Top Places to Explore in the Great Smoky Mountains

Can you imagine a place that houses beautiful mountains, lush forests, flowing streams, magical waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, and abundant wildlife? The Great Smoky Mountains, a forested mountain range spilling over the Tennessee and North Carolina borders, has all this and more. 

Protected by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the area has many diverse regions to explore. This article covers what you need to know and outlines the top places to go so you can make the most of your outdoor adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Best Places to Visit

Visitor Centers

The national park has four visitor centers. Stop at a visitor center first to obtain information about current conditions and ideas for your adventures when going to the park. 

The park has two historic gristmills. Cable Mill is a water-powered gristmill located in Cades Cove. Mingus Mill, near Oconaluftee, is turbine powered. Here you can learn about grinding grain products. 

Historic Gristmills

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is among the most popular spots in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is a vast, lush valley surrounded by mountains.  

Self-Guided Tours

Some of the park’s most beloved hiking trails start in Cades Cove, including: – Abrams Fall – Cades Cove Nature Trail – Thunderhead Mountain – Rocky Top


Nestled between high mountain peaks, Cataloochee houses historic late 19th-century and early 20th-century frame buildings. Preserved buildings include two churches, a school, and several homes. 

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