7 Unusual Facts About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

scenic aerial view of the Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to over 80 years of history. With that history there is bound to be an uncommon fact or two. Curious to see what we could find, we at HearthSide Cabin Rentals decided to do a little research to find the most usual facts we could about The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Below are our findings.

1. Originally called the Iron Mountains

Long before John Ogle built his cabin in Cades Cove, and before John D. Rockefeller and president Franklin D. Roosevelt worked to establish the national park, what we know today as the Smoky Mountains was once called The Great Iron Mountains. This name is ironic because very little iron was ever found there.

The name ‘Smoky Mountains’ was eventually adopted by early settlers to the area in honor of the white haze that forms among the trees in the mountains.

2. 60,000 unique visitors every weekend

traffic jam in the Smoky MountainsBy now, we all have heard that The Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomes over 9 million visitors every year. This is more than any other national park in the United States. However, did you realize that in the summer months there can be over 60,000 visitors per weekend packing up and headed toward the Smoky Mountains? This number can be even higher during holiday weekends and in the fall when the leaves change.

To make sure you and your family don’t get caught in traffic with this many visitors, read our blog on the best things to do in Pigeon Forge to escape crowds.

3. Home to more native trees than all of Europe

Smoky Mountain hiking trail through a forestIt is hard to believe that The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a more diverse variety of trees than all of Europe. However, that is the case.

There are over 100 different species of trees that make of the park’s five distinct forest types.

  • -Cove Hardwood forest: Found in sheltered areas up to 4,500 feet in elevation, this forest type mainly consists of a high number of large trees, including sugar maple, yellow birch, and other broad-leaved trees.
  • -Northern Hardwood forest: This forest is generally found in elevations above 4,500 feet on northern-facing slopes. Yellow birch, American beech and maple trees are the main tree species found in this forest type.
  • -Spruce-Fir forest: Usually found surrounding the Northern Hardwood forests, this forest type covers roughly 25 miles of the mountain crest in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • -Hemlock forest: Found along the streams and lower slopes in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this forest is known for its dense understory of rhododendron and hemlock trees that reach over 100 feet in height.
  • -Pine and Oak forest: The final forest type found in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this forest is responsible for covering the dry exposed mountain slopes, as well as the rockier terrain.

4. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Never Closes

night hiking in the Smoky MountainsUnlike many of the other attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park never closes. The trails and picnic areas are open seven days a week, 365 days a year.

That being said, it does not mean that every once and awhile a certain trail or area of the park may temporarily close due to high bear activity or weather conditions.

Click here for up-to-date weather and trail conditions in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

5. Five different hiking trails lead to Mount LeConte

Whoever said, “all roads lead to Rome,” has never tried to hike to Mount LeConte. This mountain peak has a total of five different Smoky Mountain hiking trails that lead up to it.

  • Boulevard Trail (16 miles round trip)
  • Alum Cave Trail (11 miles round trip)
  • Rainbow Falls (13.4 miles round trip)
  • Trillium Gap Trail (13.4 miles round trip)
  • Bull Head Trail (14.4 miles round trip)

For directions to the trailheads for each of these Smoky Mountain hiking trails, feel free to use the map below.

What makes Mount LeConte even better is that once hikers have climbed to the top, they can rest for a little bit and enjoy a freshly packed picnic lunch inside the Mount LeConte Lodge. In addition to the meal, the lodge also serves hot chocolate, coffee and bakery items to help hikers refuel before heading back down the mountain. The lodge accepts all major forms of payment except American Express credit cards.

Click here for a list of some of our other favorite scenic Smoky Mountain hiking trails.

6. Home to the tallest dam in the Eastern United States

Fontana Dam in the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkFontana Dam is located in the Southeastern corner of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At an astonishing 480 feet high and 2,265 feet long, this dam is easily the tallest concrete dam east of the Mississippi River.

Operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Fontana Dam is used to help create electricity for residents of the Tennessee Valley.

7. There are only two species of poisonous snakes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Northern Copperhead Snake in The Great Smoky Mountains National ParkOut of the 23 different species of snakes that can be found in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, only 2 species are poisonous, the Timberwood Rattlesnake and the Northern Copperhead.

  • The Timberwood Rattlesnake: On average, and adult Timberwood Rattlesnake measures just over 3 feet in length. The scale pattern appears to be alternating light brown and dark brown stripes with a rust-colored stripe running down the center of its back. The stripes have an irregular outline that mimics a zig zag shape.
  • The Northern Copperhead: Usually between 24 and 36 inches long, this species of snake has a color pattern that mimics an hourglass pattern that runs from head to tail with dark rounded spots. The colors alternate between a light brown to a dark brown around the hourglass shape.

Ready to discover your own set of unusual facts about The Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Begin planning your family’s next Smoky Mountain vacation today by giving us a call at 1-888-993-7655.

At HearthSide Cabin Rentals, we offer a variety of relaxing Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabin rentals that are located just a short drive from the entrance of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.