Join us as we celebrate a monumental occasion-the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Make sure to request a Free Travel Guide for more information.
Chartered by Congress in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. The idea for its inception began at the turn of the century through the efforts of business leaders in Asheville and Knoxville, TN. In 1926, Congress authorized the creation of a national park in the east. However, there was no federally owned land in the area.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. contributed $5 million to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the U.S. government pitched in $2 million and citizens from North Carolina and Tennessee also donated. Other notable personalities involved in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were travel writer Horace Kephart and photographer George Masa.
Horace Kephart, the author of "Our Southern Highlanders" was captivated by the beauty and wildness of the Southern Appalachians. His love for the region caused him to be a strong champion for the creation of the Park.
George Masa, who was a friend of Horace Kephart, also fell in love with Western North Carolina and used photography to capture and preserve the mountains. He campaigned tirelessly with Kephart to ensure that a national park in the region would be established.
During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservations Corps and Works Progress Administration built park trails, fire watchtowers and other necessary infrastructure. In 1976, the park was named an International Biosphere Reserve. It was certified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and became part of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve in 1988.
Part of the park's appeal is its diversity. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 500,000 acres boasts a range of elevations. Hikers can enjoy a leisurely hike along creek beds or challenge themselves on climbs reaching high peaks. The park boasts 850 miles of hiking trails and paths, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Here are a few of our favorite hikes in the park:
Boogerman Trail (Easy)
Oconaluftee River Trail (Easy to Moderate)
Deep Creek Loop Trail (Moderate)
Big Fork Ridge Trail (Very Difficult)
Those in love with the water find themselves at home in the park, as the Great Smoky Mountains' creeks and rivers have an outstanding reputation for fishing. Families can cool off by water tubing down the gentle currents. Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC is a popular spot for tubing. The creek is divided into two sections, with the upper section boasting thrills and whitewater and the lower section offering a calmer current.
Those interested in learning more about the area's history can visit the Mountain Farm Museum on US 441 North. The museum boasts a collection of historic farm buildings and outbuildings, including a blacksmith shop and chicken coop.
Another popular spot within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cataloochee Valley. This isolated valley was once a large and prosperous settlement. The families of Cataloochee sold their homes to the government to establish the park. Today, several of those structures still stand and provide a glimpse into a simpler way of life. The area is also home to a growing herd of elk as well as bear, wild boar, turkey and deer. Wildlife can often be seen at dusk and dawn in the fields and woodlands bordering the gravel roads.
Main park entrance in Cherokee, NC: From Asheville, take I-40W to US-74W towards Waynesville. Turn on US-19 and proceed through Maggie Valley to Cherokee. Turn on US-441N at Cherokee and follow the road into the park.
Deep Creek in Bryson City, NC: From Asheville, take I-40W to US 74. Take exit 67. Take a right at the end of the exit to go north on Veterans Blvd. At the first light, turn right on Main Street (US 19). At the next light, turn left on Everett Street. At the train depot, turn right on Depot Street. At the stop sign, turn left then take the immediate curve to the right on West Deep Creek Road. Follow the road, staying left in the big curve at the bridge, until it dead-ends in the National Park after two miles.
Cataloochee Valley: From Asheville, take I-40W to exit 20. Travel 0.2 miles on 276. Turn right on Cove Creek Rd and follow the signs 11 miles into Cataloochee Valley.