101 Things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Written by

Jason Barnette


September 15, 2017

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COVID-19 has changed the world. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit areas of the global pandemic. Local restaurants, museums, state and national parks have all changed hours of operation, procedures, and some have gone out of business altogether.

Please verify current operations of any places you want to visit mentioned in these articles, and contact me if a business has permanently closed so I can update the article. Thank you and stay safe out there!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in the country for a good reason: there are countless things to do spread across two states and thousands of acres. But sometimes it can be difficult to pick just one thing to do in the park. Other times you may find yourself in a rut doing the same thing over and over. So here I have created a list of 101 things to don in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to give you a little inspiration, a lot of suggestions, and maybe help you create your next adventure.

The Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee Visitor Center is a nice place to explore, especially early in the mornings.

1. Visit the Cable Mill at Cades Cove

2. Watch a Black Bear in a Tree

3. Visit the Look Rock Observation Tower

4. Stop by the Clingmans Dome Visitor Center

5. Bring Your Own Horses to a Horse Campground

6. Spend a Weekend at an Off the Beaten Path Campground

7. Tour Inside the Historic Buildings

8. Look for Wild Turkeys in the Park

9. Visit Mingus Mill

10. Go Tubing at Deep Creek

Sunsets from the Morton Overlook are almost always stunning.

11. Visit the Elkmont Historic District

12. Enjoy the View at a Scenic Overlook Along Clingmans Dome Road

13. Leave No Trace Behind

14. Admire Meigs Falls From the Comfort of Your Car

15. Take the Long Hike to Chimney Tops

16. Arrive in June or July for Blooming Rhododendron

17. Spend a Night Camping in the Backcountry

18. Stop By the Sugarlands Visitor Center

19. Visit the Historic Churches of Cades Cove

20. Get Up Early to Watch Fog on the Mountains

There are lots of waterfalls in the park ranging from easy hikes to what in the world was I thinking hikes. Grotto Falls is an easy one.

21. Visit One of the Quiet Walkways

22. Spend a Weekend at a Campground

23. Visit the Tunnel to Nowhere

24. Find the Place of a Thousand Drips on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

25. Go Shopping at One of the Gift Shops

26. Stop by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center

27. Make a Donation to Help the Park

28. Look Up While Hiking a Trail in the Forest

29. Visit in the Fall for the Autumn Colors

30. Visit a New Section of the Park

Watch sunsets from the top of the world, or at least the top of Tennessee, at Clingman’s Dome.

31. Walk the Nature Loop Trail at Cosby

32. Watch the Deer Grazing in a Field

33. Volunteer to Help the Park

34. Hike the Lakeshore Trail Around Fontana Lake

35. Spend a Night at Le Conte Lodge

36. Visit the Twentymile Area

37. Visit the Remote Cataloochee Valley

38. Spend a Day Fishing

39. Pull Up a Chair During Sunset

40. Go For a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride in Cades Cove

Most evenings about an hour before sunset the elk will wander into the large field beside the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

41. Go for a Scenic Drive on Little River Road

42. Take a One-Way Road Leaving the Park

43. Hike the Alum Cave Trail

44. Enjoy the View at a Scenic Overlook Along Newfound Gap Road

45. Stop by the Cades Cove Visitor Center

46. Enjoy the Cascades and Waterfalls on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

47. Hike the Appalachian Trail Through the Park

48. Book a Guided Tour of the Park

49. Pick Up a National Park Passport at a Gift Shop

50. Take a Day Trip into the Park

Spotting a black bear is always a thrill, but mind the park rules and be safe!

51. Pick Up Maps and Brochures at a Visitor Center

52. Learn About the History of The Sinks

53. Hike the Summit of Mount Le Conte

54. Enjoy a Ranger-Led Program

55. Hike to Grotto Falls

56. Walk the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

57. Discover Small, Hidden Waterfalls

58. Watch a Sunset in Cades Cove

59. Explore the Mountain Farm Museum

60. Go Horseback Riding in the Park

Fall is a great time to visit the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

61. Enjoy a Picnic at the Chimney Tops Picnic Area

62. Arrive Early for a Sunrise View

63. Hike to Ramsey Cascades

64. Buy a Book About the Park at a Gift Shop

65. Go for a Bicycle Ride Through the Park

66. Enjoy a Quiet Bicycle Ride on a Wednesday Morning in Cades Cove

67. Hike to Abrams Falls

68. Hike to Laurel Falls

69. Visit the Greenbrier Area

70. Visit Cataract Falls Behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center

The Foothills Parkway is a lesser-known area of the park with stunning views.

71. Spend a Winter Weekend at Cades Cove or Smokemont Campground

72. Hike to Tom Branch Falls in Deep Creek

73. Watch a Sunset at Clingmans Dome

74. Let the Kids Splash Around at Grotto Falls

75. Spend a Day at Cades Cove

76. Hike to Rainbow Falls

77. Arrive in the Spring for the Flame Azaleas and Mountain Laurel

78. Visit in the Spring for the Blooming Wildflowers

79. Watch the Llamas Carrying Supplies to Le Conte Lodge

80. Spread Out a Blanket for a Picnic in Cades Cove

The Cable Mill in Cades Cove is a popular place to visit all year, but especially during the autumn colors.

81. Go for a Scenic Drive on Newfound Gap Road

82. Visit in the Summer for the Warmer Weather

83. Watch a Sunset at the Morton Overlook

84. Witness the Synchronized Fire Flies Event

85. Look for Elk at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center

86. Enjoy the View From the Clingmans Dome Parking Area

87. Enjoy One of the Trails Around Clingmans Dome

88. Visit Newfound Gap Scenic Overlook

89. Collect All the National Park Passport Stamps for the Park

90. Watch Mingus Mill or Cable Mill in Action

Cades Cove is one of the most popular and iconic destinations in the park.

91. Drive the Foothills Parkway

92. Spend a Night at the Mile High Campground (Balsam Mountain)

93. Look For the Chimneys on the Little River Trail

94. Visit in the Winter for the Snow

95. Take a Leisurely Walk Through Daisy Town

96. Snag a Selfie at the Entrance Sign

97. Visit an Historic Cabin

98. Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

99. Stay Late to Count the Stars

100. Visit Clingmans Dome

101. Visit all 18 Waterfalls in the Park

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4 Responses

    1. Haha! That’s amazing! Congratulations. You know with all the time I have spent in that national park I don’t think I’ve ever seen a marriage proposal. But I’ve seen lots and lots of pre-wedding portraits.

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