The 5 Best Places to Visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beautiful view of the Smoky Mountains.

With over 11 million annual visitors, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in America! Offering breathtaking scenery, over 800 miles of hiking trails, and incredible wildlife, it’s no wonder the Smokies have become a can’t-miss destination in the Southeast.

When you stay at Sidney James Mountain Lodge in Gatlinburg, TN, you will be near all of the best places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here are five spots you will definitely want to see during your vacation:

1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a beautiful 5.5 mile, one-way loop road that runs parallel to a rushing mountain stream. This incredibly scenic drive includes historic buildings, stunning mountain views, old-growth forests, and wonderful wildlife viewing. The Nature Trail also features the trailheads for some of the national park’s most popular hikes. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is especially popular with guests at Sidney James Mountain Lodge because it is located minutes away from our hotel!

(See Also: Top 4 Things to See Along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail)

2. Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is another one of the best places to visit in the Great Clingmans Dome observation tower at twilightSmoky Mountains National Park. At 6,643 feet tall, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the state of Tennessee and the entire Appalachian Trail. From atop the mountain peak’s observation tower, visitors will enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Smokies. On a clear day, the vistas extend for over 100 miles. The paved trail to the observation tower is a 0.5 mile hike that is quite steep. You may be a little winded when you get to the top, but the amazing views are certainly worth the effort!

3. Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Smoky Mountains that visitors can walk behind! To see this unique landmark, you can take the Trillium Gap Trail, which begins near the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. If you hike to Grotto Falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday morning, there is a chance that you’ll be joined by a herd of llamas, which routinely bring supplies to the top of Mount LeConte.

4. Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road runs all the way from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, NC and offers some of the national park’s best scenery. Driving the road has been compared to driving from Georgia to Maine in terms of the diversity of forest ecosystems you’ll see during your journey. Highlights of the drive include Campbell Overlook, the Rockefeller Memorial (where President Roosevelt dedicated the national park), and the road to Clingmans Dome.

A field in Cades Cove on a spring day5. Cades Cove

No trip to the Smokies is complete without a visit to Cades Cove. This picturesque valley offers gorgeous mountain views, historic cabins, and the park’s best wildlife viewing. If you hope to see a black bear in the wild during your vacation, you’ll definitely want to put Cades Cove on your itinerary. Getting around the valley is a breeze, since Cades Cove features an 11-mile, one-way loop road that stops at all of the area’s major landmarks.

Guests at Sidney James Mountain Lodge will love our hotel’s proximity to all of the best places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to being close to the national park, Sidney James Mountain Lodge is also within walking distance of all the shops, attractions, and restaurants in downtown Gatlinburg. With indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a trolley stop in front of our main entrance, an onsite cafe, and a private streamside picnic area, we have everything you need for an unforgettable vacation. To start planning your getaway, browse our selection of Smoky Mountain hotel rooms!