April 02, 2021
As the most popular national park in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains boasts some of the most unique opportunities for exploration and education. Families who’d like to spend a full day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during a vacation have the opportunity to view wildlife, explore historical sites, and learn about nature. Here are some ways you can spend a full day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
To get started, stop by the Sugarlands Visitors Center. You and your family can watch a short 20-minute video about the history of the park before viewing on-site exhibits. They have a fairly large parking lot, as well as small trails that are perfect for young kids and older adults. The visitor center also has souvenirs, books, maps, and everything you’ll need for a day in the park. There are park rangers who can help you with any questions, too.
One of the best places to auto tour is the Cades Cove Loop Road. The 11-mile-loop is a private and peaceful area where visitors can view wildlife and stop along the way to view historic sites. There are pull-offs along the road, so drivers can view wildlife or explore the historic cabins, churches, and homesteads in the area. Near the end of the loop is a visitor center, where families can stretch their legs and buy souvenirs. Other scenic drives include Foothills Parkway, Newfound Gap Road, and Roaring Fork Motor Trail.
After auto-touring through the mountains, stop at one of the picnic areas. There are several picnic areas throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There’s one right before the Cades Cove Loop with 81 picnic spots. You’ll also find some along Foothills Parkway and in Greenbrier. You can bring a cooler with sandwich items to make when you get there or hamburger and hot dog ingredients and use the charcoal grills at the picnic areas. If you don’t want to prepare your own food, you can always pick up a meal at one of the restaurants in the area and take it with you! After you eat, you can explore the area a little bit. Many picnic areas are near creeks, so the kids can see fish and splash in the water.
After filling up at the picnic area, you’ll be energized for a hike! There are over 850 miles of hiking trails in the national park. You can go on an easy, moderate, or difficult trail. Choose from mountain views, waterfalls, or just hiking through the woods. There are a ton of options when it comes to what kind of hiking trail you want to explore at the end of your day in the national park!
After such a full day, you’ll want to come back to a comfortable and convenient place to rest before more vacation explorations. Look through our Gatlinburg cabins where you can relax after spending an entire day exploring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.