Dreaming of a snowy trailhead

winter hiking in the Smokies

I love snowy days in the woods! Wow, did I really just say that? There was a time when cold temperatures made me want to burrow into the blankets with a good book and a cup of cocoa refusing to emerge. But about 15 years ago, I started spending more time outside running and hiking […]

Carolina Mountain Club celebrates 100 years

N.C. Arboretum volunteer Tim Southard explains the difference between white and red oak leaves to his group of hikers. Photo courtesy of David Huff Creative.

As temperatures neared 90 degrees on the sunny afternoon of Sunday, July 16, the forested Carolina Mountain Trail offered a shady respite for the 20 people joining Tom Southard for a 2.1-mile hike through the woods of the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. Southard, a volunteer with 13 years of experience leading walks at the […]

How to conquer a winter hike

Winter Mountains photo by Ann Froschauer

Winter hiking can be intimidating, but don’t let the cold stop you. There’s nothing like the peace and solitude of the Smoky Mountains in the quiet season. With some careful route planning and a little judicious flexibility, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying that sense of accomplishment that comes with getting out in […]

Hike offers reminder to explore at own pace

As much as I love seeing rainbows, I hadn’t intended to hike to Rainbow Falls, where, according to Waterfalls of the Smokies, the afternoon sun can create a wondrous rainbow effect. For some reason, I’d gotten it into my head that the trail would be more strenuous than this 2022 Steve Kemp Writer in Residence […]

The slowest mile I’ve ever hiked

I have the curious distinction of being able to pinpoint precisely the slowest mile I’ve ever hiked: March 18, 2017, on Alum Cave Trail from the trailhead to Arch Rock. My oldest son, who had turned five the previous day, had requested to “climb a mountain” for his birthday. His mother and I decided to […]

The only thing you’ll want to buy at the Purchase is more time

Sometimes I’m amazed by how little I know about so much. Luckily for me, however, I’m endlessly curious and open to the possibilities. In my brief time as GSMA’s Steve Kemp Writer-in-Residence, the doors have swung wide open to expand my knowledge and help me understand the national park in previously unexpected ways. Nothing could […]

Lessons in misreading a Smokies map

In my history classes, I try to teach my students that, as much as maps can reveal about a place, they can also obscure other important information. For example, a political map of Europe just prior to World War I can help us understand…

Summer hiking tips: Part one

Gregory Bald (Tsistu’yi, or Rabbit Place, in Cherokee) is a popular summer hiking destination in the Smokies, but it’s also one that involves a challenging hike of either 11 miles round trip from Cades Cove via Gregory Ridge Trail on the north side or nearly 15 miles round trip from either Fontana or Twentymile in the south. Photo by Randy Thompson.

Imagine yourself in the open field atop Andrews Bald on a warm summer day. The shifting clouds form endless shapes, and an impromptu Rorschach test ensues with your hiking partners as you debate whether one looks like a fire-breathing dragon or a steam engine. As you pack up your lunch to hike back to the […]

The magic of a first hike in the Smokies

Story and photo by Hunter Upchurch Inspired by a family trip to Douglas Lake in East Tennessee in the summer of 2016, I decided I wanted to give hiking a try. Though I had grown up spending lots of time outdoors in the rural Mississippi Delta, the main activities were hunting and fishing, neither of […]

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