A grand performance: Spring is prime time for Smokies birdwatchers

A pair of house finches perches in a redbud tree. Photo provided by N. Lewis/National Park Service.

As the days grow warmer and the landscape ripples with color, a growing treetop chorus drives the message home—spring is here, and new life is thriving. The show begins sometime in March, as hatching insects and growing plants allow the hardy songbird species that have braved winter in the Smokies to shift focus from their […]

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 […]

Our winsome birds of winter

The purple finch is a seasonal migrant only found in the Smokies through the winter season. It is often seen feeding on seeds high in treetops. Photo by Fred J. Alsop III.

Whoever it was that first penned the classic holiday carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was clearly in love with a birder. Of the song’s twelve verses that describe gifts presented to a “true love” between Christmas Day and the day before Epiphany, or January 5, more than half are devoted to birds of one […]

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 […]

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