should be alert for changing conditions, expect potential delays and use extreme caution in this area.
• Gatlinburg Bypass closed May 2-6 and May 9-13 due to construction.
OTHER PARK ROADS INFORMATION:
BALSAM MOUNTAIN ROAD - OPEN MAY 13 TO OCTOBER 31, 2011
What to see in May on Balsam Mountain Road, a 1-way 14-mile gravel road: Rare Pink Lady Slipper Orchids and hard-to-find Painted Trillium both grow here in late spring. Huge masses of wildflowers in summer reach to the sunshine up and down the steep slopes on either side of the road. Whitetail deer are sometimes on this road and they must stay on the road due to the steepness of both sides of the road so be careful when driving through there. Bears are also seen here. From Newfound Gap, go past Oconaluftee Visitor's Centers toward Cherokee, turn left on Blue Ridge Parkway before Cherokee, then left on Balsam Mountain Road (paved to campground and restrooms on left). Enter this on-way gravel road through the gate at the end of paved road after the parking lot. Be careful and drive slow on this twisting primitive mountain road; there are no guard rails on steep drop-offs. People who are in a hurry should not drive this road. Please allow people and wildlife to remain safe.
> Trailers, buses, and RV's not allowed on the gravel road - low cars discouraged
> Bridge has been built over stream! Yay!
> 14-mile one-way road gravel takes a while to get through, then two-way at Heintooga Ridge Road as you are exiting
> Check for wildflowers (pink lady slippers and painted trillium in spring, coneflowers and bee balm in summer)
CADES COVE LOOP ROAD - OPEN YEAR ROUND EXCEPT IN ICY CONDITIONS
CLOSED TO VEHICLES WEDNESDAY AND SATURDAY MORNING UNTIL 10 AM MAY TO SEPTEMBER
CLINGMANS DOME ROAD - OPEN APRIL 1 TO NOVEMBER 30, 2011
What to see in May: Scenic vistas of Smoky Mountains, many kinds of wildflowers all along the road, both sides.
> Highest altitude in the Park - too icy and closed in winter
> Connects with Spruce Fir Forest Trail and Andrews Bald Trail
> Very steep hike at high elevation on paved trail up to tower - be fit for this one
> Check for wildflowers along this road 3 seasons (fringed phacelia spring)
> Check for wildflowers on Spruce Fir Trail (Blue Bead Lily summer)
NEWFOUND GAP ROAD TO CHEROKEE - OPEN EXCEPT DURING ICY CONDITIONS
> Connects with Clingman's Dome Road; restrooms available at Newfound Gap Overlook
> How to get to Harrah's Casino in Cherokee from Gatlinburg, Townsend, and The Park
> How to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway from Gatlinburg
> The Appalachian Trail is behind the paved trail to the restrooms
> This road is closed whenever there are snowy or icy conditions
> Check for wildflowers on paved trail and slopes near restrooms 3 seasons, and all other areas
LITTLE GREENBRIER ROAD - OPEN MARCH 11 TO DECEMBER 31, 2011
LITTLE RIVER ROAD - OPEN YEAR ROUND EXCEPT DURING ICY CONDITIONS
PARSON BRANCH ROAD - OPEN LATE SPRING TO MID-NOVEMBER, 2011
> One-way dirt road to Fontana from Cades Cove
RICH MOUNTAIN ROAD - OPEN MARCH 11 TO NOVEMBER 20, 2011
> Trailers, buses, and RV's not allowed on this road
> One-way dirt road to Townsend from Cades Cove
> Great view of Cades Cove, good photo location looking down toward meadow and church
> Famous for snakes, watch where you put your feet and hands
ROARING FORK MOTOR NATURE TRAIL - CLOSED MARCH 11 TO NOVEMBER 30, 2011
> Trailers, buses, and RV's not allowed on this road
> Always use pullouts or parking lots here
> Famous for wildflowers of all types and an outrageous area full of mountain laurel
> See jack-in-the-pulpit, violets, tulip tree and trillium here
> Very deep gorge, waterfalls, trails, pioneer cabins, allow 1/2 day minimum
ROUND BOTTOM / STRAIGHT FORK - CLOSED MARCH 11 TO NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Trailers, buses, and RV's are also not allowed on the following roads: Greenbrier Road past the Ranger Station, and the road exiting the Park at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area.
ADDITIONAL ROAD NOTES:
Newfound Gap Road
(US-441) - single lane closures between mile marker 13.5 and 14.2
will be in place for construction work on retaining walls along the
road. During the closures from March 1-June 10, traffic through the
construction zone will be managed by traffic signals and flaggers.
Before visiting the park in winter, please call (865) 436-1200 for road closure and weather information. Dial extension 631 for updates on temporary road closures and extension 630 for a weather forecast.
If Newfound Gap Road is not closed due to snowy or icy conditions, opportunities do exist for cross country skiing and hiking in the snow along Clingmans Dome Road, which is closed to vehicles in winter. This road starts 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap.
You can see if any snow has fallen in the park by visiting the park's two WebCams:
In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) publishes temperature and precipitation data for several locations in the park. Visit their website to see if any snow has accumulated in the past 24 hours.
• Backcountry Campsite
• Abrams Falls Trail is
closed from its trailhead at Cades Cove to the Hatcher Mountain Trail
junction due to downed trees. Estimated reopening date is May 7.
Please note that the park's
backcountry is managed as a natural area where the forces of nature
determine trail conditions. The following list includes some conditions
that the park is currently aware of. However, hikers may encounter trail
conditions not listed below that require caution. Be prepared for
swollen streams, bridge washouts, downed trees, and trail erosion when
hiking in the park's backcountry.
HORSE TRAILS CLOSED
• Abrams Creek - Closed in
• Cataloochee - Closed in
• Smokemont - Open all year, see above for additional information
BACKCOUNTRY CAMPSITES CLOSED
Backcountry Campsites 3, 11, 35, 83, 84
CAVE AND MINE SHAFT CLOSURE
Entry into caves or mine shafts in this national park is prohibited. This closure has been initiated due to recommendations issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning white nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 400,000 bats have died from WNS, including 25,000 federally endangered Indiana bats, and many more bats are at immediate risk. As of March 18, 2009, at least 60 hibernacula in nine states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia) are known to be affected by WNS. Wildlife managers are concerned about the outbreak because bats congregate by the thousands in caves and mines to hibernate during winter months. This behavior increases the potential that the disease will spread among hibernating bats. In addition, hibernating bats disperse in spring and migrate, sometimes hundreds of miles away, to spend the summer. Most bats affected to date are little brown bats, but the fungus has also been found on endangered Indiana bats, raising concerns about the impacts on a species already at risk. Other affected bat species include the eastern pipistrelle and northern long-eared bat. Researchers are trying to determine if the fungus itself is responsible for the deaths or if its presence is symptomatic of another problem. For additional information about white nose syndrome in bats, please visit http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html
OTHER PARK NEWS!
April 21, 2011 - APPALACHIAN CLUBHOUSE NOW AVAILABLE
Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s newly-restored Appalachian Clubhouse is now available for public day-use rental. The rustic frame building lies about 9 miles from Gatlinburg, TN, in the heart of the national park adjacent to the Elkmont Campground. “We expect the Clubhouse to be a really popular option for people organizing events such as weddings, family reunions or even business meetings and retreats.” Superintendant Dale Ditmanson said, “It offers guests a chance to hold a large event within a peaceful and scenic, natural setting.” The 3,000 square foot, one-story Clubhouse features a large, open meeting hall about 25’ by 60’ in size with exposed wooden beams and massive stone fireplaces at each end that are equipped with gas logs. It is lighted by period-type fixtures suspended from the ceiling and with wall-mounted sconces. French doors along the entire east side open onto a broad, roofed porch overlooking the forest and a small creek. It is equipped with folding chairs, round dining tables and rectangular buffet tables. There is a caterer’s kitchen that has countertops, electrical outlets and a sink where food can be kept warm or served, but it has no cooking facilities or refrigerator. Newly built restrooms located just a few yards from the building accommodate both Clubhouse users and hikers using nearby Jakes Creek and Little River Trailheads. Both facilities are fully accessible. The Clubhouse is available for use from April 1 - November 15. The Clubhouse is rented on a daily basis and may be used from 10:00 AM through 8 PM. The rental fee is $400 per day, Monday through Thursday, and $600 per day Friday through Sunday. Group size is limited to 96 people. Reservations and more information including a map and photographs are available at www.recreation.gov.
April 19, 2011 - Oconaluftee Visitor Center Officially Dedicated
A crowd of over 200 people joined the staff and partners of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday, April 15, in dedicating the Park’s new 100% partner-funded Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The new 6,300 square-foot state-of-the-art center was constructed under a $3 million contract with Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) and was donated to the Park at Friday’s ceremony. The project also includes construction of a 1,700 square-foot fully-accessible restroom building and orientation kiosk which are open 24 hours a day. A second donation of $550,000 from the Friends of the Smokies funded the development and installation of the orientation and cultural themed exhibits and informational media. The new center is the first building ever constructed by the Park in North Carolina explicitly to serve as a visitor center. Prior to its completion, visitors entering the Smokies via the Cherokee, N.C. entrance were greeted in the lobby of a 1,700 square-foot facility which was constructed in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a ranger station and magistrate’s courtroom. Among the invited guests were five former CCC “boys”, now in their ‘80’s and ‘90’s, two of which participated in the construction of the former visitor center. The historic stone building lies just a few yards from the new center and will be used as a multi-purpose meeting space and offices for the visitor center staff. The new center, located 1.5 miles north of Cherokee, N.C. along Newfound Gap Road, is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.
February 18, 2011 - CLINGMANS DOME VISITOR CONTACT STATION
Great Smoky Mountains
National Park is recruiting volunteers to help staff the visitor
contact station at Clingmans Dome when it opens on Friday, April 1.
Last year, the building that had served as a comfort station since
the Civilian Conservation Corps era was renovated and converted into
a seasonal information center and bookstore/sales area managed by
Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA). The renovation project was
funded by GSMA. The center sits at an elevation of 6,300 feet and
will be a point source of information on the national park, in
general, and on this high elevation spruce-fir ecosystem in
particular. Volunteers are needed to assist in educating visitors
about the Park and providing recreational and trip planning
information and directions to other destinations.
February 18, 2011 - NEWFOUND GAP ROAD
across Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Newfound Gap Road
(U.S. 441) can expect to experience delays beginning March 1, 2011
when work begins to rehabilitate 2.4 miles of the road from the
North Carolina state line at Newfound Gap northward into Tennessee.
The work will be performed by Estes Brothers Construction, Inc. of
Jonesville, VA. under a $7.8 million contract with the Federal
Highway Administration. n addition to repaving that segment of the
road, the contractor will be repairing thousands of feet of stone
masonry retaining walls and several drainage culverts. At two
locations the retaining walls will require extensive re-construction
to support the roadbed, necessitating the closure of one lane
between March 1 and June 10, 2011. At the upper retaining wall
worksite, just above the Morton Overlook, flaggers will be used to
control traffic around the lane closure during daytime hours, from
8:00 a.m. until
February 4, 2011 - CATALOOCHEE CAMPGROUND
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced that the Cataloochee Campground in North Carolina will go live on Recreation.gov on February 9. Under this system, campers will be required to make advanced reservations to stay at the 27-site campground when it reopens for the season on March 11. Historically, the popular but remote campground operated on a first-come-first-served basis, but this method will no longer be used in the future. Normally, the national reservation system allows campers to make reservations up to six months in advance, but during this start up period, the reservation database for Cataloochee will not be active until February 9. On that date, people can make reservations for any date from March 11 (opening date) through August 9, a six month window. Each day after February 9, a new date, six months ahead, will become available. Reservations can be made either online at: www.recreation.gov or toll-free at 1-877-444-6777. The camping fee will be $20 per night which includes the contract costs for the reservation system and is the same as several other campgrounds in the Park with similar amenities.
January 26, 2011 - PARK VISITATION
During a year of weather
extremes, landslides, and major construction projects, Great Smoky
Mountains National Park visitation in Calendar Year 2010 pulled
through to match 2009 levels. Visitation through the Park’s three
main entrances and outlying areas in 2010 was 9,463,538, just
slightly below 2009, the Park’s 75th anniversary year which reported
PETS IN THE PARK
Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. The leash must not exceed 6 feet in length. Dogs are allowed on ONLY TWO short walking paths—the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other park trails. Pet excrement must be immediately collected by the pet handler and disposed of in a trash receptacle. Pets should not be left unattended in vehicles or RVs.
Large national parks that have extensive backcountry areas as a rule do not allow dogs on trails. These include parks such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Rocky Mountains, and several others. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has prohibited dogs in the backcountry since the park was first established in the 1930s. The park prohibits dogs on hiking trails for several reasons:
• Dogs, like raccoons and bear, are canines, and can carry disease into the park's wildlife populations.
• Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife, scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed.
• Dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness. Unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can disturb even the calmest, friendliest, and best-trained dog, causing them to behave unpredictably or bark excessively.
• Pets may become prey for larger predators such as coyotes and bears. In addition, if your dog disturbs a bear, it may lead the bear directly to you. Dogs can also encounter insects that bite and transmit disease and plants that are poisonous or full of painful thorns and burrs.
• Many people, especially children, are frightened by dogs, even small ones. Uncontrolled dogs can present a danger to other visitors.
Some public lands outside the Smokies offer a wider range of recreational opportunities than are available here, including hiking with your pet.
Reprinted with permission to KMG from National Park Service
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
is designated as an International Biosphere,
and is studied and appreciated by many people.
This park has a huge diversity of wildlife and plants,
and one can find a large variety of everything
depending on the elevation.
Every season in the park is special and inviting.
Turks Cap Lily, July
Great Smoky Mountain National Park,
Newfound Gap Road
Notice the lush near-tropical vegetation
around this lily, typical in summer.
The park is mostly in eastern Tennessee and partly in western North Carolina. Favorite destinations near the park are Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Townsend, Maryville, Knoxville, Sevierville, Wears Valley, and Cherokee. this park is in the Appalachian Mountains.
From Morton Overlook, July
Great Smoky Mountain National Park,
Newfound Gap Road
Notice the dense moving fog that
gives these mountains their name.
The first plants to turn color are poison ivy and sumacs. The last will be the weeping willows. Mid-September you can find fall color in the Smokies at the high elevations. Early to mid-October look for fall color in elevations over 4,000 feet. This elevation would be Clingman's Dome Road, Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Foothills Parkway. Fall color peak viewing times are mid-October through mid-November. If you are planning to go there in the fall for the colorful spectacle, make your reservations now, because that is one of the most popular times of the year at the Park.
What are those colors? Gingko turns clear yellow, while witch hazel, birch, redbud, hickory, and sugar maple turn yellow or gold. Other maples, oak, dogwood, and black tupelo may turn red or purple. Many oaks turn tan or brown.
From Newfound Gap Road, October
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
There are many trails in GSMNP, some strenuous, some moderate, and some easy. When setting out for a hike, make sure to plan to be back before dark. A lot of hikers can hike a trail 1 to 1 1/2 hours per mile, but many hikers are slower than that. Some people hike to see how far they can go in a day. Some people stop a lot, look at flowers, look at scenery, sit and talk, take pictures. Estimate how long it will take you, and have a watch with you. Being back before dark is very important because there is no dark like the pitch black dark in a forest. Trails that seem tame in daylight become treacherous after dark, when you cannot see the edge, or rocks and roots that may trip you, or animals that have good night vision. Also be aware that streams sometimes overflow, trees may block the way, rocks may slide without warning, and water is not good to drink in most places due to acid rain. Always have water with you.
Generally speaking, a 5-mile hike is considered a day hike to many people. Start early, take a lunch for later, bring water and a watch, and take along a small first aid kit just in case you should meet a hungry insect or scratch yourself on a rock. Hike with a buddy. Have a small flashlight. Be prepared for any kind of weather. Watch for wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets - if you hear a humming, leave the area. Watch for bears and snakes. Wear good sturdy shoes or boots!
Once you get through all that, enjoy the vistas, trees, wildflowers, and wildlife you can see only if you get out of the car and walk down a path or trail.
Below are some trails you may want to follow in this Park. Remember that pets are not allowed on ANY trails in this National Park. Keep in mind that you can hike any trail at any time but you don't have to hike the entire trail to see wonderful things. Don't let the length of the trail stop you from exploring the first mile!
Ramsey Cascades Trail - 8 miles round trip, 2000 feet gain
Gregory Ridge - 8 miles round trip, 3000 feet gain
Rich Mountain Trail - 8 miles loop trail, on the right before the Loop Road entrance, Cades Cove
Rainbow Falls Trail - 5.4 miles round trip, 1500 feet gain
Chimney Tops Trail - 4 miles round trip, very steep climb
Charlie's Bunyon Trail - 8 miles round trip
Abrams Trail - 5.0 miles round trip, Cades Cove area
Hen Wallow Falls Trail - 4.4 miles round trip, Cosby area
Alum Cave Bluffs Trail - 4.4 miles round trip, with some tricky rocky areas and footbridges
Andrews Bald Trail - 4.4 miles round trip, Clingmans Dome area
Mouse Creek Falls Trail - 4 miles round trip
Grotto Falls (Trillium Gap) Trail - 3 miles round trip, Roaring Forks area
Indian Creek/Toms Branch Falls Trail - 1.6 mile round trip, Deep Creek area
Juney Whank Falls Trail - .8 mile round trip, Deep Creek area
Mingo Falls Trail - .8 mile round trip
Laurel Falls Trail - 2.5 miles round trip, paved
Cades Cove Nature Trail - 2.0 miles, Cades Cove area
Cooper Road Trail - Cades Cove area
ROADS FOR DRIVING TOURS
Where are the best roads for touring in this Park?
DRIVING TOUR: Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail
In Gatlinburg, go to Traffic Light # 8 and turn right to get into this area. This is a narrow winding one-way road full of places to park, trails to explore, and old homesteads and cabins to see. The Bud Ogle place has a walking loop trail behind it that is also a good wildflower spot. Roaring Forks is a quiet place, and off the beaten path. A short hike down a trail will take you far away from traffic and noise. You will hear many birds, but they are not easily seen. If you stand still for a while, you will begin to see them in the brush, or flying back and forth across your path. The lower paved road leads you past oaks and maples and tulip poplar trees, and later, the higher elevations will be lined with hemlocks. In one spot, at a large pullout, a few steps up a trail plunges you into a grove of mountain laurel - when you find this in the spring and in bloom, it is like nothing you have ever seen before; you are surrounded by layer upon layer of pink and white blooms. "Grotto Falls" is accessible by a 1.3 mile hike off this paved road. Another spot is called "Place of the Thousand Drips" which is a multi-layered delicate waterfall on the side of the road, nearing the end of your journey. Roaring Forks can best be described as "pink blossoms" in spring, "green mansions" in summer, and "autumn lights" in fall. We have seen black bear, whitetail deer, and raccoons in this place. This area can be enjoyed either on foot or in your car. Take care and follow the rules: no speeding, watch out for the edge of the road, and do not take any rv's, trailers, or buses on this road - it is simply too narrow. This road is closed to vehicles during the winter, and usually re-opens around March 10.
Place of the Thousand Drips, July
Great Smoky Mountain National Park,
Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail
This Park is home to many waterfalls.
DRIVING TOUR: The Loop Road in Cades Cove
After entering the park from Townsend way, turn right at the Wye and go to Cades Cove. Take the 11-mile Loop Road around the cove. If Roaring Forks is the road less traveled, the Loop Road is rush-hour traffic! If you are in a hurry, do not do this road. It takes a good 3 hours to do it all, and do it properly, and better to devote most of a day here. The loop area is known for wildlife sitings, including black bear, whitetail deer, coyote, pileated woodpecker, wild turkeys, and we have seen them all here at one time or other. There are two gravel roads that you can shorten this loop by taking, Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane. There is a wonderful visitors center at the back, set in with pioneer buildings and a mill. There is a large restroom here and lots of parking. It makes a nice break from the Loop. There are pastures in the middle where you may see the horses, and where deer and turkeys are easy to spot - if there are there. The best times of day to see wildlife are just after dawn and right before dusk. At the end of the loop, turn right to go to the Cades Cove Campground Store to stock up on what you need for your campsite, or to get souvenirs and refreshments. There are several trails leading off the loop. Visit National Park Service Website to read about trails in the park. There are too many for us to mention here. In the summer you will see bull thistle blooming in the cove, with butterflies flitting from flower to flower. You will also find a lot of spring flowers here such as dogwood and hearts-a-busting. Mountain mint grows on Hyatt Lane, and near one of the churches you will find Passion Flower in the summer. There is always something to see here for the patient traveler. And you can see it from your car or on foot or bicycle. The Loop Road is closed to vehicles on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. to give wildlife a break. The Loop Road is open all year, although when icy conditions prevail getting in and out of the cove can be tricky. Always check the National Park Service website when planning a trip.
Blackberries for Bears and Other Animals
Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
Cades Cove is home to many different
types of natural foods such as
berries, nuts, grasses, leaves,
flowers, insects, hive honey, fungi,
small mammals and amphibians,
fruits, and plants.
IMPORTANT PARK PLANS:
Click here to read about progress in the Cades Cove Plan - how access to the Cove may change in the future. http://www.cadescoveplanning.com/
Click here to read about progress in the Elkmont Historic District Plan http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?parkId=382&projectId=15794
Click here to read about the Proposed North Shore Road
Click here to read about the Tremont Development Plan
DRIVING TOUR: Clingman's Dome Road
This is a must-see 7-mile paved road. This road turns off past Newfoundland Gap on the trans-mountain highway going toward Cherokee from Gatlinburg. It takes you to Clingman's Dome, a very high vantage from which you can see forever if you climb to the top of the tower. For the less-than-physical traveler, drive this road slowly and enjoy the scenery. In the spring, you will find fringed phacelia growing like a white carpet on the right side of the road in a couple of areas. On the left, heading toward the dome, will be a barely noticeable trail marker for "Spruce-Fir Nature Trail." This is a very different type of trail for this park, owing to its higher elevation, and it is an easy trail. It winds through a spruce and fir forest. There are huge boulders of milky white quartz here. There is moss, and wild hydrangea, and a couple of different kinds of trillium, and also yellow beaded lily growing in profusion. This trail is very quiet. You can experience sudden changing weather up here though; you may begin your walk in sunshine only to find a cloud of dense fog rolling in as you begin your trek back to the road. You may be in a sudden shower before you know it. There are some muddy spots on this trail, but you can easily hop from root to rock to avoid the wet spots. There are a lot of little birds living in there, and when you are still, they begin to hop around and talk to each other. We have seen groundhogs along the side of the Dome Road too, but they have an aversion to having their picture taken. They always disappear into their holes just when you try to lift the camera to get a shot. Further up on the left before you get to the dome paved trail will be a huge parking lot and a view of the dying fir trees that were wiped out by an insect name the wooly adelgid. Clingman's Dome, on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line is over 6,600 feet and is the highest place in this park and in Tennessee. In fact, it is the highest spot on the Appalachian Trail. This road is closed to vehicles December - April due to icy conditions, but can be hiked or cycled if you are brave and sturdy. Clingman's Dome Road usually re-opens to vehicles around April 1.
These are only a few places to explore in this beautiful park. We will be updating this section of the website periodically so check back often!
Where can I go camping in this Park?
There are many campsites here. Most range in elevation from 1100 feet to 2600 feet, although Balsam Mountain Campground is at 5300 feet. The Cades Cove Campground features a Ranger Station, Ampitheatre, Bicycle Rental, Horseback Riding Stables, Campground Store, many Nature Trails, Pioneer Cabins and Churches, and an 11-mile paved one-way Loop Road. The Store sells souvenirs, DVDs, foods including hot dogs, soft serve ice cream, snacks, beverages, and assorted sundries.
Frontcountry campsites for 2010 for most families are:
Cades Cove - 159 sites, open all year, $17-20, up to 40 feet RV
Elkmont - 220 sites, Mar. 7-Nov. 30, $17-23, trailers 32 feet, motor homes 35 feet
Smokemont - 142 sites, Mar. 7-Dec. 31, $17-20, trailers 35 feet, motor homes 40 feet
Look Rock - 68 sites, May 9-Oct. 31, $14, no size limit
Abrams Creek -16 sites, Mar. 7-Oct. 31, $14, up to 12 feet RV
Balsam Mountain - 46 sites, May 9-Oct. 14, $14, up to 30 feet RV
Cataloochee - 27 sites, Mar. 7-Oct. 31, $17, up to 31 feet RV
Deep Creek -92 sites, Apr. 1-Oct. 31, $17, up to 26 feet RV
Big Creek -12 sites, Mar. 7-Oct. 31, $12, no RVs
Cosby -165 sites, Mar. 7-Oct. 31, $14, up to 25 feet RV
You can make a reservation at Cades Cove, Smokemont, and Elkmont only for the period May 15 through October 31; sites can be reserved up to 5 months in advance. All frontcountry campsites have running cold water, toilets that flush, picnic tables, and fire grates for cooking; however, there are no showers.
There are also seven areas for group camping, tents only, (no RVs or trailers) for 8 or more people in one group, reservations only. Check with the Park Service at www.nps.gov/grsm/campingandother for information and phone numbers (1-800-365-2267).
Backcountry campsites are for backpackers only. Free backcountry permits are required as well as reservations for the shelters and 14 of the tent areas. For backcountry reservations call (865) 436-1231. For questions about backcountry camping (not reservations) call (865) 436-1297.
Click on the Ranger Hat for more information!
Support Great Smoky Mountains National Park by joining:
"Great Smoky Mountains Association" www.smokiesstore.org
"Friends of the Smokies" www.friendsofthesmokies.org
"Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont" www.gsmit.org
Click here for maps of this park http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/maps.htm
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
VISITING TOWNSEND, TENNESSEE
TOWNSEND, TENNESSEE - Close to Cades Cove
Check out these places in Townsend on the main highway when you visit:
> Motels: EconoLodge, Tally-Ho Inn, and Highland Manor Motel http://econolodgetownsend.com/
> Cabins: Townsend View Cabins http://www.townsendviewcabinrentals.com/
> Bed and Breakfast Inn: Dancing Bear Lodge (formerly Maple Leaf Lodge)
> Camping: Little River Village Campground, Tuckaleechee Campground, Big Meadow Family Campground
> Musical Instruments and Back Porch Concerts: Wood 'N' Strings Dulcimer Shop
> Food: The Carriage House Restaurant (make reservations for their Thanksgiving Buffet), The Back Porch Restaurant, Timbers Restaurant, Heath and Kettle Restaurant, Little River Village Campground Store/Cafe, the Village Market (at BP gas station)
> Coffee and Smoothies: A.J.'s Coffee House (at the Village Market complex)
> Smoky Mountain Books, Calendars, DVDs: Townsend Visitors Center for GSMNP
> Natural Attractions: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tuckaleechee Caverns
> Museum: Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
> Fishing Gear: Little River Outfitters
> Woodcarvers and Craftsmen: Nauger Nob Complex
> Quilts, Fudge, and Gifts: Apple Valley Farm
> Framed Wildlife Prints and other Smoky Mountain Collectibles: Dogwood Mall
TOWNSEND, TENNESSEE - Where to find CoveBear DVDs
> Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center - see their Native American artifacts and pioneer cabin!
> Wood 'N' Strings Dulcimer Shop - a must see and hear, check out their nighttime back porch concerts in summer! http://www.clemmerdulcimer.com/
> Carriage House Restaurant - usually closed in the winter, great Sunday Buffet the rest of the year - ask for bear DVDs!
> Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center at Townsend - lots of info about the Smokies! - ask for bear DVDs!
VISITING GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE
GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE - Close to Roaring Forks and Sugarlands
Check out these places in Gatlinburg when you visit:
> Motels: Clarion Hotel, Bearskin Lodge on the River, Auntie Belham's Cabins
> Nature Stores: The Rock Shop, The Happy Hiker, Aquarium of the Smokies
> Gifts: The Maples Tree, The Woodcarvers, . . . and tons more!
> "The Village Shops" Outdoor Mall including: The Honey Pot, The Happy Hiker, Simply Animals, The Donut Friar, Decorium, Jordan's Village Creamery, Desserts & More Cafe, U Name It, The Hayloft, The Silver Tree, Christalix, The Christmas Tree, Taylor Girls, Candle Cottage, Life According to Jake, The Lamplight Gallery, Hills Creek Collection, Another Me Clothier, Thomas Kinkade Gallery, Smoky Mountain Babies, Verbenas, Cartoons & Toys, Celtic Heritage, Coffee & Company, The Cheese Cupboard, and The Hofbrauhaus Restaurant
> "Mountain Mall" Indoor Shopping including: Black Bear Tea Company, Aunt Mahalia's Candy, Big Dog Sportswear, Pepper Palace, Book Warehouse, J's Leather, Bearskin Craft Shop, Lavi's Jewelry, Paws and Claws Pet Fashion, Old Castle Toy Company, New York Pizza
> "Calhoun's Village" Outdoor Shopping Mall including: many gift shops behind the restaurant
> "Baskins Square Mall" Outdoor Shopping Mall including: Guinness World Records Museums, Mountain Woodcarvers, Little Sparrow Gallery, Scents of Gatlinburg, Terri Waters Gallery, and more
> Pottery: Alewine Pottery on Glades Road in the Arts and Crafts Community
> Lamps: Smoky Mountain Illuminations on Powermill Road in the Arts and Crafts Community
> Food: Calhoun's, The Lamplighter Inn, The Peddler, Texas Roadhouse, Bubba Gump
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