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Philadelphia
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106 posts
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GSMNP - worth the drive?

Hi,

I am searching for a place for our annual vacation in June 2013. We are considering GSMNP. Our family loves National Parks. Our favorite is Shenandoah National Park. It’s close, offers beautiful views, great hiking, abundance of ranger’s programs for the kids and adults, and plenty attractions in surrounding areas. My questions are: are these parks different? Is it worth 12 hour drive to Smoky , or two parks are very similar (since both features Blue Ridge Mountains) and I should look into other options?

Thank you.

Iowa
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1. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

Considering you're posting on the GSMNP forum, it's very likely all the replies will be in the affirmative:-) .

My personal views are that yes it would be worth it. I've never been to Shenandoah NP though so I can't compare the two. Great smoky mountains area does have attractions unique to the area other that the NP if you are interested in any of that. Dollywood, Titanic museum, Biltmore is a short-ish road trip away.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
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2. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

We love national parks too. We have traveled to many since 2007- Acadia, Arches, Bryce, Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier, RMNP, Mesa Verde, GSMNP and many more.

Our favorite is Yellowstone for diversity and wildlife. We can't go there every year and there are so many national parks to explore that we travel to the GSMNP for our national park fix of scenery and wildlife. We are so fortunate that it is only about a 4 1/2 hour drive for us. We love staying in Townsend and doing the Cades Cove Loop, driving across to NC, and going to Cataloochee.

Albuquerque, New...
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3. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

Look at the park web page at www.nps.gov/grsm. Personally, I think that visiting every place in the National Park System is worth it, but only you can make the decision if someplace is worth it for you. Great Smoky Mountains are exceptionally beautiful. There are places to hike, historic sites, wildlife and plants to see/study. You can spend time in all the tourist spots in Gatlinburg just outside the park if you want that type of experience, or drive a bit up to Pigeon Forge and indulge in even more touristy stuff. Just to the east of the park is Cherokee, North Carolina, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Lots of tourist stuff there, but also an exceptionally good museum about Cherokee history.

John

leftcoast
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280 posts
29 reviews
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4. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

I've been to Shenandoah about 6 times and to GSMNP about 50 times. I would say they definitely are not interchangeable. The GSMNP has a unique ecological diversity that Shenandoah doesn't, then there is the historical factor. Visit www.gosmokies.com for more insights on this area.

North Carolina
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5. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

And GSMNP has no admission charges! Come on down. You will not be sorry.

Atlanta
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6. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

Well said ncpat!

Philadelphia
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7. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

Thank you very much for all of your input! We will be visiting Smokies this summer:) I understand that the park has several campsites. Can you suggest best base camping location?

Thank you again,

Elena

leftcoast
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8. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

Elena - there is actually a lot of diversity available. Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont are the mega-size ones. Any of them would be fine...Elkmont is my favorite because it is closer to the middle of everything....if you only use one as a base, that might be your best bet. But there are some GREAT smaller, less populated (not necessarily less-popular though) ones on the periphery of the park. Two in particular, Balsam Mountain and Cataloochee, are remote, but well worth the trip. Depending on how long you're staying, you could probably choose two in two different areas of the park. Get a map out and start planning!

9. Re: GSMNP - worth the drive?

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