Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains have been a popular destination since its dedication in 1940. Encompassing over 522,000 acres in both Tennessee and North Carolina, the park is home to mountains, waterfalls, winding valleys and century-old architecture.
Things To Do:
For a historical journey, take a walk through the Mountain Farm Museum. Here you’ll find a village of restored log buildings from all over the Smokies, giving you a look back at mountain life in the early settlement days. Binoculars and bear spray are recommended accessories as wildlife is abundant in the park—especially black bears. By far, hitting the trails is the best way to explore the Smokies and with 800 miles of pristine backcountry trails you’ll have plenty of options. Picturesque waterfalls are strewn all over the park with many trails bringing you by them. For a unique experience, take the Trillium Gap Trail that meanders through an old-growth hemlock forest and actually runs behind the 25-foot high Grotto waterfall.
Where To Stay:
For travelers wanting to stay in the park, the largely wooded Elkmont Campground is a good choice. The Little River runs directly through the campground, offering campers the chance to wake up to the sounds of a rushing stream—a perfect way to start the day.
Tennessee is still undoubtedly whiskey country, but there has been a bit of a boom in the available craft beer in the region as of late. Smoky Mountain Brewery now has four brewpub locations around East Tennessee. Bluetick Brewery in Maryville is a co-op brewery with an eye towards protecting the Smokies, “putting sustainable practices in the forefront of their brewery mission.” If you can’t find enough beer in this part of Tennessee to satisfy your appetite, remember the craft beer mecca of the east, Asheville, NC, is just about two hours southeast of the heart of the Smokies.