Home Cabins Motels Condos Bed & Breakfasts Campgrounds/RV Attractions Restaurants Blog

Park Visitor Centers Are Great Resources

Posted by Leif Palmer in Smoky Mountains

If you plan to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park this spring, summer or fall, you'll have hundreds of acres of unspoiled wilderness and native wildlife to explore. From hiking trails and campgrounds to historic sites and observation towers, there's a lot to see and do. After all, there's a lot of geographic territory to cover, and for those who may have never visited the park before, it can almost be intimidating trying to focus on the areas that might be of most interest to you.

If you're staying in a cabins in Sevierville, TN, Pigeon Forge, TN or Gatlinburg, TN, our recommendation is to start your exploration of the park at one of its many visitor centers. If you happen to be starting on the North Carolina side of the park, you'll want to go to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, but more likely than not, you'll want to go to the main center on the Tennessee side – Sugarlands Visitor Center.

It's easy to find. From the south end of the Parkway in Gatlinburg (also U.S. 441), continue south until you enter the park and then follow the signs. It's just a couple of miles away. Once you're there, you'll find plenty of parking, and inside lies a wealth of resources and information.

For instance, there's a 20-minute film about the national park that plays continuously throughout the day, and the park also presents special ranger-led programs on a seasonal basis, many of which take place at the visitor center. The facilities also include a bookstore and shop as well as public restrooms and vending machines. You can even get your backcountry permits there.

But don't forget about one of the most valuable resources at Sugarlands – the park rangers. These folks know their stuff, including points of interest, important safety guidelines and information about the local flora and fauna. They might be able to offer some valuable recommendations when it comes to prioritizing what you want to do while you're in the park.

Sugarlands Visitor Center is open every day except Christmas, beginning at 8 a.m. Closing hours vary depending on the season.

Another visitor center worth the stop is the one in the Cades Cove section of the park. If you drive the cove's historic 11-mile loop, you'll find this center at about the midway point of the one-way tour. In addition to hosting many of the park's ranger-led programs on the Tennessee side, this venue hosts indoor and outdoor exhibits that illustrate Southern mountain life and culture, particularly as they relate to the cove's heyday of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Some of the more notable outdoor structures include Cable Mill, an operational gristmill, which you can see in action spring through fall; the Becky Cable house; and several other historic structures and out buildings. This center also has public facilities as well as a bookstore and a shop, and its operational schedule is similar to Sugarlands Visitor Center, except that it doesn't open until 9 a.m.

Leif Palmer - Smokies blogger

About Leif Palmer

Leif Palmer loves residing in the Smoky Mountains. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.


This content posted by Smokies Travel Guide. Visit our home page, smokiestravelguide.com for more information on the Smoky Mountain area.

Other blog categories:
Gatlinburg      Hiking      Pigeon Forge      Pigeon Forge Attractions      Places To Eat      Places To Eat      Rental Cabins      Seasons Smoky Mountains      Sevierville      Smoky Mountain Attractions      Smoky Mountains      Things to Do      Wears Valley      

Powered by StoneOakPress