You rise in the quiet early morning light to break down camp. You make your way through the lush foliage and begin to climb. You break through the tree line as you ascend higher and higher, the sun rising with you and cutting through the crisp air. Finally, you reach the summit and soak in the sprawling view — miles and miles of rolling peaks, coated in misty clouds.
There’s no shortage of ways to explore this mountainous region that straddles the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Feel the cool spray of a waterfall. Spend a night camping under the stars or witnessing a firefly phenomenon. Climb to the top of the famed Clingman’s Dome. Whatever you choose, the memories you create amid this rugged wilderness will stick with you forever.
This is Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Located in: Tennessee and North Carolina
- Established: 1934
- Also known as: The most popular U.S. National Park
- Number of visitors: 11.3 million in 2016
- Entrance price: Free
- Mountain formation: 200-300 million years ago (some of the oldest in the world)
- Fun fact: Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon, Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously.