Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Several entries lead to great GSMNP hikes

The view from atop Clingman's Dome.
A vast, sprawling park covering 816 square miles, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a number of access points and sections.

Most visitors enter through Gatlinburg, Tenn., which sits at the park’s northcentral side. There’s good reason to select Gatlinburg, as it leads to multiple scenic areas. Among them is the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, which offers trailheads to 80-foot Rainbow Falls and Mount Le Conte. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is west of that road and provides access to pretty Laurel Falls and the Elkmont and Tremont areas.

Gatlinburg also is the main way to reach another popular section of the park – Cades Cove. The cove is in the park’s northwest. Nearby can be found a historic mill and farm site as well as the Cades Cove Nature Trail.

The Newfound Gap Road is the main north-south highway through the park, running from Gatlinburg to the Oconaluftee area. Along the way is Clingman’s Dome (the highest point on the Appalachian Trail), Chimney Tops, the Alum Cave Trail, the Mingus Mill, and the Mountain Farm Museum.

From North Carolina, Bryson City serves as a major entry point to the park’s southcentral section. Footpaths pass several streams with waterfalls, most notably the Deep Creek/Indian Creek Falls Trail.

Some less used access points include Fontana Dam in the park’s southwest side, Hentooga Ridge Road, which runs past Balsam Mountain, Cataloochee, and Big Creek, all in North Carolina. Other Tennessee entries includes Cosby, Greenbrier (south of Pittman Center), and Townsend, which runs to either Cades Cove or Tremont.

Learn about other great trails at this national park in Best Sights to See at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.