You may be an avid hiker in need of a trail, or a tired traveler who wants to rest in the shade of majestic trees, and either way, you’ll find many things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains. There are so many activities, and nature contributes unscheduled events as well, if you like to watch wildlife interact with its habitat.
For those of any age and any activity level, touring by car is one of the most popular things you can do in the mountains. You can gaze over lush forests, mountain streams and the panoramic views around each curve. Watching for wildlife can be done safely from your car, and you may catch sight of white-tailed deer, elk or black bear.
If you love to fish, there are miles and miles (over 700, to be more precise) of streams in the park that can be fished. Rainbow, brown and brook trout will keep your skills at their peak level, and the scenery all around you is simply amazing. It’s not just another fishing trip.
There is nothing quite like riding a horse through the wandering trails of the Smoky Mountains. You can trailer in your own horse and stay over in one of the five drive-in camps for horse people. If you don’t have a mount of your own, not to worry – the park has four stables where you can hire a guide and a horse. The rhythmic sound of the horses’ hooves on the trail will be music to your ears.
If you’d rather ride something without a mind of its own, you can bicycle in Cades Cove, which is a favorite trail for cyclists of many different levels. Or, if you’re a history buff, explore the historic log buildings in the park – there are almost 80 of them. They range from grist mills to schools, churches, barns and homes. It’s like walking right into the past.
Hikers have long adored the trails in the Smoky Mountains. There are quiet trails for daytime hikers, and more challenging treks for backpackers. All around the 800 miles of hiking trails are the wonders of nature at their best. If you’re carrying along a tent, you can go wilderness camping, or drive to a developed campground, for more creature comforts.
On a personal note–spending time in the mountains and in nature always really makes me want to simplify my life. Upon returning home from one of my glorious adventures hiking in the Smokies, I felt the urge to purge my space of as much “stuff” as humanly possible. I found a company that does junk removal in Murrieta and the surrounding areas, and they hauled away more unnecessary stuff than I’m willing to actually admit. It’s astonishing to me how quickly one’s earthly possessions can become out-of-control, holding you back from experiencing life, rather than enhancing it.
Anyway, back to the Smokies. Picnics are enjoyable anywhere, but not as memorable as those in the Smokies. Choose from eleven different picnic areas, and lay out your blankets. If you wish, you can also reserve pavilions for picnicking, as long as you contact the park in advance.
While you’re hiking or riding, watch for the many lovely waterfalls that grace the park. You can find them on almost every stream and river that runs through the area. If you’d like to learn more about the people who lived in the mountains, you can visit Cades Cove, Roaring Fork or the Mountain Farm museum, to see how early settlers lived.
There is something soothing about relaxing at the end of the day, watching the sun set over the westernmost peaks of the Smokies, and it’s something you can’t find anywhere else.