Don’t Visit the Smoky Mountains (if You Like Solitude)
If seclusion is what you’re after, The Great Smoky Mountains might not be the right place. The Smokies are a heavily visited, insanely popular tourist attraction and national park. In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country.
If you’re cringing at the thought of the crowds, keep reading to learn why the Smoky Mountains might not be the best place to visit if you like solitude.
About the Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains run along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. They formed about 450-540 million years ago. However, some of the rocks around the Great Smokies are more than a billion years old, making them some of the oldest mountains in the world.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the stories of Native American and Appalachian culture. The park is also home to more than 20,000 species.
Why Do So Many People Visit the Smoky Mountains?
Great Smoky Mountains National Park had more than 12 million visitors in 2020 — and that was a pandemic year. So, why do so many people flock to this national park? Well, for one, there are no entry fees.
Also, the weather in the Smoky Mountains is generally pretty mild year-round, so the park stays open all year. Plus, the eastern portion of the U.S. is densely populated, and the Smoky Mountains are easily accessible from many cities and towns.
Finally, many towns near and in the Smoky Mountains have built themselves up as resort destinations. There are towns like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Wears Valley, and more. Many of these towns offer attractions like shows, theme parks, and unique experiences, drawing in millions of visitors per year.
How to Avoid Crowds in the Smoky Mountains
It’s possible to avoid crowds in the Smoky Mountains, but it’s not always easy. Do a little research and plan accordingly. Here are some tips to help you enjoy relative solitude in the Smoky Mountains.
Visit During the Off-Season
Although the park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, there are peak seasons you should avoid if you want solitude. The Smokies have two peak seasons: June 15 – Aug.15 and the entire month of October. Try heading out to the Smokies in the early spring, later in the fall, or during winter.
Start Your Day Early
Sunrises are beautiful and starting your day early while exploring the Smokies is an experience you won’t soon forget. Most visitors tour the park between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The early bird really does get the worm in the Smoky Mountains. Wildlife tends to be more active in the dawn hours, too. Alternatively, you can try exploring the park in the evening.
Stay Out of Pigeon Forge
Don’t like crowds? Don’t go to Pigeon Forge. Or Gatlinburg, for that matter. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are Smoky Mountain resort towns with tourist traps everywhere you look. These towns attract tons of tourists, traffic is bad, and it’s generally not a good time if you’re an introvert. Opt for smaller towns and villages or look for campgrounds outside of civilization.
Go off the Beaten Path
The most heavily visited areas of the Smokies are Cades Cove Loop, outside of Gatlinburg, and Newfound Gap Road. Both areas are busy year-round, but you could explore several other gems instead.
If you want to explore lesser-visited places in the park, check out Foothills Parkway, Fontana Lake, Greenbrier Cove, or Abrams Creek. If you want to hike on a quiet hiking trail, check out the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower Trail, the House of the Fairies in the Twin Creeks area, or the stunning Cataract Falls.
Should You Visit the Smoky Mountains?
Absolutely. The Smokies are a truly special place. This area is home to nearly 20,000 species of plants, fungi, and wildlife. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. A trip to the Smokies is an unforgettable experience, even if you do get caught in the crowds at times.
Can You Find Solitude in the Smoky Mountains?
Yes, you can find solitude in the Smoky Mountains if you know where to look. You can still escape and get away, even in the most-visited national park in the country. Most people visit the most popular areas and never take the time to go off the beaten path. Plan your trip, scope out your locations, and head out early to avoid the crowds. Have you ever visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park? How did you beat the crowds?
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