One of my favorite things about taking a Smoky Mountain vacation is, well, the Smoky Mountains. And luckily, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just minutes away from Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins. As much as I love the hustle and bustle, sometimes it’s nice to slow down, take some time and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, and I think for good reason. There are so many incredible hiking trails, stunning views and the opportunity to just get out, get some exercise and fresh air.
One of the most popular activities to do in the Smokies is hiking—no surprise there. There are several popular destination hikes throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including Charlies Bunion, Alum Cave Bluffs, Andrews Bald, Rainbow Falls and Chimney Tops.
One of my favorite sites to see during a trip to the Smokies is the waterfalls. Rainbow Falls Trail is a 2.7- mile hike one way to the falls. The hike is a bit strenuous but the waterfall is worth it. I could sit by the stream and listen to the relaxing sound of the rushing water all day.
Another great activity when thinking of things to do this summer while in the Smokies is to look for wildlife and wildflowers—this is something you can do on foot on the trails or by car on the roads. The thing many people hope to see the most during their Smokies trip is a black bear. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas for wild black bears in the eastern United States. Biologists estimate roughly 1,500 hundred bears live in the park! These bears can grow up to six feet in length, up to three feet high and can live 15 years or more! If you have driven through the national park before, you have probably encountered what locals call a ‘bear jam.’ This is when traffic gets backed up because people have stopped to look at a bear. The best thing to do during a ‘bear jam’ is to just be patient and take a quick picture from the car (if you’re not in the driver’s seat).
There are also a number of beautiful wildflowers in Great Smoky Mountain’s National Park—more than 1,500 kinds according the park website. That’s more than any other national park in North America! Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for mountain laurel (recognize that name from the shop at Dollywood?), rhododendron and flame azaleas. One of my favorite things to do in the national park is look for these beautiful flowers and see how many I can find and identify (also a lot of fun for the kids!). But remember, don’t remove them from the park, it’s against the law.
Hiking and driving yourself are not the only ways to enjoy Great Smoky Mountain National Park. My favorite option is taking a Pink Jeep Adventure Tour. This tour is fairly new to the area, and boy am I glad it is here. I love the national park, but would personally rather ride than hike. I also love learning about the park’s history and wildlife, and this option is an incredible way to do that. Originating in Sedona, Pink Jeep Adventure Tours is an all new way to take in the sights and sounds of the Great Smoky Mountains. You quite literally tour around in a pink jeep. There are a number of different excursions inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park—and there are plenty of incredible ‘instragrammable” photo opportunities along the way. The tour guides are super knowledgeable about the national park and the area. If you are looking for a guided tour of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this is a tour I recommend.
No matter how you choose to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park or what you choose to explore when you get there, the national park can be an incredible addition to your Smoky Mountain vacation. It’s just one more way to create memories and enjoy life!