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Be one with nature and explore the incredible surroundings of this wooded utopia full of wildlife, amazing sightseeing opportunities, cascading waterfalls, and so much more. If you’re visiting for three full days, this is just the itinerary for you. Remember to pack a day bag with all of the essentials for long days in the park. Here’s how to spend three full days exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Day 1: Scenic Drives & Trails
Morning Start at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to learn about the park history, pick up trail maps and souvenirs, or make ranger-led program reservations. Next, drive along the Newfound Gap — a 31-mile low mountain ridge that runs from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, into Cherokee, North Carolina. This sightseeing marvel is a half day to a full day adventure. If you make it to the end of the trail, stop by Sugarlands Distilling for some local moonshine.
Afternoon For hiking trails and beautiful sights, take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This two-hour or half day trail takes you six miles into spectacular mountain scenery. You’ll see Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot waterfall, Grotto Falls, and may even spot incredible wildlife along the way.
Day 2: Cades Cove
Morning If you’re an early bird, you’ll love the Cades Cove area. The roads are closed to motor traffic until 10 a.m., which is the ideal opportunity to walk around the 11-mile loop undisturbed. Spot 18th- and 19th-century cabins, a few churches, and a working grist mill along the way. Whether you hike to Abram Falls or keep following the Rich Mountain Loop, it’s an exciting day of sightseeing and being one with nature.
Pack some breakfast and head up to Clingmans Dome — the highest point in Tennessee. You’ll get the most from your hike if you see the area on a clear, sunny day. Since the top is so high (6,643-foot peak to be exact), be sure to pack a jacket. Although the trail is well paved, it’s very steep so pack some comfortable walking shoes while you’re at it! The great thing about starting your day here is that other trails branch off of Clingmans Dome, including the Appalachian Trail.
While you’re straddling the Tennessee and North Carolina state lines, take a tour through Cherokee, North Carolina, on your last night. Visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to learn about legends and stories of the Trail of Tears, or see how the tribes lived in the 1700 and 1800s at Oconalufftee Indian Village.