****March 24, 2020: All park areas, except the Foothills Parkway and the Spur, will close at noon on Tuesday, March 24 through Monday, April 6, in a continuing effort to support federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). See our Coronavirus Updates for Asheville & Western NC.
Statement from park officials on March 24, 2020:
"The park will continue to assess changing conditions in our region and work with local communities to extend or terminate closures, as appropriate to ensure the health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, partners, and local residents.
All access to the park, including trails and roads, will temporarily close in alignment with efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 across the region. This includes Executive Order 117 issued by NC Governor Roy Cooper, Executive Order 17 issued by TN Governor Bill Lee, Executive Order 6 issued by Principal Chief Richard Sneed of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Graham County travel restrictions, Pigeon Forge, TN Safe-at-Home Advisory, and requests to close or partially close the park received from Swain County, Sevier County, and Bryson City, NC.
Despite park efforts over the last week to comply with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance for social distancing, approximately 30,000 people entered the park daily resulting in congested conditions at popular locations such as Laurel Falls, Newfound Gap, and Cades Cove. Visitors from across the country have flocked to the area due to Spring Break, wildflowers, and warm weather conditions. This two-week park closure allows the park to support local efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Asheville is the most visited national park in the USA with 11+ million visitors each year. Plan your vacation and adventures with our guides below. There are 520,976 acres to explore, so there is plenty of room for all with many things to do.
An International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to rugged mountains (many peaks in excess of 6,000 feet), historic homesteads and 100,000 different types of plants and animals. Since the park is so large with so many places to explore during a vacation, where do you begin? (Pic at top is Clingmans Dome.)
Five entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are within 70 miles from downtown Asheville: Cataloochee Valley, Oconaluftee, Road to Nowhere, Balsam Mountain and Big Creek. Here are our top things to do in the Smokies on the North Carolina side.
Great Smoky Mountains NC Things to Do
For more outdoor adventure tips, go to our Great Smoky Mountains Hiking & Camping Guide.
Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. The leash must not exceed 6 feet in length. Dogs are only allowed on the short walking path near Cherokee, the Oconaluftee River Trail.
Entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is FREE. The park is one of the only major national parks that does not charge an entrance fee. Fees are charged for activities such as overnight camping and pavilion rental at picnic areas. If you plan to camp in the park, reservations or permits may be necessary (backcountry camping, car camping, LeConte Lodge, horse camps, campgrounds). Reservations may be made for picnic pavilion use in picnic areas for group outings.
Overview of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
These ancient mountains are home to a wide variety of plant and animal life unsurpassed in the National Park Service. The Park also offers a glimpse into the lives of early Southern Appalachian farming families and community lifestyles. Seventy-seven historic structures concentrated in five historic districts include a collection of log cabins, barns, churches, grist mills and various outbuildings. The Smokies offer activities for visitors of various ages and interests. Recommended activities include camping, hiking the park's more than 800 miles of trails, picnicking, sightseeing, fishing, auto touring, horseback riding, nature viewing, and photographic opportunities abound.
In addition to its role in preserving the rich natural and historical heritage, the Park is a place for outdoor recreational pursuits. These range from a short stroll in the woods to a more extensive hike in the backcountry. Camping, fishing, picnicking, and horseback riding, or just viewing magnificent scenery are favorite pasttimes. Every season in the Smokies can be the best time to visit: spring wildflowers, summer camping along cool mountain streams, fall foliage, and winter's crisp, blue skies are all reasons to visit. More than 4,000 species of plants grow here. A walk from mountain base to peak compares with traveling 1,250 miles north. Several resident plants and animals live only in the Smokies. The Park is an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. These international recognitions represent the Smokies' importance to the planet.