Through the fog

The boardwalk leading to Andrews Bald disappears into thick fog. Photo provided by Holly Kays.

At 9 a.m., the air in Waynesville was a sweetly perfumed 60 degrees, and the day’s warmest hours were still ahead. Even after ascending three thousand feet to the Clingmans Dome parking lot, I figured, I’d be fine in a t-shirt and fleece zip-up. The puffy jacket and raincoat I’d thrown in the back of […]

‘Junior Ranger Activity Guide’ wins national public engagement award

This April, Smokies Life received national recognition at the 2024 Public Lands Alliance Partnership Awards for its Junior Ranger Activity Guide, which won in a category for Outstanding Public Engagement. Public Lands Alliance (PLA) publicly announced and honored the winners of its annual awards at a virtual ceremony on Thursday, April 18. Published in 2023, […]

April 30 deadline to apply for Tremont Writers Conference

Frank X Walker and David Brill share a fascination with the Great Smoky Mountains. One has been cultivating his passion for four decades; the other just fell in love with the Smokies last year. Both will be helping to lead the 2024 Tremont Writers Conference October 23–27, and both are encouraging those who would like […]

Sisters of the Woods

The “Sisters of the Woods”— (from left) Phyllis Woollen , Jana Plemmons, Katie Ray and Judy Dykes—celebrate completing the 100 Favorite Trails of the Smokies and Carolina Blue Ridge map at Moore Cove Falls near Brevard, North Carolina. Photo provided by Anne Glover.

You get to know a lot about a person if you hike 672 miles with them, especially when you climb almost 30 miles in elevation while doing it. From the Great Smoky Mountains, that’s more than enough miles to get you to Chicago or Philadelphia. It’s also ample distance to reach Little Rock, Arkansas; St. […]

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 […]

Volunteers ensure veterans buried in the Smokies are never forgotten

Since 2020, Marilyn Childress, a US Navy veteran and president of the Veterans Heritage Site Foundation in Knoxville, Tennessee, has organized Wreaths Across America in Great Smoky Mountains National Park—working to ensure the names of veterans buried in the park are spoken aloud each year. “We have a saying that a veteran dies twice: once […]

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 […]

Memorable moments from Experience Your Smokies 2023

The “Experience Your Smokies” program instills a deep sense of responsible stewardship while giving participants an experience they will remember for years to come. The application period for the class of 2024 is now open and will close on February 20, 2024.

On a sunny July morning in the heart of Cades Cove, 25 strangers don waders and tromp through the woods down an old manway to a secluded spot on Abrams Creek. They gather at the edge of the water where Great Smoky Mountains National Park fisheries biologists and seasonal interns are preparing instruments for monitoring […]

Great Smoky Mountains Association is now Smokies Life

Last year, Great Smoky Mountains Association celebrated a significant milestone: 70 consecutive years of supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since its founding in 1953, this organization has provided more than $50 million in direct aid to the park supporting dozens of seasonal rangers and interns who protect and interpret the 800 miles of trails, […]

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 […]

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