7 Must-See Attractions at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

What better way to escape the daily grind than getting close to nature with lush, endless forests and breathtaking vistas? Known for its ever-present blanket of fog, the Smokies are home to diverse flora and fauna and ancient heritage. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over 522,000 acres and doesn’t run out of things for you to explore. When planning your Smokies getaway, remember to include these seven top attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1. Laurel Falls

Ample rainfall and the area’s rugged landscape are some of the reasons why magnificent waterfalls, such as the Laurel Falls, abound in the Great Smokies. Laurel Falls was named after the mountain laurel, which blooms along the trail and near the falls in May. Its trail, which is the longest of only four paved trails in the park, was originally built for the crew’s easy access to the Cove Mountain area in case of fire.

When enjoying the tranquility of this 80-feet charming waterfall, do not be tempted to climb on the surrounding rocks. Learn from others’ mistakes as many past visitors have suffered from serious injuries, or even fallen to their deaths, climbing these slippery rocks!

In addition, it’s also pretty common to encounter black bears while visiting the area. However, please help protect these beautiful creatures by remembering to NOT feed them, keep your trash in bear-proof garbage cans or take it home with you, and stay physically away from them! No matter how cute and harmless they may look, black bears are dangerous wild animals! So please enjoy watching them from a safe distance. By following these rules, you will not only keep yourself and your family safe but also protect these lovely animals from being put to death if they lose their natural fear of humans.

2.  Cades Cove

Cades Cove is one of the most popular historical sites in the Great Smoky Mountains. Cherokee Indians used to hunt in Cades Cove, where wildlife such as elk, bears, bison, and deer roamed free. By the early 1800s, Europeans also began settling in this verdant valley. Today, you will find a wide variety of historic buildings, such as churches and pioneer log cabins, among others, to explore in the area.

Cades Cove is also very famous for its vast camping grounds, numerous hiking trails, and the abundance of wildlife, such as coyotes, deer, black bears, and turkeys that flourish in the area.

Not interested in hiking? Not a problem! You can also easily experience Cade’s Cove by car! On this driving tour, you can ride through the Cades Cove Loop Road, an 11-mile stretch of bright-colored meadows and picturesque mountain tops. 

3. Firefly Display

Are you ready for an amazing natural spectacle? If you’re lucky, you might be able to experience the unique natural “lights show” that illuminates the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sometime in May or June. During this time, the indigenous Synchronous Fireflies and the Blue Ghost Fireflies unknowingly put on a mesmerizing show of synchronized flashing lights that beautifully illuminate the area. The show usually begins between 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. and lasts for four hours. 

If you’re going to the light show, be sure to observe proper etiquette so as not to disrupt the fireflies and to let the rest of the audience enjoy the show as well. Proper show decorum includes placing a red light filter on your flashlight, turning off your flashlight once you find your viewing spot, and not catching the fireflies.

Note that this is a very specific scheduled event that is hosted by the National Park Service. The good news is that admission to this experience is free other than a $24 parking fee required to park your car and attend the event. The bad news is that this is a highly controlled event with very limited space and dates available. In order to go, you must enter a lottery by a certain cut-off date and await to see if you win a parking space to attend. Check out the National Park Service’s official Firefly Event page for updates on when the lottery opens and event dates.

4. Clingmans Dome

Did you know that you can reach great heights during your next visit to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park? Just visit Clingmans Dome, Tennessee’s highest point! Clingmans Dome stands at 6,643 feet and is the second highest point east of the Mississippi River. Located at the state-line ridge between Tennessee and North Carolina, Clingmans Dome was regarded by the Cherokee people as home of the “White Bear,” or the chief of all bears. Before it was known as Clingmans Dome, it was known as “Kuwa’hi”, which means “mulberry place” in the language of the Cherokee.

When you get to the top of the highest point, Clingman’s Dome reveals spectacular breathtaking views of sunrises, sunsets, and the seven neighboring states. 

5. Appalachian Trail

Crossing the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a 71-mile stretch of the famous Appalachian Trail. Measuring over 2,000 miles in length and reaching elevations of more than 6,000 feet, the Appalachian Trail, also known as the A.T., is the world’s longest hiking-only footpath and traverses 14 states. Fittingly called a National Scenic Trail, the A.T. unveils gorgeous vistas as you go along its rich forests, which are a sanctuary for diverse assemblages of flora and fauna. 

Needless to say, only a few hikers intend to finish the entire trail across 14 states! For a more doable experience, you may opt to take the trailhead from Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome for a 9-hour day hike.

6. Llama Treks

Experience a one-of-a-kind hiking adventure where you will not only admire the green-foliage-carpeted trail that you will traverse but also enjoy the company of some pretty lovable, professionally-trained llamas. Whether you’re exploring the Smokies solo or with your family and friends, you will surely find the llamas adorable as they walk alongside you, delighting in grass and wildflower nibbles along the way. Note that if you wish to feed them, consider bringing some graham crackers and oatmeal cookies to share.

Children as young as five years old are welcome to join this trek as it typically only lasts for about one to two hours and is considered an easy to moderate hike. However, please note that the terrain is uneven, and the trail begins with an uphill climb. But do not fret as there are plenty of opportunities to take as many breaks as you need to finish the trek.

You can book this experience online with Smoky Mountain Llama Treks. They offer different types of treks, which start at different locations. Upon reservation, check your email for the instructions and directions to the trailhead.

Be sure to arrive on time for your scheduled hike. Otherwise, the tour guide will begin the trek without you after a 15-minute grace period. And if you miss your hike, you will not be refunded your payment!


Short TrekAdult: $55
Kids: $45
Includes short Llama farm visit
Lunch with LlamasAdult: $65
Kids: $55
Bring your own lunch and beverages. There are picnic tables in the area.

Source: https://smokymountainllamatreks.com/treks/padgett-mill


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Trip Advisor5921

7. Mount Le Conte

At 6,953 feet, Mount Le Conte is the third-highest peak found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. The Alum Cave Trail to Mount Le Conte is one of the best trails in the park because of the interesting landscapes and slice of history that come with the trek. Just note that this Mount Le Conte is rated as a strenuous hike, requiring hikers to climb over 2,700 feet and walk 5.5 miles from the Alum Cave Trailhead.

A Walk in the Woods offers guided tours, including the Mount Le Conte hike, which lasts for approximately 10 hours. During the hike, you will climb through rocks, pass through forests, see magnificent views of Anakeesta formations, cross powerful streams, and stop by a gorgeous overlook to admire the home of the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon.

To book this experience, head over to their website and use Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express to reserve your slot.


Group SizeCost/Person
1 to 2 People$165
3 to 5 People$145
6 to 11 People$125

Source: https://awalkinthewoods.com


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Trip Advisor5672

NOTE: While this article has been written for your general enjoyment and personal informational use, it should not be relied upon because we cannot warranty the accuracy of information. Please be sure to contact each business directly to verify rates and terms of service.

Got questions about other famous attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Just shoot us an email at hello@mightyvacay.com.

Haven’t booked your Great Smokies vacation home yet? Check out our charming rustic cabins in Tennessee: Mighty Sunrise, Mighty Sunset, Mighty Big Bear, Mighty Birdsong, Mighty Chickadee, and Mighty Duckster.

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