• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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  • Spring Road Status

    During spring, park roads may close due to ice, especially at high elevation where wet roads can freeze as temperatures drop at night. For road status information call (865) 436-1200 ext. 631 or follow updates at http://twitter.com/SmokiesRoadsNPS. More »

Auto Touring

Auto touring has long been a favorite way to enjoy the park.
Auto touring has long been a favorite way to enjoy the park.
Federal Highway Administration Photo
 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over 800 square miles and is one of the most pristine natural areas in the East. An auto tour of the park offers a variety of experiences, including panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams, weathered historic buildings, and mature hardwood forests stretching to the horizon.

There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars. Travel speeds on most of the park's paved roads average 35 miles per hour. Traffic and Travel Tips

Inexpensive booklets are available to serve as your personal tour guides along many park roads. These booklets are keyed to numbered posts or landmarks and include information on park history, wildlife, and plants. Booklets are available for the following roads:

  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cataloochee Valley
  • Newfound Gap Road
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Upper Tremont Road

In addition, the book Smokies Road Guide covers main thoroughfares and scenic backroads in the park. This book and the self-guiding auto tour booklets listed above are available at park visitor centers and online. Self-guiding tour booklets are also available from dispensers at the start of the roads they cover.

Please check for seasonal and weather-related road closures before planning an auto tour.

Visit the following pages for descriptions of several favorite auto-touring destinations: Newfound Gap, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, Roaring Fork

 

Beating the Crowds

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America's most visited national park. Times when visitation is highest are July 1-August 15 and the month of October (especially October weekends). During these times, traffic may become congested, especially on the Newfound Gap and Cades Cove Loop roads. Fortunately, lesser-used roads and off-the-beaten path destinations are scattered throughout the park. Anytime you want to escape the crowds, try one of these alternatives:

*motorists must travel part of the busy Cades Cove Loop Road to access this one-way backroad (closed in winter).

In summer, motorists can also avoid the crowds by traveling before 10:00 a.m. in the morning or after 5:00 p.m. in the evening. During October, traffic is heaviest during the afternoons and evenings.

 

Recommended Reading

 

Exploring the Smokies
This award-winning, complete guide to enjoying the Smokies has a handy "map-sized" format that fits easily into the glove-box of your car. Describes all major destinations, including Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, and more. Tells where and how to pursue your favorite vacation activities: camping, fishing, photography, horseback riding, waterfall watching, and hiking. Includes a color pull-out map of destinations in the park.

 
Smokies Road Guide
Let this colorful book serve as your personal tour guide along the park's main thoroughfares and scenic backroads. Keyed to numbered posts along the way, this guide fills you in on park history, wildflowers, wildlife, waterfalls, day hikes, and more. Handy size fits conveniently in your glove box. 154 pages with fold-out park map and lots of color photos.
 

Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park's official online store for other books, maps, and guides to the park. Operated by the nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association, proceeds generated by purchases at the store are donated to educational, scientific, and historical projects in the park.

 
Clingmans Dome page on iPhone

Smokies Mobile App
Download the Free Smokies Visitor Guide for your phone. Includes trip planning, recreation and services information, along with the park map. Everything works without a cell signal.

Did You Know?

Flame azalea can be found growing on heath balds in the park.

The park’s high elevation heath balds are treeless expanses where dense thickets of shrubs such as mountain laurel, rhododendron, and sand myrtle grow. Known as “laurel slicks” and “hells” by early settlers, heath balds were most likely created by forest fires long ago. More...