Introduction to Visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Toddlers
Hi everyone. It’s Tyler here from TheTravelingToddler.com. As you know, we took a short driving tour through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee last year to see a number of attractions. Today, I’m going to give you some tips on visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm)
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States, owing to a number of factors. It is easily drivable to a large portion of the population and there are no entrance fees.
Also, a number of other national sites like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Trail of Tears, and the Appalachian trail cross through the park. The park is famous for it’s diverse wildlife and depictions of Appalachian life in the 1800s and 1900s.
Located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the park is a few hours drive from many major cities, including Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville.
The major thoroughfare travels North-South through the park, and is about an hour drive from the northern border to the southern one.
There is no easily driven path East-West through the park. There are many major freeways that will take you to the park boundaries, in additional to the historic Blue Ridge Parkway.
There is no fee for visiting.
There is no lodging within the park, but the nearby cities of Gatlinburg and Cherokee have ample lodging.
We visited two of the parks’ visitor’s centers: Oconaluftee on the southern end, and Sugarlands on the northern end. You can get park stamps, and see exhibits about the park history and wildlife.
You can also get information about park attractions and trails from brochures or the park rangers. Two other visitors center which we did not visit are located at Clingman’s Dome (which provides an elevated view of the park and surrounding areas) and Cades Cove.
There are two working grist mills in the park. The grist mills were used to grind corn for corn meal back in the day. We visited Mingus Mill near the Oconaluftee visitor center. There was a volunteer operating the mill, and we could see the inner workings. We didn’t visit the other mill which is near Cades Cove.
Mountain Farm Museum
This outdoor exhibit features a large collection of buildings from the 1800s and the 1900s that were moved from locations all around the park and brought here for easy viewing. It is located by the Oconaluftee visitor center and is a fascinating look at Appalachian life years ago.
Most of the attractions listed are easily accessible to toddlers, with either gravel or paved paths. Some of the locations are not accessible to strollers, or require some walking on the part of your little one, but can still be accessed by an average walking child (or a parent who is willing to carry them).
Great Smoky Mountains national park should be on the bucket list for everyone that is a national park fanatic. The park is a great combination of history and wildlife and there are many attractions within the park that would appeal to a toddler, including the grist mills, the Mountain Farm Museum, and Clingman’s Dome. Expect to spend a day visiting the major attractions, and even more time if you visit the many nooks and crannies in this park.
I have more information about other National Parks if you’re interested.
Thanks for reading.
Have you ever visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Do you have any tips about visiting? Leave your comments below.