The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is the most visited national park in the United States, extending into both North Carolina and Tennessee. It has so much to offer visitors, from an active outdoors experience to moments of quiet reflection looking out over the mountain peaks at dawn.
Anglers who visit GSMNP can enjoy the pristine natural streams that run through the park and the fishing opportunities that await. With more than 522,000 forested acres extending across two states, there’s so much to explore, from scenic views and wildlife to hiking on the 850 miles of trails throughout the park. Here are some of the top reasons to visit GSMNP.
1. Fishing in GSMNP Streams
Many people want to know if you can fish in national parks, and the answer is yes. GSMNP is one of the best national parks for fishing for trout and smallmouth bass on some of the 2,900 miles of streams that flow through the park. Fishing in GSMNP offers such a special experience as you enjoy the remote waters within the forested landscape and the serenity that comes with the experience.
You can fish year-round in GSMNP streams with a valid Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, or with a tribal permit if you are fishing in Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary in the North Carolina side. There are many types of streams for which to fish for brook, rainbow and brown trout, and for smallmouth bass and rock bass. Some of the most popular are Little River, Hazel Creek, and Abrams Creek.
2. Scenic Views
There’s no doubt that the GSMNP is one of the best national parks for scenic views both from the ground and from the mountain ridges. Fall foliage drives through the park are popular and soaking in the vista views at places like Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome are majestic at all times of the year. There’s natural exploration in every direction, from the many species of birds that soar above the trees to the tiny wildflowers on the forest floor.
With 384 miles of scenic roadways in the park, it can be tough to know where to start. The best option is to stop at the Visitor Center for an overview of the roads and suggestions for your drive and experience. It is easy to find lookout points along the roads or you can enjoy the views from the observation towers at Clingmans Dome and Look Rock.
Each season brings with it new hiking experiences in the GSMNP. From day hikes and trails for kids to overnight backpacking for the hard-core, there are trails to suit every interest and skill level. With 150 designated trails in the park, it is easy to find one that is suitable to enjoy a day out in nature.
Some of the most popular trails in the park are Chimney Tops, Alum Cave Bluffs, Rainbow Falls and hiking up to the top of Mount LeConte. Be sure to review trail maps before setting out to select one that suits your activity level and time available for completing it. Some of less busy locations with great hiking are Kephart Prong (ideal for spring wildflowers) and in the Cosby region of the park on the Tennessee side.
4. Wildlife Viewing
Wildlife viewing is one of the reasons visitors come to the GSMNP. Seeing the white-tailed deer, elk, turkeys, and even black bears that roam the park is a memorable part of the visit. Much of the park is made up of dense forest so your best opportunities for wildlife viewing are at the Cades Cove loop for bears and the Cataloochee Valley or Oconaluftee for elk. It is important to stay at least 50 years away from wild animals in the park.
You should bring binoculars for spotting wildlife in their natural habitats and your best opportunity for viewing will likely be on the forest’s edge. The best times of day for wildlife viewing are during the early mornings or at dusk.