Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains is America's most visited National Park. The park contains some of the highest mountains in eastern North America, including Clingmans Dome, Mount Guyot, and Mount Le Conte. There are 850 miles of hiking trails with elevations as low as 875 ft to as high as 6,643 ft.

View along the trail to Mount Le Conte

We got to the park in March before the heavy tourist season so we actually got to enjoy some peace and quiet here. We did quite a bit of hiking, including some stunning trails to Grotto Falls, Clingmans Dome, and Mount Le Conte. Even though we beat the tourists, the remnants still remained. This is the most littered park I've seen: plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, you name it, just thrown all over the place. The areas that you could drive up to or do on a very short hike were especially bad. Such a shame. This is also the only park I've been to where the surrounding areas paid no mind to any kind of environmental consciousness. Most places still serve to-go food in styrofoam containers, there was no recycling anywhere, and our motel on the edge of the park had no sort of bear proofing. We came back one night to see a black bear digging in the dumpster and knocking over trash cans in the motel corridor.

Black Bear in our Motel Corridor

Chilling by one of the many waterfalls in the park

While I may gripe about the way people treat this park, it is very beautiful. One of my favorite things we did here was our bike ride down the mountain from Clingmans Dome. The road up there is closed during the off season but the rangers said we could bike it if we wanted. We walked the bikes 7 miles up hill, took in the gorgeous view from the top of the highest mountain east of the Mississippi, and then rode 7 miles downhill without pedaling at all. It was pretty awesome.

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