Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In A Nutshell

Getting to Great Smoky Mountains

The beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the southern entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. U.S. 441, known in the park as Newfound Gap Road, is a high mountain road that cuts across the ridge near the center of the park, providing outstanding scenic views. 

Car: From the north, take I-40 from Knoxville, Tennessee (about 25 miles away), to U.S. 66 at exit 407, then U.S. 441 South to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Drive two miles south on U.S. 441 to Park Headquarters and Sugarlands Visitor Center. Travel Tip: Traffic along these U.S. Highways is often choked by holiday and weekend travelers resulting in delays of one or more hours. Consider using U.S. 321 from I-40 at exit 435 in Newport in order to avoid this congestion.

From the south, take U.S. 441 North to Cherokee, North Carolina, then drive two miles north on U.S. 441 to Oconaluftee Visitor Center. 

From the west, take U.S. 129 South to Maryville, Tennessee, then take U.S. 321 North to Townsend, Tennessee, and then on to the park's west entrance. Drive west about seven miles through the park to Cades Cove. 

From the east, take I-40 West from Asheville, North Carolina (about 40 miles away), to U.S. 19, then U.S. 441 to the park's southern entrance near Cherokee, North Carolina. Or, you may take the Foothills Parkway from I-40 at exit #443, then U.S. 321 into Gatlinburg and the Park Headquarters and Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Air: McGhee-Tyson Airport (TYS), the nearest major airport to the park, is located 45 miles west of Gatlinburg, between Knoxville and Alcoa, Tennessee. The Asheville Airport is south of Asheville, North Carolina, and about 60 miles east of the park. The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Aviation Center (GKT) is located 12 miles north of the park in Sevierville and serves private aircraft. 

Bus: There is no public bus service to the park. However, Rocky Top Tours in Gatlinburg provides bus tours of the park for parties of 10 or more and operates shuttle service from McGhee-Tyson Airport to Gatlinburg.

Train: Amtrak service is not available to the area. The nearest rail station is 115 miles southeast in Greenville, South Carolina.

Getting Around the Park

Travel through the park by automobile, by bicycle or on foot. The city of Gatlinburg trolley service operates a daily shuttle, June to October, to three popular locations in the park. The service runs between downtown Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Laurel Falls Trail and Elkmont Campground at minimal cost to the rider.

General Information

The park is open daily, year-round. Newfound Gap Road sometimes closes due to winter storms while Clingmans Dome Road is closed in winter. Entrance to the park is free!

If you plan to visit other parks or public lands in the area consider purchasing the America the Beautiful—National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass which is available to the general public for $80 and provides access to Federal recreation sites that charge entrance fees for one year, beginning from the date of sale. The pass admits the pass holder and up to three additional adult passengers in a non-commercial vehicle (children under 16 are admitted free). The pass can be obtained in person at the park, by calling (888) ASK USGS or visit www.parkpass.net. Lifetime passes are available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are age 62 or over ($10 Senior Pass) or those with permanent disabilities (free with the required documentation). For information visit www.parkpass.net.

Weather

Always be prepared for changes in weather by dressing in layers and carrying rain gear. Higher elevations in the park are cooler. Late spring and early fall bring mild days and cool nights, with temperatures in the low 70ºF during the day and mid-40s at night. Summers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are warm and humid. At lower elevations, high temperatures range from 55—90ºF. At higher elevations, high temperatures are in the low 50ºF to the mid-60sºF. Winter is often cold, dropping below zero at higher elevations, and occasionally snowy. Rain falls frequently throughout the year, while March and July are usually the wettest months. 

Park Visitor Centers

At the two main visitor centers, Sugarlands and Oconaluftee, helpful park rangers are on hand to answer questions and provide information on roads, weather, camping, backcountry conditions, free backcountry camping permits and first aid. Ranger-guided walks, maps and books are available at all visitor centers. Sugarlands, Oconaluftee and Cades Cove visitor centers are all open year-round. For more information, please call the park's main number, (865) 436-1200.

Sugarlands Visitor Center is located near the park's main, northern entrance, two miles south of Gatlinburg along Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441). An orientation film provides an in-depth look at the Smokies and the many recreational opportunities that are offered. Natural history exhibits include mounted specimens of park animals in re-creations of their habitats and reproductions of journals kept by the first park naturalists. -

Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located at the park's main southern entrance, two miles north of Cherokee on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441). The exhibits focus on human history. -

Cades Cove Visitor Center is located off U.S. 321, about 12 miles southwest of Townsend, Tennessee. The visitor center, which is situated among numerous preserved 19th-century farms and historic buildings, emphasizes the cultural history of the Smokies. A bookstore and information on programs and services are provided. There is no telephone service. 

Several tourism information centers outside the park provide national park information in partnership with the National Park Service and features Great Smoky Mountains Association-managed bookstoresGatlinburg Welcome Center is on U.S. 441, better known as "The Spur," at the entrance to Gatlinburg. 

  Sevierville Visitors Center - 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Kodak, Tenn.

  Townsend Visitors Center - 7906 East Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, Tenn.

Historical Exhibits and Demonstrations

Most park historical exhibits and structures are located in the areas listed below. The National Park Service maintains historical cabins, farmhouses and churches in Cades Cove, which is a valley in the western area of the park. Living history demonstrations are held here spring through fall. Cataloochee Valley, once the largest settlement in the Smokies, is found in the southeast area of the park. Barns, churches, a school and many cabins are preserved. Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee Visitor Center is a group of farm buildings moved from other areas of the park. Park employees in period clothes reenact mountain life spring through fall. Mingus Mill near Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Cable Mill near Cades Cove Visitor Center are operating, water-powered gristmills. You will find other historic sites along Cherokee Orchard Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Special Services -

Park activities and facilities that are fully accessible to visitors with disabilities are indicated throughout the guide by the - symbol.

Services: Printed scripts of the park film for hearing-impaired visitors and park orientation audiocassettes for visually impaired visitors are available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Inquire at visitor centers or ranger stations for parking permits for visitors with disabilities.

Facilities: The Oconaluftee, Sugarlands and Cades Cove visitor centers are wheelchair-accessible and have restrooms that are wheelchair- accessible. Additional accessible restrooms and picnic sites are located at the Chimney Tops, Cosby, Metcalf Bottoms, Big Creek, Cades Cove and Collins Creek picnic areas. 

Cades Cove, Elkmont and Smokemont campgrounds are wheelchair- accessible. Reservations for a wheelchair-accessible site can be made by calling (877) 444-6777). Level sites are located adjacent to accessible restrooms. First-come, first-served accessible campsites are at Big Creek, Cosby and Deep Creek.

Trails: Walks near Cades Cove, Oconaluftee and Sugarlands visitor centers are best suited for wheelchairs. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is specifically designed to accommodate visitors with disabilities. For more information, inquire at visitor centers, call (865) 436-1200 or consult Access America Guide to the Eastern National Parks, available at bookstores.

Visitor Services

Banking Services: Banks in the gateway cities of Gatlinburg, Townsend and Cherokee have 24-hour automated teller machines, foreign currency exchange and other services. 

Camping and Picnic Supplies: Limited picnic and camping supplies are available at Cades Cove Campground. You will find a complete selection at numerous stores in the gateway communities near the park.

Emergencies: For fire or police emergencies, call (865) 436-9171. After regular business hours, call (865) 436-5181 for the Gatlinburg police or (828) 497-4131 for the Cherokee police. For medical emergencies, first-aid facilities are available at Park Headquarters and visitor centers. Medical emergency services are available at the following: Ft. Sanders—Sevier Medical Center, (865) 453-7111, located on Middle Creek Road in Sevierville, Tennessee, 15 miles north of Gatlinburg; Blount Memorial Hospital, (865) 983-7211, on Highway 321 in Maryville, Tennessee, 25 miles north of Cades Cove; and also at Swain County Hospital, (828) 488-2155, in Bryson City, North Carolina, 10 miles southeast of Oconaluftee Visitor Center. For emergency messages, please contact the park communications office at (865) 436-1230. The names of people with emergency messages waiting for them are posted at visitor centers or campgrounds. 

Gift Shops: Postcards, publications, and video and audiotapes are on sale at visitor centers. Many shops selling a variety of gifts, including native crafts, are found in gateway communities.

Kennels: The nearest kennels are in Pigeon Forge; Sevierville, Tennessee; and in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Lost and Found: Report lost items and turn in found items at visitor centers or contact Park Headquarters, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; (865) 436-1217 

Postal Services: Visitor centers have mailboxes, but they do not sell postage stamps. Post offices are found in gateway communities. 

Religious Services: In the summer, the Christian Ministry of the National Parks sponsors nondenominational Christian worship services on Sundays at several locations.

Service Stations: Gas, diesel fuel and repair services are available in Gatlinburg at the park's main northern entrance, in Townsend, Tennessee, and at the park's main southern entrance in Cherokee, North Carolina. If your car breaks down on the road, contact a park ranger or call the park's dispatch at (865) 436-1230.