You haven’t had the true Smoky Mountain experience unless you get off the Gatlinburg Parkway and into the woods. There is so much splendor to see in the over 500,000 acres comprising The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With so many areas waiting to be explored it’s hard to decide which sights to include on your trip. I’ve picked five Smoky Mountain sights that are exceptional and true highlights of the area.
1) Cades Cove: An-11 mile loop surrounds the meandering valleys and climbing mountains of Cades Cove. Preserved as a reminder of the 19th century, there are historic barns, log cabins and churches in all their wild glory. Wildlife is abundant in the area so keep an eye out for deer, turkeys, and even bears.
2) Clingman’s Dome: At an elevation of 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Smokies. It’s also the third highest east of the Mississippi River, earning it a place on our list. A half-mile paved trail takes you to an observation tower, where on a clear day you can see over 100 miles in each direction.
3) Roaring Fork: Options abound at the Roaring Fork nature area. You can drive the 6-mile one-way loop and view the rushing mountain streams and cascades, glimpses of growth forests, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic buildings. Trailheads for Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls are found here, too. Rainbow Falls is a top Smoky Mountain experience and one of the most rewarding hikes you can go on.
4) Deep Creek: Hikers, mountain bikers and fisherman flock to Deep Creek. An area known for its many waterfalls and streams, the setting creates a lush, green paradise just waiting to be discovered. View beautiful Deep Creek Falls, and then head out on one of three hikes: Whank Falls (0.6 mile), Three Waterfalls Loop (2.4 miles), and Deep Creek-Indian Creek Loop (4.4 miles). Mountain bikers can take advantage of one of the few park trails where bicycles are permitted. Anglers can cast their reel and see if they can catch a Smoky Mountain trout.
5) Newfound Gap Road: The mountains of the Smokies created a landscape difficult to traverse. At an elevation of 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, created in 1932. Travel this road to sightsee and marvel at the many mountains, variety of forests, deep valleys and spectacular scenery only available in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.