The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers some of the best hiking opportunities anywhere in the southeastern United States. Choices range from a short stroll to an extended back country hiking experience.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an extensive trail system that is mapped and maintained. This means planning a hiking trip is very easy because of the wealth of information available on the trail system in the park. With a little research a hiker can know just what to expect from the trail before the hike takes place. Distance, elevation and difficulty ratings for each trail are readily accessible.

The variety of wildlife living in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is amazingly diverse. Within the 521,000 acres of the park, elk, black bear, wild boar, red wolves, white tailed deer all make their homes. Many small mammals also live within the park boundaries. There are 27 species of snake including two poisonous species living here. The two poisonous ones are timber rattlesnakes and copperheads. Around 200 species of birds live in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. These include wild turkey, ravens, crows, roughed grouse and many others.

The roughed grouse is a chicken sized bird that could be encountered by hikers in the national park. Typically this bird will hide until a person walks within about two feet of it. It will then explode from the brush with much noise and excitement. This can really surprise and startle anyone close by.

When choosing the time of year to go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, remember it is the most visited national park in the United States. The bulk of its estimated nine million visitors come from late May until the leaves lose their color in the fall. There are festivals throughout the year that bring congestion to the roads in the park. Check the events schedule and make sure the area for the planned hike is not surprisingly crowded. The Cades Cove area on the weekend of the Old Timers Day celebration can be a traffic nightmare for a hiker.

Traveling the loop road, which typically takes one hour to enjoy, will take two or more hours on this weekend just to get around. Finding out what is going on in the area when planning a hike is very important to an enjoyable day hiking. The national park is big enough that when an event is scheduled, the hike can be planned in some other area of the park. Most hikes of over a two mile length will not be crowded, even though the shorter trails will sometimes.

The great Smokey Mountains National Park is a wonderful outlet to explore nature and animals through hiking. This 800 square mile civilized wilderness can be explored by the Sunday afternoon leg stretcher, as well as the through hiker trekking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.

Images used in this text
Great Smoky Mountains by Bruce Tuten available under CC BY 2.0

Downstream of Fontana Dam by Donald Lee Pardue available under CC BY 2.0
Stream in the Smoky Mtns. by Phil Horton available under CC BY 2.0
Untitled by Ernest Duffoo available under available under CC BY 2.0