More than 11 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year. One look at the great things to do makes it clear why so many people visit the park and the larger Smoky Mountains area.

If you’re not convinced you should put “visiting the Smoky Mountains” on your summer itinerary, take a look at these seven reasons.

1. Trails Galore

If you love hiking, you’ll want to keep the Smokies in mind for your summer vacation. Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone has 150 official trails. Popular hikes include Grotto Falls and Clingmans Dome.

The Appalachian Trail also runs through the park. Hike just part of it, or follow it onward to Springer Mountain.

2. Drive the Foothills Parkway

Another great way to experience the beauty of the Smokies is to take a scenic drive. There are several driving trails.

Perhaps the best drive is the Foothills Parkway, which runs for 17 miles on the park’s north side. You’ll have stunning vistas of the Tennessee River Valley. You can then test your reflexes on the Tail of the Dragon as it curves through 11 miles.

3. Visit Some Wildlife

The Great Smoky Mountains location gives it the most biological diversity of any temperate zone in the world.

Here, you can meet foxes and white-tailed deer, along with the occasional wild turkey. You might even spot a bear or a bobcat.

4. Find Thrills in Pigeon Forge

Maybe a scenic drive isn’t for you. In that case, you might want to seek out some more thrills. Lucky for you, nearby Pigeon Forge has plenty of choices to get your adrenaline pumping.

Things to do include ziplining, indoor skydiving, and go-karting.

5. Conquer Smoky Mountains Peaks

If you’re looking for a challenge, you can climb any number of peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Chimney Tops mountain trail is one great option, although it is a challenging trail. If you really want to conquer the mountains, though, Mount LeConte is your destination. At 6,593 feet, it’s the highest peak in the Eastern United States.

6. Experience Waterfalls and Rivers

An essential part of the Smoky Mountain summer is the sound of rushing water. Camp or picnic near a spot on any of the mountain rivers, and be soothed by the sounds.

There are also dozens of waterfalls you can visit. These include Laurel Falls, Ramsey Cascades, and Abrams Falls.

7. Visit Old Homes in Cades Cove

The Cades Cove loop takes you through one of the most stunning parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lush valley is best in the evening and right before dawn, when you can spot some of the park’s wild residents.

If you come later in the day, bring a picnic and soak in scenic vistas of open fields and mountain peaks. You can even visit some of the old home sites along the 11-mile trail.

See More This Summer

These are only a few of the reasons you should be packing your bags for the Smoky Mountains this summer.

If you’re looking for more great travel advice, we have more great articles for you to explore.

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