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This majestic site straddling the North Carolina-Tennessee border is one of the most popular national parks in the world – and for good reason. Great Smoky Mountains National Park protects intriguing historic sites, majestic hardwood forests, rare wildlife, and peaks which afford some of the best views in the South. More than 800 miles of hiking trails lace the park, ranging from strolls along paved paths to challenging treks along mountain spines. The park’s protected hardwood forests are so dense they block out the sun yet come fall the splendor of changing leaves is unparalleled. Hear native elk herds bugle in the Cataloochee Valley then hike to historic farms, gorgeous churches, and the hallowed resting spots of some of the park’s early settlers.
The park is home to dozens of waterfalls – hike along Big Creek to see spectacles like the Blue Hole and Mouse Creek Falls or head to Deep Creek to see Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. Ready for some of those famous views? Take the short walk to Clingmans Dome, which is wheelchair accessible, or hike the grueling trail past Alum Cave Bluffs to Mt. LeConte, where you’ll find a historic mountaintop inn.