Our trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was awesome! Very tiring, but awesome! We spent only the weekend here but managed to get some sweet hikes in. As this was our first time ever visiting this park, we learned a lot of what to do and what not to do for our next trip someday. Here’s what I’d like to share with you:
- The park is HUGE: This is a gigantic national park, the largest I’ve ever visited. It spans across two states-Tennessee and North Carolina. Because it’s so expansive, expect to drive from site to site for anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 or 3 hours! I know, right. This was unusual to me but, like I said it is huge. Just don’t be disappointed if you only have time to make it to 2 or 3 sites/trails a day.
2. You’ll be driving through mountains, so plan accordingly: Hairpin turns resulting in nausea, anyone? Oh yea GSMNP has got ’em. I’ve experienced worse-but if you’re one to get car sick easily I would take some nausea medication before starting your day. Also-make sure you’ve got a good and reliable car to get you up and down all those mountain roads. They’ll take a toll on the transmission and brakes for sure!
3. No Internet service: Because you’re in the mountains, expect to get zero internet service. No internet service means you can’t just whip out your phone to look up a trail and how to get there. Grab a map at the visitor center, and be sure to look up as much as you can online before hitting up the park for where all you want to go and how to get there.
4. Avoid a holiday weekend in the summer at all costs: Nate and I went to the most visited national park on Labor Day weekend. Don’t be like Nate and I. It was PACKED. The visitor center, the roads, the parking spaces, the more well-known trails were totally crowded. Try going during shoulder season on a non-holiday weekend or during the week.
5. There is no shuttle service: Some parks offer a shuttle service but this park was not one of them. This results in the parking spaces being taken up quickly so either avoid the popular trails and sights, or get there early people!
7. Carve out a few days to visit the area: Not only is the park huge with so many appealing trails to go on, but the tourist towns surrounding it -Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg- are filled with sooo many attractions. It was overwhelming even to me and I don’t get overwhelmed easily. I’ve been to touristy spots like Las Vegas and Branson, MO but this place takes the cake with being just riddled with retail shops, attractions, amusement parks, restaurants, and countless other activities to take part in. You could easily spend a week or two in the park as well as these two towns experiencing all the fun.
7. Beware of the bears: We didn’t see any bears on our visit but they DO live here. I don’t want to scare you, but I personally wouldn’t go on any trails alone here. On the plus side, there are little to no bugs here. I would still advise wearing bug spray for ticks, though.
8. Strenuous trails are not for the weak: At GSMNP, when they say strenuous-they mean it, y’all! I like to think Nate and I are in pretty good shape but a couple of these trails completely wiped us out and we were drenched in sweat pretty much the whole weekend of hiking! If you’re up for the challenge, then go for it but avoid anything labeled strenuous if you’re not regularly working out.
We had a great time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We learned so much and we will definitely be back another time!