Smoky Mountain Park Information - Frequently Asked Questions
Before you contact us, try reading through the following information to see if your question is answered here. Naturally, if your question remains unanswered, contact us.
Q: Are pets allowed in the Park?
Generally, pets are not allowed on Smokies hiking trails (see exceptions
below); however, you may have your pets with you on paved or gravel
roads as well as in Park campgrounds. Furthermore, when in the park,
you are required to have your pets confined or on a leash 6 feet
long or less. And, of course, out of courtesy to those who follow,
you should clean up any "tale tail"
signs that your pet has been in the park .
and other dogs for the handicapped may go in parts of the park
that are otherwise restricted to pets. You must receive permission
from the superintendents office of the park.
2. Also, there are hiking trails
by Sugarlands Visitor Center and Oconaluftee Visitor Center on which
you may walk your pet. Please go inside the visitors center for directions.
There are a number of kennels
and pet sitters who may relieve you of caring for your pet
during your visit to the Smoky Mountains. We neither recommend
nor endorse any kennel or sitter. We merely provide a list of options--you
must check these facilities carefully to make sure they are right
for your pet.
Q: Where can I find information about drive-in horse camps or horseback riding in the Park?
A: There are several horse camps in the Smokies and trails to ride--go here.
Order Your Park Area Maps Here....
Q: Where can I get a Park trail map?
A: A variety of trail, topo, and area maps are available for purchase at the Park or at several outfitters after you arrive in the area. If you want trail map to assist in planning before you arrive, you can order your trail map here.
Timing Your Trip
Q: When is the best time to visit the Smokies?
A: Basically, anytime is a good time to visit the Smokies. The determining factor for deciding when to visit is: What are your likes and dislikes? For example, the color extravaganza of Fall appeals to nearly everyone--evidenced by the crowding at that time. The floral show of Spring attracts lots of people too. But consider the relative non-crowding of the wintertime. Winters are very mild in the Smokies. Mountain vistas are enhanced by the lack of foliage on the trees. And hiking is easier in some ways. For example, in the winter, one can dress in layers and remove layers as the need arises.
Q: When is the best time--and where is the best place--to view wildlife.
A: Without question, the best place and time to see deer, wild turkey, and other small wildlife is Cades Cove. In years past, wildlife were very shy and you had to time your searches for the feeding times at dawn and dusk. However, through the years the wildlife have become more tame as Park visitors have grown in number and you can now even see the deer feeding at midday in Cades Cove.
Bears can be found out on some trails and near campgrounds--looking for food. A word of caution, however: Don't feed the bears. It shortens their lives and creates dangerous circumstances for other travelers. Remember--don't feed the bears. The first death--ever--of a death from mauling was recorded this year. Also, avoid the mother bear with her cubs. She might sense a threat to her cub and become unpredictable. (see Bearly Survived).
Q: Does everything close in the winter?
A: No, not nearly as much as in years past. Visitors to the Smokies number approximately 10 million--and visitation continues to grow yearly. Businesses are remaining open longer (many all year) to accommodate travelers. So, while a few owners take January and February off, many are open. The National Park remains open all year, with only a few unimproved roads closed due to storm damage or harsh weather. Parson's Branch and Rich Mountain Roads (off the Cades Cove loop road) and the road to Clingman's Dome are two examples. Call the Park at 865.436.1200 for specific questions, or visit their web site at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/.
Q: Do I need a special license to fish in the Park? Where can I purchase a fishing license?
A: A regular fishing license that is good all year in both the Tennessee and North Carolina sides of the Park can be purchased in any town adjacent to the Park.
Q: What does a fishing license cost?
A: Ten dollars--and it's good all year.
NOTE: More of your fishing questions might be answered by visiting Rod's Guide fishing pages.
Q: What's the best hike in the Smokies?
NOTE: More of your hiking questions might be answered by visiting Rod's Guide hiking pages.
Q: Are lodging accommodations available in the Park?
A: Information about more than 1,300 cabin or chalet rentals, bed and breakfast inns, hotels and motels can be found here. The only true lodging in the Park itself is LeConte Lodge, which can only be reached by hiking trail. There are 5 major trails to Mt. LeConte. The most popular route is the Alum Cave Bluff trail. Accommodations are spartan and should be made a year in advance by contacting Wilderness Lodging at 865.429.5704 or write to 250 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville, TN 37862. The cost is about $80 per person and includes bed, breakfast and dinner.
The Park also maintains developed campgrounds at ten locations in the Park. Sites at Elkmont, Smokemont, and Cades Cove can be reserved by calling 1.800.365.2267 (park code:GRE). Group sites are available at Big Creek, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, and Smokemont. Reservations are required--call 1.800.365.2267 or 865.436.1266.
Q: Are there any special places for honeymooners?
A: Nearly very lodging provider boasts of special acommodations for honeymooners. However, most popular are the private and secluded cabins, chalets and cottages available from the numerous rental companies in the surrounding towns.
NOTE: More than
1,300 cabins, chalets, bed and breakfast and motel rooms
are described in the lodging directory.
Q: Where are the best places to eat?
A: We've never had a bad steak at the Peddlar or Cherokee Grill in Gatlinburg, and you can't go wrong by trying the fresh trout at the Tuckaleechee Trout Farm in Townsend (on the Cades Cove side of the Park). The J&S Cafeteria in Pigeon Forge is excellent, and for barbeque try Bennetts (Gatlinburg) or Smokin' Joes (Townsend), and The Burning Bush (Gatlinburg) has a great breakfast.
NOTE: More reader-provided recommendations can be found at where-to-eat.
Q: When do the leaves reach peak color?
A: Peak color varies slightly each year, but you can pretty much count on great color from the middle of October to early November.
Q: When do Rhododendron, Flame Azalea, and Mountain Laurel bloom?
A: In June and July.
Q: Where are the largest trees in the Park?
A: Some of the largest are found in the Greenbrier section of the Park. From Gatlinburg, drive east along US 321 (stop-light #3 in Gatlinburg) for approximately 6 miles. Turn right on Greenbrier Road and travel 3.1 miles along the Little Pigeon River to Greenbrier Cove. Turn left at Ramsay Prong Road and travel 1.5 miles to the parking area. An eight-mile roundtrip hike will take you through virgin stands of chestnut oaks, poplars, and black cherry. Also, if you continue your hike 3/4 of a mile beyond Laurel Falls (2-1/2 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center), you'll see old-growth forest.
NOTE: Visit our
wildflower pages (due in middle-to-late winter), and
see our fall foliage hotline page.
Q: Can we get married in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
A: Yes--if you can hike or drive to it, there are ministers who will accompany the wedding party to conduct the ceremony.
NOTE: For more info about ministers, chapels, and licenses see wedding pages.