State Parks and National Forests

Besides the National Park, there are many state and federally run recreation centers around the Smokies. From historic areas like Fort Loudon to Olympic sites on the Ocoee River, you can learn a lot about the Smokies from visiting these various destinations. And of course, there are opportunities abound for camping, hiking, boating, and every other outdoor recreational activity.

Appalachian Trail

Sixty-nine of the 2,015 miles that make up the Appalachian Trail crosses the crest of the Great Smoky Mountains, serving as a border between Tennessee and North Carolina. The Appalachian Trail serves as a backbone to which several major Smokies hiking trails connect. 


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Cades Cove

Cades Cove is the most visited part of the Park—and for good reason.  An 11-mile one-way loop road winds through the valley, with stops at preserved pioneer structures. A visitor's center with pioneer exhibits, a 5-mile hike to Abrams Falls, abundant wildlife, campgrounds, bike rentals, spectacular foliage in autumn, and facilities for horseback riding all make Cades Cove a complete visitor's sampler of all the Park has to offer. Plan on spending the entire day.


View our complete guide to Cades Cove >>  


The Cataloochee Valley, located in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was once a prosperous farming settlement. Well off the beaten path, Cataloochee now offers historic structures, opportunities for hiking, campgrounds, and spectacular vistas. It doesn't offer quite as much as Cades Cove, so  it isn't as crowded—but that's the attraction for many people.


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Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the Smokies (6,643 feet). A paved but steep .5-mile trail leads to an observatory tower where you can take in the sights. Some days it's in the clouds, but on clear days it affords spectacular 360-degree views of the park. 


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David Crockett Birthplace State Park

This is not only a great state park but it is a historic site as well.  One of the homes that David Crockett grew up in is located inside the state park.  It has been restored and gives you a glimpse into the man and the life of David Crockett. 


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Fort Loudoun State Historic Park

Fort Loudon State Historic Park is built on the site of the original Fort Loudoun that protected the wilderness from Native American attacks and from the British during the Revolutionary war.  Along with a fort that represents some of the best living history you will find, it also has lots of recreational activities. Boating, fishing, hiking trails, picnic areas and much more await you at this great state park.


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Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park

At the southern tip of the Smokies is a park with some of the best kayaking and rafting you will ever find.  One of the first rivers managed by the State Scenic River Program, this area offers all your summer water fun activities in one place.  Also, you get to visit the Ocoee Olympic site.  If you are a ‘yaker,’ this means that you can test your skills on a class 4 rapid called the Humungous.


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Indian Mountain State Park

Located at the base of Indian Mountain, this state park has been developed on a piece of reclaimed mining land.  A truly multiuse park, Indian Mountain is lush and verdant throughout most of the year.  Boating, camping, hiking, and much more draw thousands of visitors each year.


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Laurel Falls

The Smoky Mountains contain many wonderful streams and waterfalls—many of which are rewards for trekking the well-maintained hiking trails. The easiest to get to is Laurel Falls, which is just 3.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitors Center (near Gatlinburg).


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Panther Creek State Park

Enjoy hiking, mountain biking, boating, camping and more at this 1,444-acre state park. Seventeen hiking trails will occupy hikers of all ability levels, while 15 miles of mountain biking trails also range from easy to difficult. 


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Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain provides some of the most beautiful views in the Southern Appalachian mountains. Covered in rhododendrons during the spring, this state park provides amazing color and photography opportunities that you will not find anywhere else. Add to the hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities and you have a beautiful place to spend the day or a weekend.


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Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

Historic sites, a museum, and a theater depicting the history of the area are just a few of the reasons to visit Sycamore Shoals State Park. Open from dawn to dusk every day, this quaint little park provides hiking trails and picnic areas along with tours of historic buildings.


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Before it was chartered as a national park, two-thirds of what is now the Great Smoky Mountains was owned by logging companies. For three decades, the Little River Lumber Company cut and hauled away great portions of one of the country's greatest deciduous forests. A visit to Tremont will give you a good idea of the lumber operation that existed.


Learn more about visiting Tremont >>

Warriors' Path State Park

Located on the trail that the Cherokee used for war and trading, Warriors’ Path State Park has lots of history and plenty of recreational activities for the people that visit it every year. Biking and camping bring in the visitors, but in 2007 the park opened a new opportunity for those individuals with special needs: Darrell’s Dream Boundless Playground. This playground is designed for those children with special needs that get left out of the excitement in some traditional playgrounds. 


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