The Great Smokey Mountains National Park
The Smokies are my favorite place to go camping and backpacking (hiking) here in the Southeast. The Smokies are located next to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is a small tourist town where you have to pay up to 5 dollars to park. The Smokies are the most visited of all National Parks in the United States, although the visitors are mostly seasonal. The Park has the highest point on the Appalachian Mountains and the second east of the Mississippi River. Clingman's dome, which is the highest point, has a tower atop of the mountain which raises the view another 45'. The Smokies offer every outdoor enthusiast a great vacation. Trout fisherman, backpackers, RV campers, hikers, bird watchers alike come here to relax and enjoy themselves.
The Smokies have a variety of wildlife, including bear, deer, bobcats, wild turkey, raccoons, opossums, etc. The deer are very trusting and will let you get within a few feet of them, which is rare here in the Southeast. Although I have not seen a bear yet, the Park has quite a few, backpackers hang their food in trees overnight to keep the bears from eating it. Black bears are not know for aggression, and are not a threat to people in the Park.
Backpacking in the Smokies is great! There are numerous trails throughout the Park including the Appalachian Trail. Camping is not permitted outside designated areas, even in the backcountry you must either reserve a sight or find one that is free at all times.(reserving sights in the backcountry is free, all you do is fill out a form and check for openings with a ranger) Some trails have shelters which you must stay in. I have not stayed in one, and probably won't unless I someday do the Appalachian. Mt. Le Conte is probably the most visited trail system in the Park. Mt. Le Conte has a lodge on top where if you make reservations a year in advanced you can stay there and enjoy dinner, and in the morning a hot breakfast is also served. The lodge uses llamas to carry the food and supplies to the top, there are no roads!
The Little River Trail is a great place for newcomers to go. I recently packed the trail along with Rough Creek Trail, The Sugarland Mountains Trail, and Husky Gap Trail. The scenery was beautiful, there were many deer, and Rhododendron flowers blooming along the trail.
My Smokies Links:Great Smoky Mountains Magazine