The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range in the southeastern United States.
The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province.
The range is sometimes called the Smoky Mountains and the name is commonly shortened to the Smokies.
The Great Smokies are best known as the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited national park in the United States with over 11 million visits per year.The park was chartered by the United States Congress in 1934 and officially dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.
The highest point in the Smokies is Clingmans Dome, which rises to an elevation of 2,025 meters (6,643 feet). The mountain is the highest in Tennessee and the third highest in the Appalachian range. Clingmans Dome also has the range’s highest topographical prominence at 1,373 meters (4,503 feet).
Clingmans Dome’s highlight is the superb observation tower perched atop the mountain’s summit and offering 360-degree views of the Smokies. While the tower is open all year, be sure to keep an eye on the weather as the road leading to it closes if things turn nasty. A variety of other trails branch off from the car park, which is just half a mile from the summit.
Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Great Smoky Mountains. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. Today Cades Cove, the single most popular destination for visitors to the park, attracts more than two million visitors a year because of its well preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and abundant display of wildlife.
One of the prettiest parts of the Smoky Mountains, Sugarlands is a valley named after the area’s once dominant sugar maple trees and is extremely popular as a day trip destination from Gatlinburg. The area stretches from the aptly-named Roaring Fork in the east, all the way to the slopes of Sugarland Mountain in the west and is overlooked by the 1,500-meter (5,000-foot) Mount le Conte. Sugarlands is particularly popular among hikers, who share the Old Sugarlands Trail with horse riders.
Ober Gatlinburg is a ski resort and amusement park offering year-round recreational activities. The complex includes a chairlift, indoor ice skating, skiing, an alpine slide, Kiddie Land. Getting there is half the fun, and most visitors opt for the 3.2-kilometer (2-mile) -long Aerial Tramway, which departs from downtown Gatlinburg and offers superb views along the way. The chairlift from Ober Gatlinburg includes a 30-minute ride to the summit with its scenic lookout.
Hiking Trails of the Smokies covers all 150 official trails with in-depth narratives and profile charts that show mileage, elevation change, and major stream crossings. Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year with every season offering is own special rewards.
The Great Smokies are part of an International Biosphere Reserve. Along with the Biosphere reserve, the Great Smokies have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Smokies are named for the blue mist that always seems to hover around the peaks and valleys. The Cherokee called them shaconage, (shah-con-ah-jey) or “place of the blue smoke”.
The fog or mist is the result of warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling rapidly as it enters higher elevations. The fog is most prevalent after a summer rainstorm.
The Smoky Mountains are among the oldest on Earth. Ice Age glaciers stopped their southward journey just short of these mountains, which became a junction of southern and northern flora.
Covered by forests, of which about 40 percent is virgin growth, the Great Smokies support an abundance of plant and animal life.
The range’s 1,600 species of flowering plants include over 100 species of native trees and 100 species of native shrubs. The Great Smokies are also home to over 450 species of non-vascular plants, and 2,000 species of fungi.
The Smokies are famous for their colorful trees in fall. Drive or hike to the higher elevations for sweeping views over the park’s 100-plus tree species painting the hills in bright oranges, yellows, and reds; target mid-September for higher-elevation colors and mid-October for lower ones.
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to 66 species of mammals, over 240 species of birds, 43 species of amphibians, 60 species of fish, and 40 species of reptiles.
Originally the domain of the Cherokee Indians, the mountains embrace the Cherokee Indian Reservation and parts of Pisgah, Nantahala, and Cherokee national forests.
Farmers began to settle the valleys in the late 18th century.
The mountains were heavily logged during the first quarter of the 20th century.