U.S. National Parks have become one of Americans’ favorite stomping grounds across the country.

Some of the most stunning sites in the world don’t require a passport and can make for an amazing road trip.

As we have become accustomed to staying within our own 4 walls at home in recent years, National Parks are the perfect excuse to get some fresh air and take in beautiful sights.

As the calendar has now flipped over to spring, more and more people find themselves flocking to parks to witness the incredible superbloom of wildflowers.

But one U.S. National Park holds the title for most visited throughout the year and that would be the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Here are 7 reasons why this is the most visited National Park in the U.S.:

Road Trips

scenic road through the great smoky mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains are expansive to say the least and perfect for exploring the old-fashioned way on 4 wheels through some of America’s finest backroads.

Spreading across Tennessee and North Carolina, there are plenty of entryways to begin or end your trip through this vast area.

As 2024 is the year road trips are making a comeback, the ‘Smokies’ are perfect for a solo trip, family vacations, or a fun outing with friends, especially by taking the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Fun, Trendy Cities

asheville skyline at sunset

Asheville, NC used to be one of America’s best kept secrets, but this now trendy mountainous city is still a blast to visit and just so happens to be a short drive to access the heart of the Smokies.

With a booming beer scene, a thriving arts community, and beautiful hikes throughout, Asheville is a must-stop, or better yet, an entry point to the National Park.

Although not as trendy as Asheville, Knoxville, TN is perhaps the most conveniently located sizable city for easy access to the mountains.

This fun, prideful college town offers more than jam-packed football games. Historic Gay Street, dating back to the 1790s, and Downtown’s revamped Market Square will rock your socks off with trendy restaurants and rooftop bars.

Of course, it wouldn’t be right to visit Tennessee skimping on the whiskey scene. Knoxville is just the place, but remember to be responsible for avoiding telling everyone, “You’re the only ten I see.” Classic.

Pigeon Forge

the island in pigeon forge

Tucked away at the foothills of the Smokies is a fun resort getaway with theme parks and outdoor adventures.

Dollywood anchors the area for tourism, while name-brand resorts like Margaritaville lead the way for hotels, along with cozy cottage rentals on the outskirts.

No matter the season, Pigeon Forge is a playground for all ages with endless shopping and attractions and a key reason why the Smoky Mountains have skyrocketed in popularity with 13.3 million visitors.

Hike Through Stunning Scenery

cabin in cade's cove of great smoky mountains

There’s no doubt the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is beautiful, but it’s not just for road trips.

Fishing, camping, ziplinging, and even whitewater rafting are fun activities in the Smokies, yet hiking is what’s super popular as the park offers an extensive network of trails ranging from beginners to why am I doing this?!.

While Cade’s Cove tops many Smoky lovers’ lists, according to the National Park Service, the top 5 most popular hikes are:

  • Charlies Bunion
  • Alum Cave Bluffs
  • Andrews Bald
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Chimney Tops

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

abrams falls in great smoky mountains

You may have heard not to go chasing waterfalls, but the Great Smoky Mountains is the exception to the rule.

While the Smokies are surely not Niagara Falls per se, there are plenty of scenic falls to chase well worth the trek.

Over 200,000 visitors to the park to see waterfalls, with Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, and Rainbow topping the list.

Since the park receives over 85 inches of rain each year, park guests benefit as the falls are gorgeous and flowing year-round.

The Highest Peak

clingman's dome viewpoint of great smoky mountains

There are a variety of ways to experience the Smokies, but if you pass up the chance to take in the views from Clingmans Dome, you are missing out!

Rising 6,643 feet, the observation deck is undoubtedly the best place in the Smokies for photo-ops and to simply take it all in as clear days offer views spanning 100 miles during the day and can be perfect for stargazing at night.

While there are trails that lead here, road trippers can drive here and park on-site at Tennessee’ s highest peak. Just check the National Park Service website for seasonal road closures.

The Charm Of Gatlinburg – The Gateway To The Smokies

gatlinburg tn at night

Last but not least, the charming town of Gatlinburg proudly beholds the slogan, “Mountain Strong”, as this tight-knit community is the perfect gateway into the Smokies.

What this small town lacks in size, it packs a punch with fun attractions surrounded by gorgeous scenery like the town’s Space Needle tower.

Dispersed through the outskirts of Gatlinburg are cabins to rent, scenic hikes, and thrills like the Moonshine Mountain Coaster and Wild Bear Falls Water Park.

Those looking to explore the outdoors should start in Gatlinburg with a plethora of cascades and waterfalls to choose from, along with scenic hikes and zip-lines for thrill-seekers.

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