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September Brings Out the Worst in Yellow Jackets

But even without the help of bruins or skunks, yellow jackets can act aggressively toward autumn hikers. This is not the best time of year to hike off trail. Yellow jacket nests are plentiful in the Smokies, and if you go a bushwhacking you’re likely to run into some of them. During fall, a single nest may contain 500 or more yellow jackets.

By sticking to trails you are treading where others have trod before you. If there are trailside nests, they have likely become acclimated to hikers or moved away. (This is a rule of thumb, not an absolute.) If you are stung, protect your face and try to move somewhat calmly away from the nest. Not only are yellow jacket stings remarkably painful, they also carry a chemical marker that basically says “sting me” to all other yellow jackets, near and far, kin or not. Squashing a yellow jacket also releases the chemical.

And it pays to be alert. Yellow jackets are brightly colored and easy to see. If you see some flying into or out of a hole in the ground, you have been forewarned.

Great Smokies

Welcome Center

Hours of Operation

(subject to change)

Open year round (closed December 25)

January - February

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

March - November

Open Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Great Smokies Welcome Center is located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can get information about things to see and do in and around the national park and shop from a wide selection of books, gifts, and other Smokies merchandise. Daily, weekly, and annual parking tags for the national park are also available.

Physical Address

7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway Townsend TN 37882


865.436.7318 Ext 320