You must possess a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online. You also need to check for Time
(Fishing is allowed from a half hour before official sunrise to a half hour after official sunset) – Daily Possession Limits & Size Limits
Caution is advised in the backcountry. The park’s backcountry is managed as a natural area where the forces of nature determine trail conditions. Please be prepared for swollen streams, bridge washouts, downed trees, and trail erosion-particularly between December and May due to the seasonal nature of the trail maintenance program.
Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year with every season offering is own special rewards. During winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along trails and reveals stone walls, chimneys, foundations, and other reminders of past residents. Spring provides a weekly parade of wildflowers and flowering trees. In summer, walkers can seek out cool retreats among the spruce-fir forests and balds or follow splashy mountain streams to roaring falls and cascades. Autumn hikers have crisp, dry air to sharpen their senses and a varied palette of fall colors to enjoy.
8. Historic Buildings
Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures—houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools, and grist mills—have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park. The best places to see them are at Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Oconaluftee, and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Self-guiding auto tour booklets are available at each place to enhance your visit.
9. Horseback Riding
Guided horseback rides are available at four concession horseback riding stables in the park from mid-March through late November. Rides on scenic park trails are offered lasting from 45 minutes to several hours. All rides proceed at a walking pace. Rates are from $30 per hour. Weight limits and age restrictions may apply.
Please remember that feeding bears and other wildlife is illegal. The black bear symbolizes the invaluable wilderness qualities of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But bears are dying unnecessarily due to improper disposal of garbage or illegal feeding by visitors. A bear’s remarkable sense of smell may lead it to human foods, such as a picnicker’s cooler, garbage left in the open, or food scraps thrown on the ground or left in the grill.
A bear that has discovered human food or garbage will eventually become day-active and leave the safety of the backcountry. It may panhandle along roadsides and be killed by a car or it may injure a visitor and have to be euthanized. Please do your part to help protect black bears and other wildlife in the Great Smokies. Clean your picnic area, including the grill and the ground around the table, thoroughly after your meal.
11. Ranger-led Programs
Explore the park with a ranger. Ranger-led programs are offered spring through fall. Check out the Not-So-Junior Ranger program, designed for rangers between the ages of 13 and 130.
Every year over 200,000 visitors hike well-worn trails to view Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow, and other popular waterfalls in the park. Large waterfalls attract the crowds, but smaller cascades and falls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park.
The Great Smoky Mountains abound with the two ingredients essential for waterfalls-ample rainfall and an elevation gradient. In the Smokies high country, over 85″ of rain falls on average each year. During wet years, peaks like Mt. Le Conte and Clingmans Dome receive over eight feet of rain. This abundant rainfall trickles and rushes down the mountain sides, from high elevation to low, sometimes dropping more than a mile in elevation from the high peaks to the foothills at the park’s boundary.
13. Wildflowers and Blooming Shrubs
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity—over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants are found in the park, more than in any other North American national park. You can see where to find many of these flowers on the Species Mapper. In fact, the park is sometimes referred to as the “Wildflower National Park.” From the earliest hepaticas and spring-beauties in the late winter to the last asters in the late fall, blooming flowers can be found year-round in the park.
A group of flowers known as spring ephemerals begins the yearly show. Ephemerals are so named because they appear above ground only in late winter and early spring, then flower, fruit, and die back within a short two month period. They emerge from February through April, and are gone (dormant) by May or June.
Flowering shrubs put on a colorful show in the park in spring and summer. Nine species of native shrubs in the rhododendron genus live in the park: rosebay (white) rhododendron, Catawba (purple) rhododendron, flame azalea, sweet azalea, Cumberland azalea, small-leaved azalea, pinxter-bush, pink azalea, and clammy azalea. Together they cover thousands of acres in the national park.
14. Wildlife Viewing
Viewing wildlife in the Smokies can be challenging because most of the park is covered by dense forest. Open areas like Cataloochee and Cades Cove offer some of the best opportunities to see white-tailed deer, elk, black bear, raccoon, turkeys, woodchucks, and other animals. The narrow, winding road of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail encourages motorists to travel at a leisurely pace and sometimes yields sightings of bear and other wildlife. During winter wildlife is more visible because deciduous trees have lost their leaves.
Because many animals are most active at night, it can be advantageous to look for wildlife during morning and evening. It’s also a good idea to carry binoculars. Some people like to sit quietly beside a trail to see what wildlife will come out of hiding. And don’t forget to scan the trees—many animals spend their days among the branches.
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