Trailside Talk: The wonder of falling water

The Smokies have waterfalls, dozens of them. Tall, wide, swift, slow. You can find them on the roadside and deep in the Smokies wilderness. Walking to a beautiful waterfall is the objective of many Smokies hikers. The hike is often its own reward, but to round a corner in the forest, after hearing the noise […]

Trailside Talk: Approaching autumn

There are a few magical moments that bring in the seasons of the Smokies. The first snowflake blowing across the shoulders of Mount Le Conte or Mount Guyot beckons winter. The tiniest wildflower signals spring is close behind. An afternoon thunderstorm rolling across the ridge freshens the Little River and declares that summer has arrived. […]

Trailside Talk: The perfect Smokies day

Get ready, Cades Cove! On the alert, Laurel Falls! Look out, Alum Cave! Sugarlands, here they come!  Over the next several months, the Great Smokies face the year’s biggest season of visitation as schools dismiss students for the summer and hundreds of thousands of workers target mountain trips for their annual vacations. From one-day picnics […]

Trailside Talk: Did Charlie have a bunion?

Charlies Bunion will never be mistaken for one of the Great Smoky Mountains’ majestic peaks. It is rugged and ragged—a sort of obstructive bump on the landscape near Mount Le Conte, its much more impressive neighbor. But the Bunion is worth a look, either onsite or from nearby trails. And in a park noted for […]

Trailside Talk: Appreciating the Gateways to the Smokies

It often seems that every community within 100 miles of Great Smoky Mountains National Park wants to be known as the “Gateway to the Smokies.” This is not surprising. Claiming an attachment to the country’s most-visited national park has obvious positives. Make a ring around the park boundary, and the map presents Maggie Valley, Waynesville, […]

Trailside Talk: Water up, water down

What is it about flowing water that so many of us find so mesmerizing and magnetic? The sound? The movement? The fall over a precipice to a pool below? The eternal pounding against rocks that become imperceptibly smoother by the moment? Whatever the attraction, the Smokies—and, by happy extrapolation, Smokies visitors—are blessed with the magic […]

Trailside Talk: The quest to find veterans buried in the Smokies

Joe Emert and his friends are on a mission that has no end. Emert is one of the leaders of an effort to identify the final resting places of all military veterans buried in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Using military records, newspaper research, family histories, websites focusing on family ancestry, and a lot of […]

Trailside Talk: Summer days

By Mike Hembree The calendar will claim that summer starts June 20. School children everywhere will claim that is wrong. And there is evidence—however anecdotal—to support their claim. Summer starts the day—no, the very hour—that the school session is over. Summer comes early to the Smokies, too, and that might be more evident this year […]

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