Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains, span a wide range of elevations, making them home to over 400 vertebrate species, 100 tree species, and 5000 plant species. Hiking is the park’s main attraction, with over 800 miles (1,300 km) of trails, including 70 miles (110 km) of the Appalachian Trail. Other activities include fishing, horseback riding, and touring nearly 80 historic structures.

Geology

Once oceanfloor, the rocks of the old highland are over a billion years old

Most of the rocks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are sedimentary and were formed by accumulations of clay, silt, sand, gravel, and minor amounts of calcium carbonate in flat-lying layers. The oldest sedimentary rocks were formed during the Proterozoic Era some 800-545 million years ago. Vast amounts of unconsolidated clay, silt, sand, and pebbles were washed down into lowland basins from adjacent highlands. Rocks of the old highlands were over one billion years old, and were similar to the ancient granite and gneiss found in the southeastern parts of the park. These early sites of ocean bottom deposition were formed along the ancient margin of the North American continent as an older and larger supercontinent broke apart.

As more and more of these sediments were deposited, they were eventually cemented together and changed into layers of rock over nine miles thick. Today these rocks are known as the Ocoee Supergroup and are subdivided into many smaller divisions of differing rock types. The different rock types reflect the range of climatic and topographic conditions that existed during their formation.

The younger rocks of sedimentary origin formed during the Paleozoic Era, 450 to about 545 million years ago. These consist of compacted and cemented sand, silt, and clay deposited in an ancient shallow marine continental margin that existed in what is now the Appalachian region. Burrows and trails of worms, as well as small shells of crustaceans that lived in this shallow water along the ancient continental edge, are found in sandstone and shale in the northwestern part of the park. Fossils found in limestone rocks in Cades Cove are about 450 million years old.

Mountain Building

Between about 310 and 245 million years ago, the eastern edge of the North American tectonic plate collided with the African tectonic plate becoming part of a “supercontinent” known as Pangaea. Continental collisions take place at a rate of a few inches per year over many millions of years and are the result of continuing global-scale plate tectonics. Evidence of earlier plate tectonic geologic events are found in rocks of the Great Smoky Mountains, attesting to an incredibly long and active geologic history in this area. During one of these earlier continental collisions, tremendous pressures and heat were generated, which changed or “metamorphosed” the Smokies sedimentary rocks. For example, sandstone became recrystallized to metasandstone or quartzite, and shale became slate.

The last great episode of mountain building uplifted the entire Appalachian mountain chain from Newfound-land, Canada to Alabama. These mountains probably were much higher than today, with elevations similar to today’s Rockies. As the African tectonic plate gradually pushed against the edge of the North American plate, the original horizontal layers of the rocks were bent or folded and broken by faults. Huge masses of older, deeply buried rocks were pushed northwestward, up and over younger rocks along a large, nearly flat-lying thrust fault, known as the Great Smoky Fault.

Following this final episode of Appalachian mountain building, the supercontinent of Pangaea broke apart, and the North American and African tectonic plates gradually moved to their present position. The new rugged highlands, the ancient ancestors of the Smokies, were subjected to intense erosion from ice, wind, and water. As mountain valleys were carved, tremendous quantities of eroded sediment were transported toward the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico by rivers and streams. Some of these sediments formed our Gulf of Mexico beaches.

As the mountains were worn down, the layers of rock most resistant to erosion were left to form the highest peaks in the Smokies, such as the hard metasandstone on top of Clingmans Dome. Most of the beautiful waterfalls in the park were formed where downcutting streams encountered ledges of very resistant metasandstone that erodes more slowly than the adjacent slate or metasiltstone. Today, geologists estimate that the mountains are being eroded about two inches every thousand years.

Plate Tectonics

The earth’s outer crust is composed of huge, continental-size plates, driven by heat from below, that continually shift position. These moving plates grind past one another, collide into one another, and sometimes override one another. Also, where plate margins are separating or spreading apart, molten rock forces its way to the surface, solidifies and forms new crust. Plate movement is just a few inches a year, but throughout geologic time, this movement and the resulting plate interactions have caused devastating earthquakes, spectacular volcanoes, and the uplift of high mountain chains. The great thickness, variety, and distribution of rocks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park tell a fascinating story of continental-size plate tectonics spanning more than a billion years of earth history.

 The Rocks

Metamorphosed sedimentary rocks are the dominant rock types in the park, but some igneous rocks also occur. Sedimentary rocks form through a cycle of erosion and deposition mostly in water. The eroded materials include cobbles, pebbles, sand, silt, and clay, or the accumulations of shells from ancient sea animals. Igneous rocks solidify from melted rock or lava.

Rocks become metamorphosed when they are subjected to heat and pressure, usually related to mountain building. Metamorphosed sandstone, siltstone, and shale, are most common in the park. However, metamorphosed limestone and dolomite are found in the Anakeesta Formation and unmetamorphosed limestone and dolomite are found on the floor of Cades Cove, below the Great Smoky fault. Siltstone metamorphosed at high temperatures and pressures forms schist, that is found in the eastern part of the park. Metamorphosed granite and granitic gneiss are the oldest rocks in the park and they occur near Bryson City, Ela, and Cherokee, North Carolina. Small bodies of metamorphosed igneous rocks, called dikes, are found from near Fontana Dam to Clingmans Dome. Quartz veins and pegmatite are also present. Geologists have named about 20 different “formations” of rocks in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Throughout the Smokies, large boulders of metamorphosed sandstone are common in streams. The rocks fall from cliff outcrops high in the mountains and over time are moved into steep-sided streams. The boulders are carried downstream, rounded, and eventually broken down into cobbles, pebbles, sand, and silt. Then, over thousands of years, the smallest remnants are carried down the Mississippi River and deposited in the Gulf of Mexico. You may have encountered bits of the ancient Smokies along the gulf’s famous beaches.

read original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/geology.htm#10/35.6238/-83.5757

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Native American History

Home of the Cherokee and Iroquois

The Cherokee Indians, a branch of the Iroquois nation, can trace their history in this region back more than a thousand years. Originally their society was based on hunting, trading, and agriculture. By the time European explorers and traders arrived, Cherokee lands covered a large part of what is now the southeastern United States.

The Cherokee lived in small communities, usually located in fertile river bottoms. Homes were wooden frames covered with woven vines and saplings plastered with mud. These were replaced in later years with log structures.

Each village had a council house where ceremonies and tribal meetings were held. The council house was seven-sided to represent the seven clans of the Cherokee: Bird, Paint, Deer, Wolf, Blue, Long Hair, and Wild Potato. Each tribe elected two chiefs-a Peace Chief who counseled during peaceful times and a War chief who made decisions during times of war. However, the Chiefs did not rule absolutely, decision making was a more democratic process, with tribal members having the opportunity to voice concerns.

Cherokee society was a matriarchy. Children took the clan of the mother, and kinship was traced through the mother’s family. Women had an equal voice in the affairs of the tribe. Marriage was only allowed between members of different clans. Property was passed on according to clan alliance.

The Cherokee readily adopted the tools and weapons introduced by Europeans. Desire for these items changed Cherokee life as they began to hunt animals, not just for food, but also for skins to trade.

As the white population expanded, conflicts arose. War and disease decimated the tribe. The Cherokees were eventually forced to sign over much of their land, first to the British and then to the United States.

In the early 1800s, the Cherokees began a period of change. The Cherokee Nation was established with a democratic government composed of a Chief, Vice-Chief, and 32 Council Members who were elected by the members of the tribe. A constitution and code of law were drawn up for the nation.

During this time, Sequoyah invented a system for writing the Cherokee language. There are 86 characters in Sequoyah’s syllabary, and each is based on individual syllables in Cherokee works. Any person who could speak Cherokee could also read and write it after learning the 86 symbols. The Cherokee Council passed a resolution to establish a newspaper for their nation. A printing press was ordered, the type cast for the cherokee syllabary, and the Cherokee Phoenix was in business.

Unfortunately, the Cherokees did not enjoy prosperous times for long. Gold was discovered on Indian lands in Georgia. Political pressure was exerted by President Andrew Jackson to confiscate Indian lands and remove the Cherokees to the West. Numerous injustices against the Cherokee Nation culminated in the signing of the Treaty of New Echota. Those who signed the treaty did not have the authority to represent the entire Cherokee Nation. Nevertheless, the treaty stood.

The Cherokees were taken from their homes, held in stockades, and forced to move to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Almost 14,000 Cherokees began the trek westward in October of 1838. More than 4,000 died from cold, hunger, and disease during the six-month journey that came to be known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Prior to the “Trail of Tears,” a small group of Cherokees in western North Carolina had already received permission to be excluded from the move west. Those individuals, often called the Oconaluftee Cherokees, did not live on Cherokee Nation land and considered themselves separate from the Cherokee Nation.

Permission for the Oconaluftee Cherokees to remain in North Carolina had been obtained in part through the efforts of William H. Thomas, a successful business man who had grown up among the Cherokees. For more than 30 years he served as their attorney and adviser. To avoid jeopardizing their special status, the Oconaluftee Cherokees reluctantly assisted in the search for Cherokee Nation Indians who had fled to the mountains to avoid capture.

Among those in hiding was Tsali, who had become a hero to many Cherokees for his resistance to forced removal. Tsali was being sought because of his role in the deaths of several soldiers. To prevent further hardships for the Cherokees still in hiding, Tsali eventually agreed to surrender and face execution. Due in part to Tsali’s sacrifice, many of those in hiding were eventually allowed to settle among the Cherokees of western North Carolina. This was to be the beginning of the Eastern Band of the Cherokees.

Today there are about 11,000 members of the Eastern Tribe, most of whom live on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, or the “Qualla Boundary” as it is often called. The communities of Yellowhill, Birdtown, Snowbird, Painttown, Big Cove, and Wolftown are within the 56,000 acre boundary which covers parts of five western North Carolina counties.

Unlike some reservations in the western United states, this one is entirely open to visitors. In fact, the tourism industry has been very profitable. Hotels, motels, restaurants, campgrounds, amusement parks, a casino, and shops flourish in and around the town of Cherokee. Museums here help preserve and interpret Cherokee history and culture. While the people have adopted lifestyles more modern than those of their ancestors, traditional craft skills continue to be passed on to younger generations. The speaking of the Cherokee language has also seen a resurgence in recent years.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/historyculture/cherokee.htm

Park History

How the Great Smoky Mountains became a National Park

Founding Great Smoky Mountains National Park took the dedicated efforts of numerous individuals and groups. Most of the hard working supporters were based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina. Here are some of the notable contributors.

David Chapman
Beginning in 1924 and continuing through the 1930s, Colonel David Chapman played a leading role in the tough battle to bring the park idea to fruition, especially on the Tennessee side of the park. Chapman, president of a Knoxville drug company, became totally committed to the park movement and dealt successfully with multiple obstacles such as opposition from park opponents, lack of funding for land purchase, and controversial condemnation actions. As chairman of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, he was the Tennessee leader for the park campaign and developed close relationships with parties in both TN and NC working toward creation of the national park. Chapman deserves much credit for shaping Great Smoky Mountains National Park as we know it today.

Ann Davis
Ann Davis is credited for suggesting a National Park in the Smokies when she and her husband returned from a trip visiting several Western national parks in 1923. This started discussion of the idea with leaders in the area, especially around Knoxville. Her husband, Willis Davis, began talking about the park idea with anyone who would listen. This early period, 1923-1925, was a particular crucial time in recruiting advocates who would push this idealist goal. Ann Davis herself entered politics and in 1924 was elected the first female from Knox County to serve in the Tennessee State House of Representatives.

Paul Fink
Paul Fink was an early advocate for a national park in the Great Smokies, as evidence by letters he exchanged with Horace Kephart in 1919 and the early 1920’s. A book written by Paul Fink and published in 1975 details many backpacking and camping trips he made into the Smokies and nearby mountain ranges, beginning in 1914 and continuing through the 1930’s. Fink and his lifelong companion Walter Diehl were pioneers in backpacking in the rugged mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Fink worked closely with Chapman, Kephart, and others in promoting the Great Smokies as a national park in the early 1920’s and continuing throughout the park movement. Working with George Masa and others, he was largely responsible for routing the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smokies and nearby mountain ranges. The initial proposal was to route the trail through Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains, staying entirely out of TN. Fink was an active leader in the Appalachian Trail Conference, serving on its Board from 1925 to 1949.

Horace Kephart
Horace Kephart came to the Smokies in 1904 and lived among the settlers of Hazel Creek in the Smokies for several years before moving to Bryson City, NC. He wrote Our Southern Highlanders, first published in 1913, about people who lived in the Smokies, based on first-hand observations. This book, revised several times by the author, has remained in print, as has other publications by Kephart. Prior to 1923, Kephart was exchanging letters with Paul Fink of Jonesborough, TN, concerning the desire of creating a national park in the Great Smokies. When the movement got underway in earnest in 1923, Kephart became a major voice through his many writings advocating for the park.

George Masa
George Masa, an immigrant from Japan who excelled in photography work, moved to Asheville, NC in 1915. His work on behalf of the Smokies played a major role in the campaign to establish Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Starting in the 1920’s, Masa became acquainted with Horace Kephart of Bryson City who wrote dozens of articles for newspapers and magazines promoting the natural virtues of the Smokies and the benefits of preserving this magnificent area as a national park. Stunning photographs by Masa accompanied many of these articles, which aided tremendously in convincing the public of the need to raise money and purchase the lands for a national park.

Not only did Masa’s photographs play a large role in the creation of the park, but Masa over a 15-year period, became an expert on the trails and names in the Great Smokies. In 1931 he served on the 3-person nomenclature committee for the NC side of the park, which had the responsibility for accurately naming the peaks, streams, and other features, as well as resolving duplicate names. Masa was the first person to systematically measure many of the trails in the park and to chart the terrain of the Smokies.

Ben Morton
Ben Morton was mayor of Knoxville in the mid-1920’s and became an important advocate for creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was particularly effective during 1925-1926 when seeking financial and political support from business leaders in Knoxville. As former mayor in 1927, he was appointed by the governor to serve on the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission which Col. David Chapman chaired. In this role he was intimately involved in resolving many land acquisitions, including the 1931 negotiated land settlement with Champion in Washington. The 3.0 million settlement with Champion, which owned almost 100,000 acres in the heart of the Smokies, finally assured that Great Smoky Mountains National Park would become a reality.

Mark Squires
Like Chapman in Tennessee, Mark Squires, a State Senator from Lenoir, NC, was instrumental in leading and keeping the National Park campaign on the NC side on track. He remained strongly committed, and was able to secure state funding despite strong opposition from logging interests, especially by Champion Paper Company, and lukewarm interest by the governor in the late 1920’s.

Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson, a Knoxville photographer, played a major role in promoting creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, particularly on the Tennessee side of the park. Photographs taken by Thompson made a convincing argument for choosing the Smokies in the early 1920’s as a suitable area for a new national park by the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee, a committee established by the Secretary of the Interior and National Park Service to investigate various sites proposed for a national park in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.
Thompson’s photographs proved invaluable in gaining public support for the campaign for a national park in the Smokies, especially in the mid to late 1920’s when funding sources were being sought. In the early 1930’s, Thompson served on the Tennessee nomenclature committee identifying place names and eliminating duplicate names.

Charles A. Webb
Charles Webb was editor and co-publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times (the leading newspaper for Western North Carolina) during the 1920’s and 1930’s. He became an important ally in rallying support for the park movement in NC, beginning in mid-1925 when the movement had almost stalled because of lingering sentiments of people wanting a park in the Linville-Grandfather Mountain area instead of the Smokies and by opposition from large timber-holding companies. Mr. Webb, through an editorial published July 27, 1925, immediately aroused public support that brought enthusiasm among park supporters up to the level of those in Knoxville. Webb remained a leader throughout the park movement, taking on the timber companies who published ads against making the Smokies a national park. He, along with other newspaper editors, such as Josephus Daniels of the Raleigh (NC) News and Observer, deserve a great deal of credit for their continued editorials supporting the park movement.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/historyculture/biographies.htm

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Attractions

The best things to do at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Climb Clingmans Dome. Clingmans Dome at Sunset. …
Go Autumn Leaf-Peeping. …
Stop to Smell the Wildflowers. …
Paddle Fontana Lake. …
Touch Pioneer History. …
Go Auto Touring on Historic Park Roads. …
Get Sprayed by a Waterfall. …
Walk the Appalachian Trail.

Vegetation

Vegetation is to Great Smoky Mountains National Park what granite domes and waterfalls are to Yosemite and geysers are to Yellowstone

If allowed only one word to justify the Smokies worthiness as a National Park, that word would be plants. Vegetation is to Great Smoky Mountains National Park what granite domes and waterfalls are to Yosemite and geysers are to Yellowstone.

Variations in elevation, rainfall, temperature, and geology in these ancient mountains provide ideal habitat for over 1,600 species of flowering plants, including 100 native tree species and over 100 native shrub species.

The park is also a global center for non-flowering plants, including 450 bryophytes-mosses, liverworts, and a few hornworts. Non-flowering species also include some 50 ferns and fern allies and at least one horsetail.

The park is home to three federally listed threatened (T) and endangered (E) plant species: spreading avens (E), Virginia spiraea (T), and rock gnome lichen (E), the latter being part fungus. View a listing of federally Threatened and Endangered Species. Over 300 additional species of native vascular plants are considered rare, meaning they are generally found in small populations or have five or fewer occurrences within the park. Once one of the park’s most common trees, the American chestnut is almost gone from the park landscape. Also considered rare are nearly 200 of the 450 non-vascular plants. A total of 76 species of park plants are listed as threatened or endangered in the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. Some plants are rare because they are being poached.

Non-native plants, species that have been introduced to an ecosystem by human activities, are a threat to many park ecosystems. Of over 380 non-native species in the park, 35 spread aggressively, out-competing native plants for habitat. Some of the worst offenders in the park are kudzu, mimosa, multiflora rose, and Japanese grass.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/plants.htm

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Animal Life

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a critical sanctuary for a wide variety of animals

Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains some of the largest tracts of wilderness in the East and is a critical sanctuary for a wide variety of animals. Protected in the park are some 65 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, 67 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians.

The symbol of the Smokies, the American Black Bear, is perhaps the most famous resident of the park. Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides the largest protected bear habitat in the East. Though populations are variable, biologists estimate approximately 1,500 bears live in the park, a density of approximately two bears per square mile.

Of the 65 other mammal species documented in the park, the white-tailed deer, groundhog, chipmunk, and some squirrel and bat species are the most commonly seen. Over 200 species of birds are regularly sighted in the park, 85 of those migrate from the neotropics. Some 120 species nest here. Several bird species that are listed as Species of Concern breed here, making the park an important source for repopulating areas outside the park that are showing declines in the numbers of these birds.

Surrounded by warm lowlands, the cool, moist, climate of the park’s highest elevations creates islands of habitat suitable for animals commonly found in more northern areas, allowing them to live far south of their present primary ranges. Northern species such as the northern flying squirrel, red squirrel, and rock vole thrive at high elevations, while the Northern Saw-whet Owl, Canada Warbler, Common Raven, and other birds reach their southern most breeding point here in the park.

Over 700 miles of streams in the park support fish. The park boasts over 50 native fish species, including the brook trout, whose fragile habitat is being wrested from the non-native rainbow and brown trout by active fisheries management. Low elevation, slower and warmer streams have the greatest aquatic diversity including four reintroduced federally threatened and endangered small fish: the Smoky Madtom, Yellowfin Madtom, Spotfin Chub, and Duskytail Darter.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been called the “Salamander Capital of the World.” Climatic and geologic factors have combined to spur the development of 30 salamander species in five families, making this one of the most diverse areas on earth for this order. In fact, lungless salamanders have undergone an extraordinary level of evolutionary diversification in the park-24 species inhabit the park, making it the center of diversity for the family.

Prior to park establishment in 1934, a number of animals native to the Smoky Mountains were eradicated by hunting, trapping, changing land uses, and other causes. Extirpated species include bison, elk, mountain lion, gray wolf, red wolf, fisher, river otter, Peregrine Falcon, and several species of fish. A primary goal of the National Park Service is to preserve the flora and fauna of the Smokies in a condition similar to that which existed prior to the arrival of modern, technological humans. In accordance with this mission, the National Park Service has helped reintroduce the river otter, elk, and Peregrine Falcon to the Smokies. Learn more about species now missing from the park.

As human activities dominate ever-larger portions of the American landscape, our national parks have become increasingly valuable as sanctuaries for rare and endangered wildlife. Endangered park animals include the northern flying squirrel, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Indiana bat, spruce-fir moss spider, and the Smoky madtom. View a complete list of Threatened and Endangered species. The Park Service has been involved in a number of efforts to save these species from extinction. Park resource management crews have conducted prescribed fires in old-growth pine-oak forest to create suitable nesting sites for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Crews have also erected solid steel barricades at cave entrances to protect endangered bats from spelunkers during critical times of the year. Reintroduction programs have also increased the survival chances for Smoky madtoms and Peregrine Falcons.

Viewing wildlife in the Smokies can be challenging because most of the park is covered by dense forest. Open areas like Cataloochee and Cades Cove offer some of the best opportunities to see white-tailed deer, black bear, raccoon, Wild Turkey, woodchuck, and other animals. During winter, wildlife is more visible because deciduous trees have lost their leaves. Since many animals are most active at night, it can be advantageous to look for wildlife during morning and evening. It’s also a good idea to carry binoculars. And don’t forget to scan the trees-many animals spend their days among the branches.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/animals.htm

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Hiking Trails

The best hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Caution is advised in the backcountry. The park’s backcountry is managed as a natural area where the forces of nature determine trail conditions. Please be prepared for swollen streams, bridge washouts, downed trees, and trail erosion-particularly between December and May due to the seasonal nature of the trail maintenance program.

Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year with every season offering is own special rewards. During winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along trails and reveals stone walls, chimneys, foundations, and other reminders of past residents. Spring provides a weekly parade of wildflowers and flowering trees. In summer, walkers can seek out cool retreats among the spruce-fir forests and balds or follow splashy mountain streams to roaring falls and cascades. Autumn hikers have crisp, dry air to sharpen their senses and a varied palette of fall colors to enjoy.

Here are some of the most popular destination hikes in the park:
Charlies Bunion
Alum Cave Bluffs
Andrews Bald
Rainbow Falls
Chimney Tops
One of the most daunting tasks facing hikers is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Old-growth forests? Endless views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven’t hiked much recently, be conservative. Five miles roundtrip is a good maximum distance for novices.

Hiking with children? Kid-friendly hikes are an excellent way to learn and enjoy the outdoors.

Thinking about a multi-day backpacking trip? Reservations and permits are required for all overnight stays in the park’s backcountry.

When choosing your route, check the Backcountry section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page to determine if the trail you are considering is open and that there are no warnings or special notices posted for it.

Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete your hike before dark. As a rule of thumb, hikers in the Smokies travel about 1.5 miles per hour. Many people travel slower. Sunset times vary from just after 5:00 p.m. in December to almost 9:00 p.m. in June. Important hiking safety tips.

Download a copy of the park’s trail map or purchase one from the Great Smoky Mountains Association which also sells a wide variety of hiking books, maps, and guides to help choose a hiking route and plan your backcountry trip. Visit the Association’s online bookstore or phone (888) 898-9102. The Great Smoky Mountains Association is a nonprofit organization that supports educational and scientific programs in the park.

You may also call the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297 for information to plan your hiking or backpacking trip. The office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.

Beware of parking lot thieves who break into cars parked at trailheads to steal purses, cameras, and electronic equipment. The best defense is to lock your car and take your valuables with you, or leave them at home. Be aware that thieves may be in the parking area watching as you slip your wallet into the glove box or “hide” your laptop under a blanket.

 Pepper Spray
Bear pepper spray may be carried by hikers within Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the strict purpose of protection against bodily harm from aggressive wildlife. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent. Bear pepper spray is a chemical formula designed specifically to deter aggressive or attacking bears. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as “Bear Pepper Spray” and be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and individual states. Bear spray must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.

see original article here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

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