The art of fog

Scenic photo of fog taken by Michele Sons.

From swirling clouds enveloping Clingmans Dome to mystical mornings in Cades Cove, fog and mist play a leading role in the story of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fog can be found here throughout the year and across all elevations, delivering both immense beauty and mood as well as playing an important role in the […]

Camera in the park: Cades Cove in winter

When temperatures start to dip in the Great Smoky Mountains, so does park visitation, making winter a great time to get out and enjoy the scenery of some of the most popular destinations in the Smokies free of the congestion and traffic more common in other parts of the year. Although some roads in the […]

Camera in the Park: The end of the season

After all the colors have faded and leaves have fallen, many visitors to the Smokies, including photographers, lose interest. After all, the pretty stuff is on the ground now, isn’t it?

Camera in the park: Leaf season

Dogwoods are usually the first tree to show color and make a wonderful accent and focal point, as red immediately grabs attention in a photograph.

Well, folks, that time of year that photographers and non-photographers alike look forward to is nearly upon us: leaf season. The park gets busy during this time of the year, but with or without a camera and stuck in traffic or not, the classic grand landscapes are still there to enjoy: sunrise at Foothills Parkway […]

Camera in the Park: Goldenrod season in Cades Cove

From about mid-August to the first Smokies frost, bright yellow clusters of goldenrods add intense patches of color to a mostly green landscape.  A quick Wikipedia search turns up interesting facts about the flower, including that it is the state flower of Kentucky, Nebraska, and South Carolina—and previously Alabama before being replaced by the camelia. […]

Camera in the park: Summer flowers in Cades Cove

Photography is quite simple, and yet at times it can seem hopelessly complex. Some people go to university to study photography and get advanced degrees, but others manage to do it without any special training at all…

Echoes in the mountains: A herd in sacred waters

Images by Phoebe Carnes Before I began observing elk in Smokies, I never thought of them as water-loving creatures. But it wasn’t long before I learned that the elk here have a profound relationship with the Oconaluftee River that is as fascinating as it is multifaceted. The Oconaluftee River (or Egwanulti) is considered to be sacred […]

Echoes in the Mountains: On bulls and close encounters

Dominant bull elk like Bull B closely guard groups of female elk known as 'harems'.

When I first started studying the bull elk of Oconaluftee last fall, I quickly learned that each male is an individual. They each have their own quirks that make them easily recognizable. One of the first males I began to study was a bull who goes by the name of “B” within the park service. […]

Image for the asking: Curtain call

There is a second word that comes to mind as easily as the first, and that is the word “surprise.” Capturing images for whatever reason is an ongoing experience of surprise and, fortunately, delight as well. Surprise and delight come in many and varied forms, like the occasion when I encountered a juvenile bull elk […]

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