How to Spend a Full Day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

historic area in the Smoky Mountains in fall

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.

Getting the Day Started

To get started, stop in at the Sugarlands Visitors Center. You and your family can watch a short 20-minute video about the history of the park Scenic spring photo in Cades Cove near our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals.before viewing on-site exhibits. You can also park here for the day if you plan to go hiking all day. The visitor center also has souvenirs, books, maps and everything you’ll need for a day in the park. There are park rangers at Sugarlands Visitor Center who can help you with any questions, too.

Auto Touring in the Smoky Mountains

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.

Going on a Picnic

After auto-touring and exploring Cades Cove, stop at the picnic area at the end of the loop. There are 81 picnic sites available along the stream, so the family will be sure to find a picnic table to munch on fruit and sandwiches. Each of the sites includes a charcoal grill, so you could even bring hotdogs and hamburgers to grill while the kids dip their feet in the water.

The picnic area closes at 8:00 p.m. May 1 through August 31 and at sunset the rest of the year.

Happy family hiking near their 3 bedroom Pigeon Forge cabin.Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

After filling up at the picnic area, drive over to the Greenbrier area of Gatlinburg, where the family can explore the Porters Creek Trail. This easy trail is only 4 miles with little elevation, perfect for those who want to see nature without a strenuous climb. In the spring, this is one of the best trails to visit for wildflower viewing, and wildlife can be spotted throughout the year.

To reach the Porters Creek Trails, visitors drive 3.1 miles into Greenbrier. After reaching a fork in the road, drivers only have a small distance to travel until reaching the trail’s parking area.

Relax at a Gatlinburg Cabin Rental

After such a full day, families will need a comfortable and convenient place to rest before more vacation explorations. When you’re planning your stay, make sure to look at all of our Gatlinburg cabins where you can relax with stunning mountain views.