American history and natural beauty abound in this mountain range between Tennessee and North Carolina. Here visitors can find a range of elevations and ecosystems ranging from the summit of Clingman’s Dome at 6,643 feet to the 4,000 acres of valley known as Cades Cove to the riparian forest surrounding Abrams Creek, the lowest elevation here. Home to one of the oldest mountain ranges in America, this park charts the history of Appalachia from the forming of the mountains to the arrival of native tribes to the settlement of Europeans and development of mountain culture and finally, to the evacuation of the tight-knit communities that once called the region home either for creation of the park or by the massive hydroelectric projects undertaken by the Tennessee Valley Authority. This is Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Known locally as the Smokies, this is largest national park east of the Rocky Mountains, and is also the most visited park in the country because it lies within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the nation’s population. The park is one of few open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. The reason for this is because of U.S. Highway 441, also known as Newfound Gap Road, a 32-mile stretch of highway that connects Gatlinburg, Tenn., with Cherokee, N.C. Another pathway, the Appalachian Trail, extends for 70 miles through the park. Visitors here not only take in the natural sights but can also learn about the history of the people who once lived here. Many former homesteads and even small villages are still historically preserved within the park’s boundaries. Home to black bears and fireflies, wildflowers and fall foliage, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is truly an American icon.
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