Spanning across two different states, North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of only two NPs in the United States with multiple states to call home. The other of course is Yellowstone, which actually is in three different states. Nature is key in the Great Smoky Mountains, as the name subtly suggests, bears and a variety of other animal species live in this wondrous national park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is actually the most visited National Park in America, despite a lot of speculation that the Grand Canyon would hold that title. One can only wonder the real reason for this, but it could definitely be a direct result of the fact that this is one of the few parks that really feels like nature.
When can I visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
The park itself is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Different areas of the park may be closed off during certain time periods for weather reasons or maintenance, things like roads, campsites, and visitor centers.
Cades Cove Visitor Center
There are three main visitor centers in the Great Smoky Mountains, with a lot of hour’s changes throughout the year for each one. Such as Cades Cove Visitor Center which is open every day except Christmas Day, however the operating hours differ every month or two. It is open every day at 9 AM, and closes at 4:30 in January and December, 5:00 in February and November, 6:00 at March, September, and October, and 7:00 April – August.
Cades Cove offers a lot of great outdoor exhibits that helps guests really explore the true beauty of the nature vested in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A bookstore/gift shop is available as well as public restrooms, and water fountains. Guests are encouraged to call in with any inquiries in regards to camping at (877) 444-6777.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Oconaluftee is open every day with the exception of Christmas Day. Its hours begin at 8 AM, but vary between 4:30 and 7:00 PM for a closing time depending on the month. The hours do differ slightly from that of Cades Cove, the center closes at 4:30 PM December – February, 5:00 PM in March and November, 6:00 PM in April, May, September, and October, and 7:00 PM in June – August.
The main attraction to this visitor center is the museum which really unveils a lot of history about Smoky Mountains. Just like Cades Cover, Ocanaluftee also offers a bookstore, restrooms, and water/vending machines.
Sugarlands Visitor Center
Like the other two centers, the Sugarlands Visitor Center is also open every day besides Christmas Day. The hours are the same as Ocanaluftee, even with the changes between months. The Sugarlands main purpose is to organize all of the special ranger-led events that happen throughout the year at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Also, there is a short 20-minute film that helps new guests become better acquainted with the park through history exhibits about it’s past. Restrooms, vending machines, and a bookstore are available at this center as well.
One of the biggest highlights of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Clingmans Dome. This is a high elevation point, reaching 6,643 feet in the air. Views from this observation point can be as far as 100 miles or longer depending on how clear the sky is on any given day. Due to the high amount of air pollution currently present in the area, visitors can only expect to see around 20 miles or less on most days.