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Make Great Smoky Mountains National Park Your Next Tennessee Camping Destination, The Most Visited National Park in the US
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America. Located in Tennessee and straddling the border of North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail all run through the park.
Established in 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park didn't enter the national park system until 1940. 814 square miles of wilderness are protected here, making it one of the largest parks in the eastern United States. Elevation in the park varies from 876 feet at the mouth of Abrams Creek all the way up to 6,643 feet at the summit of Clingmans Dome. In fact, traveling up in elevation is just like taking a road trip from southern US states all the way up to Canada. Plants and animals found in both southern and northern states can be found within the park, having found their niche in one elevation or another. Only about 10,000 species of plants and animals are known and that is thought to be only a fraction of the possible 90,000 different species. With more than 200 species of birds, 70 mammals, 50 fish, 40 reptiles, and 45 reptiles, it truly is a diverse park. More than 100 species of trees can be found. The diversity of land and life make it a terrific Tennessee camping destination!
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Keeping in tune with the nature of the park, the weather is as diverse as the land itself. With such a drastic change in elevation comes a wide variety of weather. Temperatures can easily vary 15 degrees from mountain top to base, and pleasant weather in the lower elevations does not mean sunny skies higher up. Spring tends to be unpredictable with weather changing dramatically in a matter of hours. Lower elevations tend to be in the low 60-70’s while higher elevations are colder. Summers are hot and humid. July and August afternoon highs often reach 90+ degrees. Higher elevations have more pleasant, tolerable weather. Afternoon thunderstorms are common. Fall comes with clear skies and cool weather. Days are warm while nights are cold, and by November, lows are generally near freezing. Fall is also the driest season of the year with little rain. Snow is possible in late November. Winter is generally pretty moderate, although it varies drastically with elevation. Lower elevations may very well be warm and sunny while snow falls higher up. Day temperatures are usually in the 40’s and 50’s while nights hover at or below freezing. Snow occurs occasionally at the lower elevations. There is no entrance fee to enter the park and it is open every day of the year.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees more people annually than any other park in the United States, and the most popular time to visit is during the summer. However, spring, fall and winter are still wonderful times to visit the park with an added bonus of less people. Once you reach the park, the opportunities for adventure are nearly endless. Camping, fishing, hiking, bicycling, auto touring, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing are just some of the activities you can do. Every season is great for hiking, each with its own unique beauties. Spring provides blooming wildflowers. Winter opens up paths with less leaves allowing you to explore what might lie behind or below the greenery. Summer hikes through forests or along creeks offer a relaxing break from the heat. Fall is cool and clear with beautiful colors all around. There are many excellent roads for auto touring, including the Cades Cave road, Roaring Fork road and Newfound Gap Road. With so many species of animals within the park, it is a great place for wildlife viewing. There are black bears and elk, coyotes and lungless salamandors, countless bird species, and remember, possibly 80,000 unknown species! With so much to do and see, Great Smoky Mountains National Park truly is a wondrous Tennessee camping destination.
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