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» National Parks List

Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
North Carolina - Tennessee

great smoky mountains

The most popular of all of America's national parks is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park stretches for seventy miles along the Tennessee - North Carolina border, and is just two miles south of Gatlinburg on US-441. Don't expect immediate tranquility, however: the roads can be lined almost bumper-to-bumper with cars, especially in the fall.

The Smokies have the distinct advantage of being within a day's drive of two-thirds of the entire US population; as result, they are visited by over nine million visitors every year. These heavily contorted peaks are named for the bluish haze that hangs over them, made up of moisture and hydrocarbons released by the lush vegetation of this region. More than 120 tree species and over 1400 flowering plants color the meadows from early spring to late fall. Sixteen peaks rise above 6000 ft.

Just inside the park, Sugarlands Bistor Center provides information about hiking trails, driving tours, forests and wildlife. From here, a ten mile drive rises to Newfound Gap, where a seven mile road winds its way to Clingman's Dome. At 6643 ft, this is the highest point in the park and in all of Tennessee. A concrete spiral walkway affords a panoramic view of the mountains.

The most popular times to visit are between late March to mid May. During this time, the hills are shrouded in a canopy of glaring reds, subtle yellows and faded browns. During June and July, rhododendrons blaze fiercely in the summer heat.

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