Great Smoky Mountains National Park

As many of you know, my new goal is to visit every National Park in the United States. Back in September I took a road trip from Arkansas to North Carolina stopping in three National Parks and seeing some of what that part of America has to offer. Some good, some bad but always entertaining and in terms of the three National Parks I visited, none were better than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I spent the night in Knoxville, Tennessee and headed south toward Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is of course the home of Dollywood. It also happens to be the home of about 10,000 other horrible things. Basically, in my view, Pigeon Forge is the epitome of everything I hate as it’s super cheesy and tacky beyond belief.

It is home to all sorts of gimmicky places and museums including an upside down mansion. I suppose I can see how kids might enjoy it but that’s not exactly my demographic so I just passed through quickly. Unfortunately the next town right before the park was Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Gatlinburg might be the worst place I’ve ever been. It is essentially a strip of crap shops, bars and chain restaurants with live music being played by some really interesting folks (see below). Apparently Gatlinburg is known for weddings. If I ever got married there, I think I’d divorce myself!

That said, soon thereafter is the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a massive park that straddles two states, Tennessee and North Carolina. It is a beautiful place to drive around and has some incredible views of the hills and mountains in the distance and below.

It is called Great Smoky Mountains National Park because the Indians called it smoky as it always has a blue smoke kind of look coming off the forest. It is unique, cool and a great place to spend a day with a picnic or to do some hiking.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not like some other parks where there is a must see attraction. It is just a beautiful part of America where you will spot wildlife on the side of the road and you will be mesmerized by the views around every corner.

You can’t go wrong in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can do what you like and take it as slow or fast as you please. Just don’t go too fast and miss the views. Besides you might hit an elk!

If you head through Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg, you will inevitably end up in Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is a great way to end your stay in the park because it’s a great little city with one of the best attractions in the States, the Biltmore Estate.

It’s definitely worth spending at least a night there so you can check out the estate and sample some of their world-class wines. It’ll cost you some $55 or so but it is worth it.

You can also have dinner on the premises at one of their restaurants and if you go on a weekend you will definitely see a bunch of weddings. Speaking of weddings, forget Gatlinburg, this estate would be a place to get hitched!

One other word of advice on Asheville; reserve your hotel in advance if you go in the fall because that is the busiest season and I had a real hard time finding a hotel with a room for less than $400…no joke. I ended up at some crappy roadside motel and still ended up paying $150-but that was my fault for not planning in advance-seems to be a recurring problem in my life!

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  1. Asheville is one of my favorite places to visit with the family. We live in Raleigh, it’s a great place to go with kids and then into the park. Good story and it made me laugh when you made fun of the Tennessee towns on the other side-they are awful places!

    • Thanks Carlos and yes Asheville is pretty nice and I love the park…the TN towns are brutal for me but I’d imagine kids would like them

  2. Smoky Mtns NP is gorgeous. Fantastic pictures here.

  3. great pics Lee…looks like a great place

  4. I’ve been to Gatlinburg and you are right, that place is awful, haha

  5. I love your candor. It always makes me laugh. The Great Smoky Mountains are fantastic. Actually I love spending time in both of North Carolina and Tennessee. The photos are lovely as I think it’s a great place to see the changing of the leaves.

  6. You make Tennessee sound so wonderful LOL!

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