Who has not longed to get away from it all? To some, this might mean strapping on a backpack, slipping into a hardwood forest and emerging hours later on a mountaintop. Simple moments like roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire with the family become cherished vacation memories. Others find their bliss wading in rocky trout streams or capturing nature's splendor on film. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal getaway for all who want to pursue the pleasures of the great outdoors.
The establishment of the national park in 1934 saved one of the largest virgin forests in the eastern United States, which by then had been severely exploited through logging. Old- and second-growth forests now cloak the mountains, giving them the illusion of softness while concealing waterfalls, wildlife and wildflowers that beg discovery from dozens of nature trails. Because diverse tree and plant species coexist at different elevations in this international biosphere, the Smokies have a look for all seasons. Autumn's earthy palette is an all-out crowd pleaser.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the first national park created through the acquisition of privately owned lands—more than 6,000 landowners in Tennessee and North Carolina, including descendants of pioneers, were forced to move. Their legacy is the exceptional collection of historic structures preserved in Cades Cove and Cataloochee, veritable time capsules of southern Appalachian farming culture.
Few roads traversed the mountains at the dawn of motor tourism. The National Park Service challenged engineers to carve out safe, serviceable byways with minimum impact on the landscape and maximum viewing potential for motorists. By design, scenic pullouts abound as you travel along US 441, Little River Road, Laurel Creek Road, Big Cove Road and the loop road within Cades Cove.
One of the largest and busiest pullouts is at Newfound Gap, on US 441 at the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Here in 1940, 6 years after Congress set aside the vast Smoky Mountain wilderness for future generations, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood on the large stone terrace and dedicated the park “for the permanent enjoyment of the people.” Attendance records suggest that the people got the message: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation's most-visited national park.
Great Smoky Mtns. National Park, TN
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