Now that spring is here, there’s a lot more going on in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. All the trails, campgrounds, historic sites and such are yours for the exploring as usual, of course, but through most of autumn, visitors can take advantage of a wide array of daily programs and special outings that are led by park rangers and/or volunteers.
These programs offer great ways for guests to interact with their environment, have some fun and even learn a few things along the way. They’re designed to appeal to all ages, and they’re almost always free of charge to park visitors. Here’s an overview of what’s going on in the national park for the next week.
Wednesday, April 23
Gather at Sugarlands Visitor Center at 11 a.m. for a one-hour excursion on an easy stroll to Cataract Falls. Along the way, you’ll see some beautiful scenery and learn some fascinating facts about the Great Smoky Mountains. Free.
At 1 p.m., take a short walk from the Visitor Center to the John Ownby Cabin to learn what life was like in the Fighting Creek community before the national park was established. This is an easy hike. Free.
Friday, April 25
From 1:30 to 2:15 p.m., you can learn about logging in the Smokies at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Park staff will teach you how “misery whips and woodhicks” changed the Smokies landscape in the early 1900s. Wheelchair accessible. Free.
From 2 to 2:45 p.m., the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina is hosting Newborns of Spring, during which a park ranger will help you discover the sights and sounds of newborn wildlife of all kinds. Free.
At 7 p.m., go to the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend for the 10th Annual Music of the Mountains festival, which is a great way to experience the rich musical traditions of the Southern Appalachians. The concert also features Celtic music with Good Thymes Ceilidh.
Saturday, April 26
The WILD program takes place at the Cades Cove Visitor Center from 2:30 to 3 p.m. This talk and hands-on demonstration focuses on wild things in the park. Note that it can take an hour to drive the six miles from the start of the loop to the Visitor Center, so plan accordingly. Free.
Sunday, April 27
Learn about some of the characteristics of the North American black bear at Bear With Us, taking place at the Sugarlands Visitor Center from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Learn the dos and don’ts of observing these animals in the wild. Free.
If you’re staying in any of our Wears Valley cabins this week, take Lyons View Road in Wears Valley and head south. Just a few miles away is an infrequently used entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s quick and easy, and you’ll come out at the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. From there, you can turn right to head to Cades Cove or go left to travel to the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Before venturing into the national park in spring, be aware that roads can still close due to ice, particularly in the higher elevations at night. For road status information, call 865-436-1200, ext. 631 for updates or follow Twitter updates at http://twitter.com/SmokiesRoadsNPS.