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4 Great Reasons to Visit the Smoky Mountain National Park Visitors Center

The 4 Smoky Mountain National Park visitors center choices offer you are large amount of information without any effort learn all about life, culture, wildlife and will give you a leg-up on all the park has to offer. While the services are much the same each of the centers gives you totally different and valuable information.

From the information on the natural aspects of the park at Sugarlands, to the cultural aspects at Oconaluftee, to the sweeping vistas that Clingmans Dome offers you will want to visit them all.


Want more ideas to round-out your trip to Smoky Mountain National Park?
A lot of great ideas are in these posts!


Sugarlands Smoky Mountain National Park Visitors Center Near Gatlinburg

sugarlands Smoky Mountain National Park visitors center

As you enter the North District of the park, close to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Sugarlands Visitor Center is a great place to start. Natural history displays provide information about the plants and animals of the park. Take advantage of seasonal programs run by rangers. Browse the park’s shops and bookstore. Access to drinking fountains and public bathrooms.

Also there is the Backcountry Permit Office. This center is located on Newfound Gap Road (US-441) two miles south of Gatlinburg, TN. The actual address for Google Maps is 1420 Fighting Creek Gap Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Here are 2 reasons to visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. Close to Downtown Gatlinburg

The official visitor’s center with the closest proximity to Gatlinburg is Sugarlands. And Chalet Village is only a short drive away! From Chalet Village, travel down Ski Mountain Road to Gatlinburg, then turn right onto the Parkway to reach the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Just 1.7 miles from there, on the right side of the road, is the tourist center, where there is ample of free parking.

You can take the Gatlinburg Trail to get from downtown Gatlinburg to the Visitor Center instead of taking a car! Only two walking pathways in the entire national park allow bicycles and dogs to be walked together. The 1.9-mile track winds through the woodland alongside the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River after beginning at River Road in Gatlinburg.

Smoky Mountains Visitor Center Info. (11)

2. Convenient Hiking Options

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is close to various convenient hiking routes. Less than one mile round trip, the Cataract Falls Trail is a simple hike for families with young children. The tourist center is where the clearly designated route begins. The walk passes through a tree canopy, streams, and more before arriving at a stunning 25-foot waterfall!

All ages of hikers will enjoy the 1.2-mile circle of the Fighting Creek Nature Trail. The trip includes a short ascent that follows Fighting Creek and passes the cabins of John Ownby and Noah McCarter, two historic sites. You keep looping back to the tourist center after passing these old structures.

Listed below are a few of the amenities the visitors center offers.

— ATM/Cash Machine, Benches/Seating, Food/Drink – Vending Machine/Self Service
— Gifts/Souvenirs/Books, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information – Maps Available, Information – Park Newspaper Available, Information – Ranger/Staff Member Present, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board,
— Internet/WiFi Available, Parking – Auto, Parking – Bus/RV, Restroom, Restroom – Accessible, Trash Dumpster, Trash/Litter Receptacles, Water – Drinking/Potable, Wheelchair Accessible

Center Hours

Sunday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Monday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Tuesday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Wednesday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Thursday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Friday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM

Oconaluftee Smoky Mountain National Park Visitors Center

Mill at Oconaluftee Smoky Mountain National Park visitors center

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center, which is close to Cherokee, North Carolina, is a great place to start when you enter the park’s South District. Examine displays of cultural history. Take advantage of seasonal programs run by rangers. Browse the park’s shops and bookstore. Locate vending machines for drinks and public bathrooms.

A collection of log buildings, including a farmhouse, barn, smokehouse, apple house, corn crib, and others, may be found at the nearby Mountain Farm Museum. The center’s physical location is at 1194 Newfound Gap Road in Cherokee, North Carolina, 28719.

When visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, think about making a stop at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Both inside the visitor center and outside on the grounds, there are lots of things to discover.

Here are 2 reasons to visit the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. Mountain Farm Museum

Do you want to visit the Smoky Mountains’ collection of old log structures? Mountain Farm Museum, an outdoor museum in the Smoky Mountains, houses these and other exhibits. You can go about the grounds and see a house, a barn, an apple house, a springhouse, and a smokehouse.

One thing to note is that the buildings were relocated to this place from other parts of the Smoky Mountains and were not initially situated there. In the 1950s, the majority of the structures were shifted. A functioning blacksmith shop allows visitors to see how life was one hundred years ago.

Additionally, you can view earlier farming and gardening techniques in the museum.

Entry to the museum is free! If you’re lucky, you could catch a glimpse of an elk wandering about in the field surrounding the center.

2. Museum Inside Oconaluftee Visitor Center

A state-of-the-art building with an instructive museum about the region’s history is the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The museum takes visitors on a tour of the early European settlers and Native Americans who lived in the Smokies as well as the history of how the park came to be. The tourist center’s staff is knowledgeable in the subjects and will be delighted to answer any questions you may have.

The museum at the Sugarlands Visitor Center is considerably different from this one. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center emphasizes Smoky Mountain cultural history whereas the Sugarlands Visitor Center Museum focuses more on the natural history of the Smoky Mountains.

As soon as you arrive, you can explore exhibits including Voices of the Smokies, Moonshine, Creation of the Park, Farming, Civilian Conservation Corps, Logging, and Cherokee culture.

— Benches/Seating,
— Food/Drink – Vending Machine/Self Service,
— Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information – Maps Available, Information – Park Newspaper Available, Information – Ranger/Staff Member Present,
— Parking – Auto, Parking – Bus/RV, Restroom, Restroom – Accessible, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet – Flush,
— Trash/Litter Receptacles, Wheelchair Accessible

Center Hours

Sunday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Monday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Tuesday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Wednesday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Thursday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Friday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM–5:00 PM

Cades Cove Smoky Mountain National Park Visitors Center

Cades Cove Smoky Mountain National Park visitors center

Stop about halfway down the Cades Cove Loop Road to talk to park workers and check out the many exhibits. Discover the lifestyle and culture of the Southern Mountains while touring the Becky Cable home, a working gristmill, and other historic buildings. Participate in seasonal events offered by rangers and browse the park’s shops. There are public bathrooms.

Here is the top reason to visit the Cades Cove Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. Enjoy the Historical Exhibits

Enjoy the free indoor and outdoor exhibits of Southern Mountain life and culture at the Cades Cove Visitor Center while you’re on your trip! This is the ideal method to experience what it was like to live in the mountains during the early days of settlement in the area. Look outside the structure to see the mill that once belonged to John Cable, one of Cades Cove’s biggest landowners.

You may even see this grist mill in action if you go in the spring or fall. The Becky Cable House, where Rebecca Cable and her brother resided from 1887 until Rebecca Cable’s death in 1940, is located just outside.

— Gifts/Souvenirs/Books, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information – Maps Available,
— Information – Park Newspaper Available, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board— Parking – Auto, Parking – Bus/RV, Restroom, Restroom – Accessible, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet – Flush,
— Trash/Litter Receptacles

Center Hours

Sunday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Monday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Tuesday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Wednesday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Thursday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM

Clingmans Dome Smoky Mountain National Park Visitors Center

Clingmans DomeSmoky Mountain National Park visitors center

Depending on the weather, take enjoy magnificent views of the Smokies while getting your park inquiries answered. Browse a little store and bookstore. There are public restrooms available. positioned seven miles from Newfound Gap Road at the end of Clingmans Dome Road.

Top 4 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Clingmans Dome

You should make the trip to Clingmans Dome if you want to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s highest peak! Depending on the weather, this well-liked location is often open from early April until late November. Even if you go during the summer, you need still pack a jacket because it is 10 to 20 degrees cooler here than in the lowlands nearby.

1. Fun Bragging Rights

Not everyone has the opportunity to visit Clingmans Dome because it is closed for the majority of the winter. You will be atop the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi when you are standing at the peak, which rises to 6,632 feet.

Only Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Craig, which have elevations of 6,684 feet and 6,647 feet, respectively, are higher peaks. You should wear layers whether you go in July or October because the climate can vary greatly from the lower areas.

2. Spectacular Views for Miles

Clingmans Dome offers stunning vistas of the Smoky Mountains. Tennessee’s highest point, Clingmans Dome, offers stunning vistas for miles in all directions. Although the views are typically only good for around 20 miles due to air pollution, on clear days you may see up to 100 miles.

This location is also well-known for its concrete observation tower with breath-taking views, you should make the effort to hike the challenging half-mile trail up to the tower. By bringing your camera or smartphone and traveling with it, you may capture some of the best moments of your holiday. From the observation tower, you may get the perfect shot of your family or a few selfies!

3. Excellent Hiking Options Nearby

Another good reason to travel is the abundance of wonderful hiking options nearby. The Appalachian Trail passes through Clingmans Dome in addition the trail to the top reaches the highest point between Georgia and Maine. You might also want to think about the Forney Ridge Trail, which leads to Andrews Bald and other breathtaking sights.

4. No Admission Fee

The Clingmans Dome observation tower’s top is reached through a spiral staircase. As part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is no entrance fee here, just as everywhere else in the park. The viewing tower is the same, so take pleasure in reaching the top! You can use the benches along the walk to the tower to rest a few times if the hike becomes too arduous.

A meandering concrete slope gradually transports you from the parking lot to the observation deck as you approach closer to the tower. There are many breathtaking vistas from the trail itself, so don’t worry if some members of your group can’t make the climb.

Now that you know why you need to visit Clingmans Dome on your next trip to the Smoky Mountains, discover some of the other popular family activities within Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the information below!

Center Hours

Sunday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Monday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Tuesday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Wednesday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Thursday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Friday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM

Smokey Mountains National Park Visitors Center Programs for Children

Bring the whole family along for a hands-on tour of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s richness of life. Together, you will learn about the Smokies’ wonders and strategies for protecting local cultural and ecological resources.

Children’s programs guided by rangers are available in the spring, summer, and fall. These activities provide kids a chance to discover and study the park. Kids, you can become a Junior Ranger if you’re between the ages of 5 and 12!

Junior Ranger Programs

Family experiences at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are encouraged by Smokey Mountains National Park both indoors and outdoors. Join them at home for excursions, exercises, and resources for students of all ages guided by Park Rangers.

The website was created in reaction to the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19), which is keeping children home from school and preventing them from going to the park. However, we hope that long beyond the pandemic, parents and teachers will find the website to be a useful resource.

The success of the National Park Service’s efforts to preserve unique locations and historical narratives depends on junior rangers. Young Rangers are leaders and lifelong learners. There are many ways to be a great Junior Ranger, including teaching others to keep a safe distance from wildlife and continuously learning more about the environment.

We have a number of alternatives to help you get started, no matter how you want to be your best Junior Ranger.

Connecting Future Junior Rangers through Digital Activities

Find Your “Virtual” Park

Although visiting a national park in person isn’t always practical, they provide remarkable experiences. Thankfully, there are ways to interact with national parks virtually, including online resources and things to do in your own home or neighborhood. There are enough of things to do to keep you busy for days!

See some recommendations for distant park participation below, and visit the websites for the parks and NPS programs to look for additional opportunities.

Become a World Heritage Junior Ranger

Your World Heritage IQ can be raised by participating in the Junior Ranger program run by World Heritage in the United States. Test your World Heritage knowledge against the well-known Professor Harry Tidge and his smart sister, the archaeologist Harriet Tidge.


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