The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the whole country, and that’s for a great reason. This park is stunning! There’s so much to see and do here and that’s why it should be the first park on your south east national parks road trip.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in both North Carolina and Tennessee right on the boarder of the two states. The Blue Ridge Mountains are the defining feature of this park and can be seen covered in green forests from many vista points in the park. The best times of the year to visit the park are during the summer and the fall. This park has something for the whole family!
is a popular year-round activity in this park, and the Smoky Mountains are a hikers paradise. With hundreds of miles of trails with day hikes and backcountry trips this park has it all.
Andrews Bald trail beginning near Bryson City NC is a beautiful 3.6-mile hike that is rated as moderate. This trail begins from the Clingmans Dome parking area and takes you through a beautiful forest that will eventually lead you to Andrews Bald, the final destination.
Charlies Bunion trail, located near Gatlinburg TN is part of the Appalachian Trail and is a moderately difficult 8-mile (4 miles there, 4 back) hike with 1,600 feet of elevation change.
Cataract Falls, is a breathtaking 25-foot waterfall near Gatlinburg TN. This waterfall is only a .75-mile roundtrip hike making it great for the whole family.
Grotto Falls is another great waterfall hike for everyone. The trail to this stunning waterfall is only 2.6 miles roundtrip and begins at the Trillium Gap trailhead on the Tennessee side of the park.
Source: Trail run project
After hiking, spotting wildlife, and exploring Great Smoky Mountain National Park it’s time to head north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. With black bear, deer, and many different species of birds this park is a nature lovers dream. This park is less crowded than the Smokies and with 200,000 acres of land to explore Shenandoah National Park is the perfect summer destination.
With hundreds of miles of trails, Shenandoah has some of the best hiking in the country. This national park has over 60 peaks with elevation over 3,000 feet. Based on how much time you have check out these two popular hikes and impressive waterfalls!
Blackrock Summit is the perfect short day hike that is only a 1-mile-long loop along the Appalachian Trail and has some of the best views in the park
Mary’s Rock Summit is another trail with a great view of the park and the gorgeous Shenandoah valley, and is a 3.7 roundtrip hike.
Source: National Parks Conservation Association
Jones Run Falls is a great hike that is 3.2 miles roundtrip with just over 1,000 feel of elevation gain. This trail is also along the Appalachian Trail and leads you through the forest to a beautiful towering 42-foot fall.
Overall Run Falls is the highest falls in the park! To see this towering waterfall, you have to hike 5 miles round trip through a gorgeous forest.