Great Smoky Mountains Association is now Smokies Life

Last year, Great Smoky Mountains Association celebrated a significant milestone: 70 consecutive years of supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since its founding in 1953, this organization has provided more than $50 million in direct aid to the park supporting dozens of seasonal rangers and interns who protect and interpret the 800 miles of trails, […]

Strange species make ‘accidental’ appearances in the park

Limpkin court harding

Red-necked phalarope, Bonaparte’s gull, band-rumped storm-petrel, and harlequin duck. If you are thinking these don’t sound like names that should be included in a story about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’re right. These birds aren’t usually in the park. But they have been documented as “accidentals”—species that show up outside their normal range, often […]

At 50, Endangered Species Act continues to protect life in the park

The Endangered Species Act, which turns 50 on December 28, protects the rusty-patched bumble bee, a rarely seen endangered arthropod and pollinator living in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Provided by Paul Sweet.

It’s no secret that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a hotspot of biological diversity. Not only does it offer a range of environmental conditions to support plant and animal life, no ocean or glacier has disturbed it for over a million years, giving species lots of time to evolve. In much more recent history, […]

New database contributes to study of George Masa’s photography

George Masa working with several cameras that represented state-of-the-art photographic technology in the early 1920s. Courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, NC.

Angelyn Whitmeyer might be the last person you would expect to contribute to ongoing research surrounding a Japanese photographer who found inspiration in the Great Smoky Mountains. And yet, the world is coming to know more about some sophisticated early images and an unlikely champion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park through Whitmeyer’s new George […]

What we can learn from wild turkeys

If you plan to travel around Western North Carolina or East Tennessee to visit friends or family and eat turkey for the coming Thanksgiving holiday, there is a good chance you’ll spot a few wild turkeys along the way. Although sometimes we humans may call one another “turkey” as a lighthearted insult, our species can […]

New book features letters from park archives

Letters from the Smokies

Most people come to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for its scenic vistas, waterfalls, and wildlife—seeking an escape to the great outdoors. But there are also wonders to discover indoors when you visit the Collections Preservation Center on the peaceful side of the Smokies in Townsend, Tennessee. Here, unbeknownst to many a park visitor, lie […]

Safe Passage film fest highlights road ecology

On Thursday, October 26, the Safe Passage Fund Coalition will host a free film screening at Asheville’s Pléb Urban Winery presenting the short documentaries Cascade Crossroads and Critter Crossings in the Cascades. Members of the Safe Passage group dedicated to improving wildlife-crossing opportunities along I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge hope to draw lessons and inspiration from the films following the progress of similar efforts in Washington’s Cascade Range.

One of the great benefits and privileges of exploring Western North Carolina and East Tennessee is the opportunity to see a diverse array of wildlife wherever you go. But whether you live here or are just passing through, chances are you’ll mostly be watching the spectacle from behind a windshield. Driving from Great Smoky Mountains […]

What Horace Kephart can teach us about solitude, simplicity, and stillness

Horace Kephart on the first Mount Kephart. Photo by George Masa.

This article was originally published in 2020. We are sharing again in honor of Horace Kephart’s birthday, September 8, 1862. “Mountains! Think of them; speak of them; look upon them!… Here they are in all their majesty and abundance.”  These words were written in 1905 by Isaiah Kephart, who supported his son Horace in a […]

Coming soon: The broad-winged hawk migration

From mid to late September, residents of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee have the opportunity to see hundreds of broad-winged hawks at a time in large groups called ‘kettles’ circling higher and higher into the air currents and moving south along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Provided by Richard Crossly.

As we prepare for the arrival of fall, we can also be on the lookout for a breathtaking wildlife spectacle that is a part of life here in the Southern Appalachian Mountains: the migration of the broad-winged hawk. Small forest-dwelling birds of prey, broad-winged hawks migrate annually to South and Central America from their breeding […]

Dykeman namesake among three new Smokies spiders

A recent study by Marshal Hedin and Marc Milne identified three new-to-science species of the spider genus Nesticus living in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This photo shows an adult female Nesticus nasicus carrying her egg sac. Provided by Marshal Hedin.

Although the word “spider” may elicit a “yuck” or an “ew” from many readers, the true nature of these oft-feared critters is not as icky as one might suppose. Arachnids provide essential services for humans and play key roles in balancing our ecosystems by keeping herbivorous insects in check. At the dawn of 2023, it […]

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