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EXPLORE AMERICA: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall color at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fall color at Great Smoky Mountains National Park


When the glaciers pushed south during the Ice Age, many species of plants and animals moved into the Smoky Mountains area. Beyond the reach of the ice sheets, the varying elevations provided many different habitats for thousands of species of birds, plants, and animals. Now designated an International Biosphere Reserve, Great Smoky When the glaciers pushed south during the Ice Age, many species of plants and animals moved into the Smoky Mountains area. Beyond the reach of the ice sheets, the varying elevations provided many different habitats for thousands of species of birds, plants, and animals. Now designated an International Biosphere Reserve, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, preserves a unique combination of environments that have hosted not only diverse flora and fauna but also diverse groups of people. The Cherokee Indians lived here for at least a thousand years before being displaced in the 19th century. In their place, early settlers established homesteads and villages among the mist-shrouded valleys and hills. In the early 20th century, the logging industry began stripping the forest of its vast stands of timber.

To save the remainder of the forestland, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created in 1934. North Carolina and Tennessee purchased the land from the residents and logging companies, then turned it over to the National Park Service. Now, more than nine million visitors a year enjoy more than 500,000 acres of wilderness. You should plan to spend at least a day here, and you could spend up to a week exploring the hidden nooks of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are two basic ways to see the highlights of the park: from your car, or from over 800 miles of hiking trails. Stretching between the Sugarlands and Oconaluftee Visitor Centers through the center of the park, the Newfound Gap Road allows drivers to view splendid mountain vistas, picnic underneath stands of old growth forest, and spot birds and wildlife along the way. Frequent roadside stops encourage stepping out for a longer look over the ridges or a short walk through the woods. Some side roads take you through major cultural areas such as Cades Cove, once a thriving mountain community. Original historic structures and pleasant meadows punctuate this 11-mile loop in the western end of the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina. The mailing address is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Telephone 865-436-1200. http://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/ putmanphoto

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Comments
  1. William Britten

    I live near the Smoky Mountains and love it! Travelers using your article above might consider stopping in for a visit at my gallery of Smoky Mountains Photography on Glades Rd on the Arts and Crafts Loop in Gatlinburg.