Photo courtesy of the NPS camera at Look Rock
Welcome to our Great Smoky Mountains Page!
Through these pages we hope to share with you our adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) and surrounding areas. The Smokies are our favorite vacation spot and we try to visit as often as we can - and that's not often enough. On these pages we will attempt to provide a good assortment of information and photos on the different areas of the Smokies that we have visited.
What makes the Smokies so special, you ask? We think the history of the area, the streams, the mountains, and the variety of plant life is simply captivating. The scenery is constantly changing, so no matter how many times you might visit the Smokies, the mountains reveal subtle changes that make each visit as memorable as the last - a small water fall that pops up after a spring rain, a change in color of the trees, a light powdering of snow on the mountain tops, a wild flower that you notice for the first time, or catching a glimpse of a black bear. This uniqueness is due to the large change in elevation found in the park. From an elevation of 873 feet where the Foothills Parkway meets Highway 129, to an elevation of 6,643 feet at Clingmans Dome, is a change of 5770 feet. This is equivalent to traveling 1,250 miles north and all the plant life of such a trip is contained in the 520,000+ acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! No where else in the United States does such a phenomena exist. Because of this diversity, the park has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve.
Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Smokies are
the oldest mountains in the United States. The Smokies are so old that
no fossils can be found in the mountain strata simply because the mountains
were formed before critters that could fossilize evolved.
When the massive geological upheaval that created the Smokies was over,
the peaks were sharper and higher than they are now. Weather and climatic
changes over millions of years slowly eroded and rounded the peaks and
carved the valleys.
Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Smokies are the oldest mountains in the United States. The Smokies are so old that no fossils can be found in the mountain strata simply because the mountains were formed before critters that could fossilize evolved. When the massive geological upheaval that created the Smokies was over, the peaks were sharper and higher than they are now. Weather and climatic changes over millions of years slowly eroded and rounded the peaks and carved the valleys.
~ When to Visit
The GSMNP is the most visited of all the national parks. Nearly 10.3 million people visited the park in 1999 with Cades Cove alone attracting almost 2 million visitors! In 2002, 9,316,419 people visited the Smokies. The park's 10 year average is 9.5 million annual visitors. We try to schedule our visits during the early spring when the park is less crowded. Most people just stay in their cars and drive through Cades Cove or along Newfound Gap Road. If you have to visit during the summer or other peak seasons, then hit the road or the popular trails early to beat the crowds. You can also visit areas of the park that are less crowded, but just as beautiful such as Cataloochee, Roaring Fork Motor Trail, the Quiet Walks just off of some of the park roads, and the Foothills Parkway.
~ What To Do in the Park ~
There is no admission charge to the park. The park offers over 800 miles of hiking on 150+ trails, campgrounds, back country camping, bicycling in Cades Cove, horseback riding, and hay rides. Nearby is Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville where you can find craft shops, restaurants, amusement parks (Dollywood), lodging and rental cabins, and sometimes too many people and traffic jams. We like to stay in Townsend, TN when visiting the area. This small town is known as "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies". One visit and you will immediately see why this is so. Check out the links below to find out what is available in these towns.
~ Some of our Favorite Activities in the Smokies ~
out the historic settler cabins in Cades Cove «
»Drive Little River Road/Laurel Creek Road from Sugarlands visitor center to Cades Cove «
»Have a picnic by a stream in the Cades Cove, Chimney Tops, or Metcalf Bottoms picnic areas «
»View the working farm and farm buildings at Oconaluftee visitor center on the NC side of the park «
»Take a lingering walk on some of the Quiet Walks that are found along the park roads «
»Drive Rich Mountain Road from Cades Cove to Townsend and visit Tuckaleechee Cavern «
»Hike to one of the many spectacular waterfalls that can be found throughout the park «
»Drive the Foothills Parkway and hike the half mile to Look Rock Observation Tower «
»Visit Mingus Mill or Cable Mill and see corn being ground into meal or wheat into flour «
»Check out the white water in the streams after a rainy day «
»Visit The Sinks and take a short hike on the nearby trail «
»Drive Roaring Fork Motor Trail «
~ Visitor Centers
Stop in at the visitor centers located at Sugarlands, Cades Cove, Oconaluftee, Gatlinburg,and/or Townsend and pick up detailed information on the Smokies to make your visit more enjoyable. Demonstrations of farming and homemaking activities are conducted on a seasonal basis by the National Park Service (NPS) at the visitor centers at Cades Cove and Oconaluftee. A new 150 seat theater is being constructed at Sugarlands visitor center and should be open by fall, 1999. For additional information on the park, purchase a copy of the "Smokies Guide" newspaper at any visitor center. It costs 25 cents and is published four times a year by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. Many interesting books about the park are also available. All proceeds benefit the park. For additional books about the Smokies that are on our recommended reading list, please visit the Lotz Travel Bookstore.
Here are some of our adventures in the Smokies:
|Our first adventure article details our drive from Townsend, TN into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) via Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road. These roads lead to Cades Cove, Meigs Falls, The Sinks, the Laurel Falls trail head, Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, and Sugarlands Visitor Center. Click on the image to begin!|
Here's our collection
of links to information and attractions in the Smokies
and surrounding communities:
~ Information About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ~
Smoky Mountains National Park Home Page - Start here for basic information
on the Park.
GORP - Great Smoky Mountains National Park> - More in depth data on the park. (GORP = Great Outdoor Recreation Pages)
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont - An educational, nonprofit organization sanctioned by the National Park Service for operation in the GSMNP. The Institute offers opportunities for adults and kids to explore the park accompanied by experienced and knowledgeable guides.
National Park Service - Search and find out more about our National Parks.
National Park Service Digital Maps - On-line maps of the GSMNP and other National Parks.
Smoky Mountain Visitor's Bureau - Located in Townsend, TN, just outside the park entrance. Sponsored by Blount County Chamber of Commerce.
Look Rock Observation Tower - Digital photo of the Smokies updated every hour including the latest weather conditions and ozone concentration levels.
All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory - "Researchers from around the world are working to inventory the Smokies' amazing diversity of plants and animals in an attempt to catalog all of the park's flora and fauna." This ambitious project is scheduled to be completed in 10 years. Cataloging life forms will help the NPS to better manage park ecosystems and to preserve the greatest number of resources and acquire the knowledge necessary to make better informed management decisions. Less than 10% of the possible 100,000 species in the park are currently known.
The Ultimate Cades Cove Page - Everything you need or want to know about Cades Cove can be found on this site.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Produced by Image Builders. Comprehensive information on the Smokies and surrounding communities. The site includes includes interesting historical details about life in the Smokies and creation of the park.
~ Conservation Organizations ~
of the Smokies - This is a "nonprofit organization which supports the
National Park Service's mission of preserving the Great Smoky Mountains
by raising funds and recruiting volunteers."
Great Smoky Mountains Association - The "Great Smoky Mountains Association is a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to support the Park's educational, scientific, and historical programs. Our mission is to enhance public enjoyment and understanding of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To accomplish this goal GSMA participates in a variety of activities that include: distribution and publication of educational books and guides, funding visitor center exhibits and artifact collections, sponsoring free historic demonstrations and festivals, funding the Park's library, and helping fund the environmental education program at the Institute at Tremont. Since its creation in 1953, aid to the Park totals over $9.5 million."
The Foothills Conservancy - "An independent, non-profit land trust, the Foothills Conservancy's mission is the preservation of the unique ecological, agricultural, and scenic resources of the Foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee."
~ Weather Conditions in the Smokies ~
Rock Observation Tower - Check out the current weather conditions and
visibility at the Smokies.
Intellicast provides weather forecasts for the National Parks. Click here for the Smokies forecast.
The Weather Channel also provides the latest weather information for National Parks and Seashores. Click to check out the Smokies forecast.
The Weather Underground is a good source of weather related information for where ever you plan to travel.
~ Fall Foliage Updates ~
Inns Fall Foliage links - The International Guide to fine Bed
& Breakfast Inns has a collection of links for monitoring fall color.
The Weather Channel - Fall color information for all of the US.
NC Natural: Fall Color Finder - Here you can find a "Visual Reference Guide To Fall Colors".
~ Cabin Rentals ~
Wright Cabins - Nice selection of cabins for rent at reasonable cost in Townsend,
TN ("The Quiet Side of the Smokies").
Dogwood Realty and Cabin Rentals - Large selection of cabins for rent in Townsend, TN. This site also provides background information and lists activities available in Townsend and the Smoky Mountains.
TN - Great source of information about this scenic town nestled at
the foot of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Pigeon Forge, TN - There's something for every member of the family to do in Pigeon Forge.
Sevierville, TN - Another interesting town to visit.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railway - Rail excursions into the beautiful mountains of northwest North Carolina. Many different types of trips to choose from, including special holiday adventures, "raft and rail" excursions, and dinner train rides. This attraction is near the top of our "to see" list.
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest - Awesome 3,800 acre old growth forest located off of the Cherohala Skyway in the Nantahala National Forest of western North Carolina. You won't want to miss seeing this - it's worth the drive! Some of the trees are 400 years old. The preserve is dedicated to Joyce Kilmer, a poet and soldier who wrote "Trees" and was killed in action in World War I.
NC Natural - Provides in depth information on trails, waterfalls, attractions in western North Carolina.
~ On-line Publications ~
Smokies - A site dedicated to the outdoors with specific information
on hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Be sure to check out the author's
notes and ratings on many of the trails in the GSMNP as well as the excellent
articles on hiking safety. Definitely worth a visit if you are interested
in or traveling to the Appalachian Mountains or planning any outdoor
Go Smokies.com - This site is provided by Knox News and has regularly updated features, news, and articles written by people who really know the Smokies. We particularly enjoy the articles written by Carson Brewer and Jacqueline Lott.
Smokies Traveler - "An Online Version of The Townsend Traveler©: The Great Smoky Mountains' Oldest and Most Complete Tourism Guide!" A good source of local information by The Daily Times of Blount County, TN.
The Smokies Magazine - "Attempts to provide a quality high bandwidth virtual publication featuring articles covering the people, culture and commerce of the Great Smoky Mountains in Appalachia." Another good source for information on the Smokies.
Smokies Guide - "SmokiesGuide.com is a complete travel planning guide for vacations, weddings, honeymoons, and romantic getaways in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. Info about Smokies Nat'l Park, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, shopping, live music and entertainment, arts and crafts, back country camping and more in and around Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville TN."
The Smokies Online - Links to area information, accommodations, entertainment, dining, shopping, businesses, real estate, and weddings.
~ Books on the Smokies ~
The Lotz Travel Bookstore - Visit our bookstore for recommended reading on the Smokies and surrounding areas or use the search box below to find books on your interests.
~ Miscellaneous Links ~
of the Southern Appalachians - Excellent source for identifying wild
flowers of the Appalachians.
Postcards from the Smokies - This collection of postcards of the Smokies provides a "nostalgic look at how the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area appeared between 1929-1963". The collection is showcased at the Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn located in Gatlinburg, TN.
SmokyPhotos - Photos of the Smokies! "The internet's number one source for free photos of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding Southern Appalachian highlands." Over 470 photographs and still growing! The site offers several free Smokies screensavers, too.
~ A Footnote ~
You've probably already noticed that there is no entrance fee for the GSMNP. This is due to a clause in the Park's enabling legislation. Other parks such as Grand Canyon and Yellowstone can charge entrance fees of $20 per vehicle and earn millions of dollars in supplemental funding as a result. Please consider making purchases at the Visitors Centers where all proceeds go toward funding worthwhile projects in the Park. Additional financial help is provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Association and the Friends of the Smokies organizations. Please consider joining these organizations in their effort to help the Park. There are also donation boxes as you exit the Cades Cove loop road and along other roads in the park.
to visit these other Lotz Family pages:
~ Web Rings ~
This National Park Webring site is
owned by The Lotz Family. Click here to join the ring.