Great Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide, North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains Park Vacations in NC

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.)

Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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

Great Smoky Mountains Outdoors, NC
Great Smoky Mountains Outdoors, North Carolina
See our top outdoor things to do, places and adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina with trails, rivers, and some of the highest mountains in the East.
Great Smoky Mountains Hiking
Top 10 Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains Park NC
See our favorite 10 hikes from the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nearest the Asheville area. 
Great Smoky Mountains Scenic Drives
5 Scenic Drives, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Drive these top scenic roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side, including Newfound Gap Road, for the best views and places to stop along the way.
Great Smoky Mountains Attractions, North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains Top 20 Attractions
See our favorite attractions and things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains in the western North Carolina - inside the national park and just outside.
Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls, North Carolina
6 Waterfalls, Great Smoky Mountains NC
Find several easy-to-find waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina side of the national park near Cherokee and Bryson City.
Fishing in Great Smoky Mountains Park, North Carolina
Fishing Guide for Great Smoky Mountains NC
See our fishing tips and best creeks, rivers and lakes to fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side and nearby towns including Cherokee, Sylva and Bryson City.
Great Smoky Mountains Rivers, Lakes & Watersports, NC
Great Smoky Mountains Rivers, Lakes & Watersports, NC
Explore and play in these 9 pristine lakes and rivers in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina - with a variety of water sports including boating, fishing, whitewater rafting, paddleboarding and more.
Great Smoky Mountains Hotels in NC
Great Smoky Mountains Hotels & Resorts
Book a vacation in one of these top hotels and resorts by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina side.
Great Smoky Mountains Small Towns
Great Smoky Mountains Small Towns in NC
Visit and vacation in these great small towns in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina side - basecamps for attractions and outdoor adventures.
Tsali Mountain Biking
Great Smoky & Tsali Mountain Biking, NC
Find mountain biking heaven in the Nantahala National Forest with 40 miles of trails overlooking Fontana Lake in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near Bryson City, where you can find bike rentals and supplies.
Great Smoky Mountains Cabins NC
Great Smoky Mountains Cabin Rentals in NC
Find vacation cabin rentals on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - ranging from rustic log cabins to luxury mountaintop homes.
Camping in Great Smoky Mountains
Camping in the Great Smoky Mountains, NC
See our comprehensive camping guide for the Great Smoky Mountains on the North Carolina side with many options, tips and places including backpacking sites and campgrounds.
Mountain Farm Museum
Mountain Farm Museum & Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers.
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
See the 360-degree scenic view from the tallest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via an half-mile walk or enjoy views from the parking area. Open April-November.
Fireflies Great Smoky Mountains
Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains
See the world-famous Synchronous Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each spring in late May and early June. Sign up early for the lottery for parking passes to see the show in the Elkmont area.
Elk in Cherokee
Elk in Cherokee
Watch majestic elk graze and interact in meadows at the Great Smoky Mountains Oconaluftee Visitor Center and other areas around Cherokee.
Elk in Great Smoky Mountains
Elk in Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains
Watch the elk in beautiful Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The best time is just before sunset. Take a picnic and tailgate. Also, tour historic buildings or hike.
NC Smoky Mountains Guide
Great Smoky Mountains NC Travel Guide
Order the free 115-page Great Smoky Mountains North Carolina Travel Guide that includes activities and adventures in 7 counties that surround the national park, published by Smoky Mountain Host.
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Great Smoky Mountains

For more outdoor adventure tips, go to our Great Smoky Mountains Hiking & Camping Guide.

Dogs
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.

Fees
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 trailspicnicking, 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.

What is the hemlock woolly adelgid that is killing the hemlock trees in the Smokies? 

Read more about bear safety.

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Spend a fabulous day or two in Bryson City and the Great Smokies with waterfalls, hiking, rafting, food and shopping. Since this jewel of small town America offers so much to do, it's one of our top... read more
Robbinsville (population 620) and Graham County is located in the western tip of North Carolina. If you are wanting to escape the crowds, head to this "wild" west where the Nantahala National Forest... read more
Just 50 miles from Asheville is Cherokee, located in Jackson County at the main North Carolina entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (via US Highway... read more