GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Since its dedication in 1940, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has endured as a top vacation destination in East Tennessee. Its high, rugged mountains and lush timberlands continue to draw more than 9 million visitors annually, each in search of outdoor recreation and adventures in an unspoiled corner of the world.

Unlike many state and national parks, the Smoky Mountain National Park is free to everyone.  Park guests have 800 square miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, wildlife and wildflowers to be discovered.  The National Park Service also hosts numerous special events that highlight getting outdoors with park rangers, and enjoying Appalachian culture and music.

Hiking has as long been one of the most popular activities in the park. Some 150 hiking trails cover more than 800 miles of territory. Hikes range from short, easy nature walks to 12-mile round-trip treks to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Popular hiking trails include waterfalls, fire towers, scenic balds and observation towers like the one at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the national park.

For a change of pace, many enjoy autotouring--taking in the sights of the National Park by car. Motor tours through the historic Cades Cove and Roaring Fork communities offer a winning combination of picture-postcard views and historic structures such as original Smoky Mountain log cabins, churches and grist mills.

Cades Cove in particular is one of the single most popular places to visit in the park. This was a thriving mountain community prior to the establishment of the national park, and today, a journey down the 11-mile, one-way road that loops its way around the cove should be added to your list of things to do when visiting the Smokies.

As you travel the loop, you’ll see the homesteads of early settlers like Elijah Oliver and John Cable as well as some of the churches that were so important in the lives of the Cove’s residents. Of particular interest is the Cable Mill area; there, you’ll find the Cades Cove visitor center and several remaining vestiges of pioneer life, including a corn mill, sorghum mill and blacksmith shop.

Even if it wasn't a historical treasure, Cades Cove would be worth visiting for its scenic beauty alone. Rolling green pastures are framed on all sides by foothills or towering peaks. Grazing cattle, frolicking deer and blooming flowers paint a picture of pastoral Smoky Mountains beauty.

smoky mountains sunriseCades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National ParkSmoky Mountains Wildflowers

These Smoky Mountains photos are free desktop wallpapers found at http://nature.desktopnexus.com.