Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the number one reason that people come to this part of the country in the first place. Without the mountains, there likely wouldn’t even be tourism here.
It’s no surprise then that a lot of our guests incorporate one or more visits to the park into their vacation travel plans. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails and fishable streams, not to mention picnic areas, nature walks, auto tours and historic structures to see and explore.
But sometimes, when guests staying in our secluded Pigeon Forge cabins are looking for something to do that’s a little extra, a little unique, a little different, we often suggest that they take advantage of the wide range of ranger-led programs offered by the National Park Service at GSMNP. They’re fun and interesting and geared toward all ages. And most of them are free, so you can’t beat that.
Now that spring has arrived, the park has cranked up its calendar of offerings once again for 2016, so we thought we’d give you a sampling of what’s coming up in the next few weeks. Note that these events take place at sites all over the park, in both Tennessee and North Carolina, but more activities on the Tennessee side will be offered as summer approaches. You can always check back for new listings at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/calendar.htm.
Return of the Elk
Tuesday, May 3
3 to 4:30 p.m.
Cataloochee Valley, Rough Fork Trailhead
A ranger will lead you on a guided hike to an elk acclimation pen, where you will explore how, when and why the elk were returned to the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike is less than a mile, and the event is free.
Back Porch Old-Time Music Jam
Saturday, May 7
2 to 4 p.m.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center Porch, North Carolina
Visitors are welcome to get in on the fun at this free event by bringing an acoustic instrument and sitting in on this old-style mountain jam. Or if you don’t play, you’re welcome to just enjoy the sights and sounds as others play traditional Appalachian music.
Friday, May 20
1 to 3 p.m.
Sugarlands Visitor Center, Tennessee
On the third Friday of every month, park guests are invited to learn about and engage in ongoing scientific research happening inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The topics vary from month to month, and the event is always free.
One of the advantages of staying in one of our properties is that it’s easy to get to the national park. Many of our cabins are located in Wears Valley, and there’s a little-used back entrance to the park that takes you directly from the valley into the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. It really just takes a few minutes to get there.
Or you might drive back to Townsend and take that entrance to the park, which gives you quick access to notable sites like the Townsend Y swimming hole, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and Cades Cove.