Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains © National Park Service
East of Nashville on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina lies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, covering more than one and a half million acres; the largest national park in the eastern United States, and the country's most visited park. The park is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site drawing millions of visitors every year to enjoy the panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams, uninterrupted forest and historic buildings it encompasses.
The main route to the park is via Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, all worth a visit in their own right. Inside the park itself there are more than 270 miles (435km) of road through the ancient mountains, which are home to a variety of plant and animal life, many of the species unique and rare. The American Black Bear is the symbol of the Smokies and the most famous park resident, while some more rare residents have been reintroduced into the area since the park's inception include the river otter, elk and the Peregrine Falcon.
The park offers numerous outdoor recreational pursuits and offers a glimpse into the lives of early southern Appalachian farming families, boasting 77 historic structures like log cabins, barns, churches and gristmills. There is also a research library open by appointment that contains documents relating to the area's history.