Named for low hanging fog produced in early morning hours, the Smokies offer incredible outdoor adventures with a touch of Southern Appalachia culture.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is America’s most visited National Park. It's no wonder why. As you watch the low-hanging fog rise among the ridge lines, you’ll feel the majesty of these storied mountains and see for yourself how they earned their name.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, and covers 520,000 acres (800 square miles). The Smoky Mountains are known for the blue mist that always seems to hover around the peaks and valleys.
Asheville, North Carolina makes the perfect home base for a day trip to the North Carolina Smokies. Asheville is within an hour and a half drive (or less) of five key entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is free to enjoy the National Park.
Highlights in Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Asheville include everything from incredible natural beauty to the ease of access to the region’s best hiking trails, from the powerful waterfalls to the stunning scenic drives. (Driving distances from downtown Asheville are shown in parenthesis.)
COST: It is free to access Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is no park admission, but as of March 1, 2023, a purchased parking tag will be required to enter the park. Three tag durations are available for purchase for all vehicle sizes and types: $5 for daily, $15 for weekly and $40 for annual entrance. Parking tags are not replaceable, refundable, transferable or upgradable. Parking tags are not required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes.
HOURS: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. However, certain roads and services may close during inclement weather. The best source for updated road conditions is on the National Park's Twitter account.
ACCESS: Most key points of interest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are located on or near paved highways that are easily accessible by car. However, please note that some areas of the Park, including Cataloochee Valley, may require driving on dirt or gravel roads. Given the Park's large size, there are remote back country areas that are only accessible by hiking trail.
SERVICES: There is a visitor center with a museum, shop and restroom facilities at the Oconaluftee entrance in Cherokee, N.C.
PETS: Dogs are allowed in picnic areas and along roads as long as they are on a leash. However, dogs and other pets are not allowed on the National Park trails. This policy is in place for many large national parks that have extensive back country areas because of the threat domesticated pets pose to sensitive wildlife and habitats.
WEATHER: Due to a wide variety of elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, weather can greatly vary. Dress in layers to be prepared for changes in weather conditions.
Download a free map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the National Park Service. And, see our map below showing top Park attractions near Asheville.
The Cherokee referred to these ancient mountains as Shaconage (Sha-CON-uh-GEE) meaning "land of blue smoke." It was their homeland until they were driven out first by English settlers and then by the Trail of Tears. A handful of Cherokee remained in the hills and managed to survive. In the late 1800s, the Qualla Indian Reservation was established along, what is now, the National Park's southern boundary.
The creation of the National Park began in the early 1900s with a simple idea: a wealthy family in Knoxville, Tenn. suggested creating a National Park in the Smokies. At the time, the National Park Service was looking for park sites in the East having already opened parks in the West.
In the late 1920s, through a number of state, federal and private investments, including a $5 million donation by John D. Rockefeller Jr., the National Park Service was able to acquire the land for the Park. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established June 15, 1934. After more than 17 years of efforts by those passionate about the project, the Park was officially dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.