Balsam Mountain Trial

After traversing its lower section three times, I dreamed for the next three years of finally hiking the upper section of Balsam Mountain Trail. I finally got my chance this past July. With more than a few obstacles between you and either end of this trail, Balsam Mountain is one

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Park Maintenance and Historic Preservation with Experience Your Smokies

Over the next several months, my Locally Grown column will feature details related to my sessions with Experience Your Smokies, an educational program that receives essential funding and scholarships each year from Great Smoky Mountains Association. Since 1999, Experience Your Smokies has fostered a greater appreciation for Great Smoky Mountains

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The most important Smokies author you’ve probably never heard of

You may be familiar with Ron Rash, the author of the novels Serena and The Risen, as well as Charles Frazier who wrote Cold Mountain. But have you heard of Mary Noailles Murfree? How about Charles Egbert Craddock? The last was a trick question since Charles Egbert Craddock was actually the pseudonym used by Murfreesboro,

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Hazel Creek Trail – Gentle and Wild

A lot can be said about hiking the easy grade of Hazel Creek, so named for the abundance of hazel trees that line its banks. But first you have to get there. Hiking Hazel Creek Trail requires equal parts planning, execution and trust. Planning is easy. You and your fellow

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Gunter Fork Trail – A Very Long Haul

I looked up the weather, phoned a friend, and planned our vehicle shuttle for a pick up at Balsam Mountain Trail. We were about to embark on 15.9 miles of backcountry hiking to complete 4.1 miles of trail that is notorious for difficult water crossings in the spring. Knowing our

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Smokies Life Redux: Rhododendron Revisited

Did you know that there are more than 1,000 species of rhododendron in the world? Can you name the four species we have in the Smokies? I learned these things and more when I edited an article by Courtney Lix for publication in the current issue of Smokies Life. Courtney’s

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The Civilian Conservation Corps Art Program in the Smokies

Many visitors to the Smokies are familiar with the Civilian Conservation Corps. This Depression-era government program was one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s most popular and successful relief programs. Millions of young men were fed, clothed and housed, and in return, they planted more than 3 billion trees, worked on soil

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The Benefits of Spiders – An Interview with Kefyn Catley

FF: How do you define a spider? KC: Any member of the order Araneae in the class Arachnida with two main body parts and with two unique characteristics: silk produced through spinnerets located on the abdomen, and the male pedipalp as an organ for transferring sperm to the female. FF:

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The Wild Man of Cataloochee

On July 13, 1973, near where Rough Fork Creek intersects with the end of the main Cataloochee Valley road, seasonal national park ranger Charles Hughes had a violent encounter with the “wild man” of Cataloochee. Hughes was checking up on fishermen along Rough Fork when he met a man with

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Why Are Our Fireflies Synchronized?

During late May and early June, thousands of eager observers from around the world travel to the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to observe the phenomenon of synchronized fireflies flashing in the night. The synchronized flashing was first scientifically documented in the Smokies in the 1960s and

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Recent Posts

Photo courtesy of Joye Ardyn Durham

Balsam Mountain Trial

After traversing its lower section three times, I dreamed for the next three years of finally hiking the upper section of Balsam Mountain Trail. I

Read More >

The Wild Man of Cataloochee

On July 13, 1973, near where Rough Fork Creek intersects with the end of the main Cataloochee Valley road, seasonal national park ranger Charles Hughes

Read More >

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
December

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

Contact

865.436.7318 Ext 320