Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an area of scenic forests that holds a world record number of 130 tree species.

Fourteen major forest types are distinguished, most notable cove hardwood and spruce-fir. Large parts of the forests are old growth forest with many trees that predate European settlement of the area in the 18th century.

The park covers 209,000 ha and has been a US National Park since 1934. It has diverse fauna including 50 native animals. These include the black bear and the white-tailed deer, and smaller mammals like the red fox, raccoons and squirrels. Its lungless salamanders, more than 200 species of birds and mollusks are also notable.

There are a number of historical attractions inside the park. The most well-preserved of these is Cades Cove, a valley with a number of preserved historic buildings including log cabins, barns, and churches. These were made by the white frontierspeople that began settling the land in the 18th and early 19th century. Before that, the region was part of the homeland of the Cherokee Indians.


Visit April 2009

I spent two days in the Smoky Mountains, a Monday and Tuesday in April, and was fortunate enough to avoid the notorious crowds. At the first day I did the Cades Coves loop. This takes you through a secluded valley deep in the park, with bright green pastures and historical wooden buildings. It's also known for its wildlife, but I didn't encounter more than wild turkeys (huge!) and deer.

About half way on the loop lies the start of a popular walking tour, the Abrams Falls Trail. It's a 5-mile walk. It takes you on a sometimes slippery path through the forest, ending at a waterfall. Not wildly spectacular, but a fine way to stretch your legs. I walked it in about 3 hours in total.

The second morning I took the Newfound Gap Road that leads right through the National Park, from Gatlinburg (Tennessee) to Cherokee (North Carolina). Along the road are a number of overlooks that give good views over the forests and the mountains. The latter indeed with the layers of "smoke" attached from which it takes its name.

In the evening I undertook a last attempt at spotting a bear (or other wildlife). I went back to Cades Cove, where I arrived at 7.15 pm. The setting sun gave the open fields a wonderful golden glare. There were more cars around than during the day, many of those belonging to photographers. But again no bears! Only deer.

The hosts of my B&B told me when I came back that (young) bears when they are hungry even come into Gatlinburg and spook around the house. At this time of the year they are not often seen. Cades Cove at dusk however still is the best bet.

Community Reviews

Emilia Bautista King - June 2010

Our family spent 4 nights in a cabin in Gatlinburg, which is the Tennessee entrance into the park. Because we had little children with us, it was nice having our cabin so close to the town center. We took in Newfound Gap, which has a beautiful overlook and the site of the World Heritage Site plaque. Also worthwhile was Cades Cove. We were fortunate that even though we were there during the first week of June, summer vacation had not yet started for school children so it was not as crowded as it can be later in the season. We were also excited to see bears in the woods as well as in the meadow. The highlight was watching a black bear play with her three cubs. It was especially wonderful to share this moment with our 3-year-old daughter!

James Kovacs - February 2006

The Smokies can be a joy or it can be a nightmare.

I've had both experiences in this park. I would not

recommend taking the Cades Cove driving loop tour

in the summer. The traffic is overwhelming and very slow.

I would recommend doing this on a weekday in the spring

or fall. The hiking in the Smokies is extraordinary.

I hiked the remote Cataloochee cove area on a Saturday

in July and didn't see a soul. It was marvelous.

I have also hiked to Alum Cave and Andrews Bald and enjoyed

these hikes very much. Clingmans Dome however is a bit

overrated. And I was so disappointed to see all the

acid rain destruction here.

Solivagant - June 2005

Lalibela is wonderfully “Ethiopian” – you really do feel that you are seeing something which is different from anything you would see elsewhere. There are other “rock cut” religious structures around the world but Lalibela possesses an atmosphere of “otherness”. Even if you don’t visit at the time of a religious festival (we didn’t unfortunately) you will see/meet Ethiopian Priests in the churches and get some feeling for the rituals – which mostly take place in inner sanctums containing the “Ark” and are inaccessible to ordinary mortals, with only the sounds to hint at the activities going on behind the curtains.

As a European visitor you will have to accept the high “hassle factor” – you are very much an “opportunity”! As we emerged from our hotel we were accosted by a boy wanting to act as our guide. We usually decline and initially did so on this occasion. Not worth it. Even if he doesn’t/can’t do much guiding his mere presence will save having to continually dissuade alternative contenders. We gave in for this reason - it also appeared that we were his “assigned” tourists for the day to meet as we emerged, follow us wherever we went and use all his powers of persuasion on – if he failed he would go to the back of the guide queue and await his next turn “unpaid” for that day.

As most tourists do we flew in and out on the generally good and very cheap Ethiopian Airways internal flights. I understand that Lalibela “airport” has been resited/acquired a new runway since we were there in 1995. This should make this wonderful place a little less fraught to visit. Any rain closed the old airstrip. And getting away could be a bit of a lottery too. At that time the only communication the local Ethiopian Airlines had with flight control in Addis was via an unreliable radio connection at the “7 Olives Hotel” which, because of geographic/climatic conditions, only seemed to work at night. Thus the morrow’s possible flights were agreed the previous evening and, in the morning, one traversed the several miles of rough road on a 4x4 to the tin hut which was the airport terminal to be weighed with one’s bags on a set of old luggage scales and await whatever plane(s) might turn up! We finished up doing an aerial tour of the country to reach our next destination at Gondar.

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Site Info

Full name: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Site History


The site has 1 locations.

  • Great Smoky Mountains


The site has 22 connections.




  • Destroyed during invasion Oconaluftee, the Cherokee capital within the park area was probably destroyed in 1776 by the army of General Griffith Rutherford during the American Revolution.


  • Bears Black bear
  • Beech Forests 
  • Biological Corridor Appalachian Trail Corridor "The Appalachian Trail’s protected corridor (a swath of land averaging about 1,000 feet in width) encompasses more than 250,000 acres, making it one of the largest units of the National Park System in the eastern United States. The corridor passes through some of the most significant and rare ecosystems remaining along the East Coast, and harbors more than 80 globally rare species. The protection of habitat within this corridor preserves connectivity between populations of not only rare species, but the hundreds of other species that persist only in this mountainous region."
  • Reintroduced Species "In 1991, two pairs were reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the last known red wolf was killed in 1905. Despite some early success, the wolves were relocated to North Carolina in 1998, ending the effort to reintroduce the species to the Park." (wiki) - the red wolf now is a critically endangered species
  • Salamanders Red-cheeked Salamander (Plethodon jordani) 27 species of salamander are found in the park, considered the most diverse in the world - nomination file


Human Activity

  • Natural sites with indigenous human population Cherokee "Many of the Cherokee left, but some, led by renegade warrior Tsali, hid out in the area that is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some of their descendants now live in the Qualla Reservation south of the park." Wiki
  • Secret Locations Some Cherokees hid in the park area escaping a forced deportation by American authorities.

Individual People

  • John D Rockefeller Jr "The U.S. National Park Service wanted a park in the eastern United States, but did not have much money to establish one. Though Congress had authorized the park in 1926, there was no nucleus of federally owned land around which to build a park. John D Rockefeller Jr contributed $5 million, the U.S. government added $2 million, and private citizens from Tennessee and North Carolina pitched in to assemble the land for the park, piece by piece" (Wiki) A "Rockefeller Memorial" is situated at Newfound Gap.

Religion and Belief

  • Legends and Folk Myths The Cherokee considered the waters of the Oconaluftee sacred. Dora Woodruff Cope, who lived in the Oconaluftee valley near Smokemont around 1900, recalled a legend her Cherokee neighbors told her: ...part of the river was called Ya'nu-u'nata wasti'yi, "Where the bears wash." It was a deeper part of the river, where all the animals came to wash and heal their wounds when they had been hurt by hunters. No white person had ever seen this place because evil had blinded us to its existence. The animals knew how to find it, and diving into it meant instant healing. (wiki)


  • Late Pleistocene Great Smoky Mountains National Park is of world importance as the outstanding example of of the diverse Arcto-Tertiary geoflora era, providing an indication of what the late Pleistocene flora looked like before recent human impacts (criteria i). It is large enough to be a significant example of continuing biological evolution of this natural system (criteria ii).


WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process