Indulge your wanderlust and your curiosity and enjoy these fascinating facts about the Smoky Mountains.
Fascinating facts about the Smoky Mountains
Are you head over heels in love with the Great Smoky Mountains? If so, then you’ve come to the right place.
As the most visited National Park in the United States, the Smokies have a rich history, breathtaking natural beauty, and intriguing Appalachian culture. The park is an incredible escape into clean air and spellbinding memories, home to various animals and plants, with plenty of trails to explore throughout.
As a result, more than 12 million people visit each year.
Even if you’ve visited this stunning national park before, there are some facts about the Smokies that you may not be aware of.
Here, we’ve put together this list of amazing facts about the Great Smoky Mountains to help you learn more – and enjoy more!
It’s the most visited National Park in the United States
In 2019, more than 12.5 million visitors came to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, marking a record high.
This national park’s popularity stems from the fact that it is within driving distance of 60% of the US population. People from two-thirds of the country can commute to the Great Smoky Mountains in less than 24 hours.
It is an excellent place for families because of its fantastic attractions and activities, such as smoky mountains camping, hiking along the ridges, mountain biking and so on.
The Smokies are some of the world’s oldest mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains are thought to be between 200 and 300 million years old!
Scientists have estimated the age of these incredible mountains by investigating the geology of the area and the age of particles found in local trees and soil.
And, given that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is only a little over a century old, there is still a lot to learn.
You can find giant salamanders in the Great Smoky Mountains
One of the most breathtaking and rare inhabitants of the national park is the Eastern Hellbender Salamander, the world’s third-largest salamander and a truly bizarre-looking creature.
These peculiar amphibians can weigh up to 3 to 5 pounds and can survive in captivity for as many as 30 years. The Smoky Mountains are considered the Salamander Capital of the world because they are home to twenty-four unique species of salamanders.
The Meigs Creek Trail, which begins at the Sinks Waterfall, is a first-rate hiking track for seeing salamanders.
The first settler in the Smoky Mountains was a woman
One of the less well known facts about Smoky Mountain history is that the area’s first settler was a woman.
Although William Ogle is credited with constructing the first home in the area, his spouse, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle, first settled here. Unfortunately, William died before settling into his new home with his wife and children.
You can find the only elk herds in the eastern United States
Elk once roamed much of North America, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, habitat loss and overhunting caused the Eastern Elk to become extinct by the nineteenth century.
Fortunately, Elk from the western United States were brought back to the Great Smoky Mountains and a few other locations in the Eastern United States.
This elk herd can still be seen today in the Smoky Mountains’ Oconaluftee Valley area. Bull Elk can weigh up to 700 pounds and are the park’s largest animal, so please exercise caution and keep a distance when viewing these extraordinary creatures.
Temperatures never rise above 80 degrees fahrenheit (27 centigrade)
Do you enjoy hiking but wish you could escape the heat? In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mount LeConte has never had a temperature recorded above 80 degrees.
The temperate year-round climate of the Smoky Mountains is one of its most appealing features; lazy summer days, snow in the winter, and wildflowers in the spring.
Plants are why the Smokies are “smokey”
With a title like the Great Smoky Mountains, you probably wonder what gives the mountains their smoky appearance.
You’ll be surprised to discover that all plants are responsible for the famous fog! VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are released at significant levels by plants. That’s what creates the bluish haze!
As a result of all the plants in the area, the VOCs generate the smokiness we all know and love!
You’ll find hundreds of trees in one National Park
One of our favourite facts about the Smoky Mountains is that the park contains over 100 different native trees.
This is amazing considering that most national parks have no more than 20 native trees, with roughly 80% of the park made up of deciduous forests.
The most botanically varied of these forests is the Cove Hardwood Forest.
In coves, sheltered valleys with deep rich soils, between 40-60 trees and shrub species grow. Dogwood, magnolia, basswood, and Carolina silverbell are a few examples of common species.
Llamas deliver supplies to LeConte
Mount LeConte is one of the park’s most popular hiking trails. At the top, there’s the LeConte Hut, where visitors can relax and take in the scenery.
You may be wondering how supplies get to the top of the mountain, given that the only way to get there is by hiking. Llamas are the answer! Llamas are pack animals that are used to transport heavy loads up mountains.
The llamas and their handlers use the trillium Gap Trail because it is the shortest route to the top. They make the trip three times per week.
There is no admission charge
You might wonder why the Great Smoky Mountains National Park doesn’t charge admission, and the answer is a pretty significant road.
North Carolina and Tennessee collaborated to build Newfound Gap Road, which connected the two states.
This is one of the few roads that run through the national park, and when the land turned into a park, the federal government approached these two states and asked for rights to the road.
North Carolina turned over their deed, but Tennessee said they would only give it to the authorities if park access was free.
For this very reason, you are allowed to visit the Great Smoky Mountains park for free.
So, what did you think about these interesting facts about the Great Smoky Mountains? Armed with this knowledge, you can plan an even more enjoyable trip to the place.
You can splash around in the rivers, go for a hike, go fishing, spot wildlife, and do so much more! You can even enjoy the Smoky Mountain sky by going camping with your family.
With every activity you plan on doing, you’re guaranteed to share some unforgettable and unique moments.
More on Travel in the United States
We love a good road trip through America. It’s such a fascinating country to drive through with so many different landscapes, stories, peoples and cultures.
Check out our other American road trip itineraries:
- Your two week road trip from New Orleans
- A fly-drive itinerary for the west coast in Florida
- Driving Massachusetts: road trips from Boston
- The ultimate Alabama road trip itinerary
And our useful prep guides here: