The Sugarlands Visitor Center Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

sugarlands-visitor-center-smoky-mountains-heysmokies… feeling great at SUGARLANDS VISITOR CENTER!

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is a must stop for any visit to the Great Smoky Mountains! Entrance to the center is free and it is open to the public every day except Christmas day. The Visitor Center has plenty of parking for cars, RVs, and motor coaches. Public restrooms and vending machines are available to the left of the center’s main entrance. Here you will find everything you need to experience the park at your own pace.

Also nestled in the beautiful Sugarlands valley is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Headquarters. The area was named for the abundance of Sugar Maples found here.

Getting Therescenic-fall-drive-smoky-mountains-heysmokies

From Gatlinburg – 2 miles on Highway 441 South (Newfound Gap Road).
From Townsend – 27 miles east on Little River Road.
From Cherokee – 29 miles on Highway 441 North (Newfound Gap Road).

The Visitor Center offers:

  • Relief Map – a giant, raised, relief map which reveals all of the park trails and roads in great detail. This map provides a sense of the dramatic changes in terrain a park visitor can experience by foot or car.
  • Information Desk – staffed by park rangers and volunteers who can answer any questions you may have about your visit.
  • Gift Shop – selling souvenirs of all types, including a great selection of books about flora and fauna, Smoky Mountain history, wildlife, pioneer stories, mountain legends, etc. The shop provides quality topographic maps of the area, basic hiking gear, patches, paintings, traditional mountain food hard goods, and much more.
  • Theater – twice every hour is a screening of the introductory Great Smoky Mountain National Park film which provides an excellent overview of all the park has to offer. This film is a family favorite and provides inspiration to all who feel a bond with this remarkable land.
  • Museum –  here you will find many fine examples of the types of animal and plant life you may encounter while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. See how you measure up to some of the park’s largest and smallest inhabitants like the black bear and the mighty hellbender!

 

sugarlands-john-ownby-cabin-smoky-mountains-heysmokies

John Ownby Cabin on Fighting Creek Nature Trail

Fighting Creek Nature Trail

Fighting Creek Nature Trail is located behind the Visitor Center along Fighting Creek. This 1.3 mile long walk has a numbered brochure which describes the view along the way. It is a great trek any time of year but be aware it has rolling, often muddy terrain so dress appropriately.

After a visit to Sugarlands Visitor Center you will be ready for your Great Smoky Mountains adventure. Remember there are no places to refuel within the park so be prepared. Complete services are available in Gatlinburg, Cherokee, and Townsend. Average speed limit in the park is 35 miles per hour so allow extra drive time as you explore.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Cosby Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains National Park Mt. Cammerer

The view from the historic Mt. Cammerer fire lookout has a spectacular Cosby vista!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow!

National Park officials announced the “Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” community programs to be held every Friday through August 17, 2018 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater.

We appreciate this opportunity to work so closely with the Cocke County Partnership and the Cosby community in offering such a great lineup of programs this summer,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.

Celebrating Cosby”  honors the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area. The public is invited to join park staff and community members in celebrating Cosby via informative and fun programs while discovering new opportunities to enjoy this section of the park. Programs vary weekly and include mountain music, moonshiners, story telling, sunset and lantern hikes, farming, orchards, clogging, cooking, and more.

We are so happy that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bringing this program to our Cosby Campground,” said Cocke Country Partnership Tourist Director, Linda Lewanski. “We all know how talented our Cocke County folks are and we are delighted to be able to showcase them.”

Programs will feature artists like local banjo player, David McClary, who plays claw-hammered style banjo music. Friday, June 29, 2018 Mark Ramsey, Digger Manes and Friends will share stories about moonshining. The July and August schedules will be available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. In the event of rain, “Celebrating Cosby” programs will move to the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to Cosby Campground. Programs will be held rain or shine. Visitors are welcome to find seating in the amphitheater or bring their own chairs or blankets.

Contact Park Ranger Katie Corrigan at 865-436-1257 for more information.

Cades Cove Car Ban

Cades Cove Car Ban - Heysmokies

If you have never experienced the serenity of Cades Cove without the noise and exhaust fumes of cars you are in for a treat!

Cades Cove Car Ban begins Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed to motor vehicles from sunrise until 10:00 a.m. on both Wednesday and Saturday mornings to allow bicyclists, runners, and walkers time to enjoy the cove without having to worry about heavy traffic. This special experience on the 11-mile paved loop road will last until late September.

During the season, bicycles can be rented at the Cades Cove Campground Store. For pricing info, give them a call at 865.448.9034. Of course, you can bring your own bikes and helmets to enjoy the scenic ride through this historic landscape. Be mindful that Tennessee law requires cyclists under the age of 16 to wear a helmet. HeySmokies and the GSMNP recommend anyone of any age wear protective head gear…just sayin’!

You won’t find any mountain biking trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are only 3 trails in the National Park that allow bicycles:

  • Gatlinburg Trail
    Begins at Sugarlands Visitor Center and travels 1.9 miles one-way toward the outskirts of Gatlinburg along the West

    Deep Creek biking in the Smokies

    You will love the remote beauty of Deep Creek ranger district in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

    Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Leashed pets are allowed on this trail.

  • Oconaluftee River Trail
    Begins at Oconaluftee Visitor Center and travels 1.5 miles one-way toward the outskirts of Cherokee along the Oconaluftee River. Leashed pets are allowed on this trail.
  • Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails
    From the Deep Creek Campground, cyclists can access both Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails. Bicycles are allowed on both trails until the point where the old roadbed ends and the hiking trails begin. Pets are not allowed on this trail.

Bicycles are allowed on most roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so drivers need to be alert of cyclists when driving through the park. Due to the narrow, steep, curvy conditions of park roads the HeySmokies cycling team recommends avoiding biking park roads in the interest of the safety of all park visitors.

Bonus Biking Tip! – Tsali Recreation Area has over 40 miles of mountain bike trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Tsali is located on the Southern border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the southern shore of Fontana Lake near Bryson City, North Carolina.

For more information on bicycling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and adjacent National Forests, please visit NPS.gov.

Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a sweet place to view the fireflies!

Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced. Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided beginning Thursday, June 7 through June 14th. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at www.recreation.gov.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 27 at 12:00 noon until Monday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 9. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (221 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If

“The most impressive natural light show I have ever seen!” – Bill Durning.

selected, the lottery winner will be charged a $20.00 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 9 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area at 7:00 p.m. A $2.00 round-trip, per-person fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash is the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Firefly Etiquette

  • Take a flashlight (it will be dark) and cover the lens with blue or red cellophane tape. Shine directly on the ground and use only until you reach your viewing site.
  • Stay on trails to protect firefly habitats.
  • Pack out all garbage (your mother does not work here!)
  • Do not catch the fireflies!

The HeySmokies expeditionary team never misses this event! Photo credit – Jerold Mills

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $20.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at NPS.gov.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cades Cove Clean Energy

Cades Cove solar array

The new Cades Cove solar array powers the Cable Mill visitor center and more! Photo credit – NPS.

Smoky Mountains National Park Cades Cove Clean Energy. The new solar array in the Cable Mill area of Cades Cove is up and running!

The new green energy project will reduce greenhouse gases by 23 tons thus reducing fuel costs by $14,000 annually. Until now the park used a diesel-fuel generator for powering the site which was noisy and adversely affected the natural experience of park visitors and wildlife.

This is a great step in making our park operations more environmentally friendly, said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. The solar panels will provide a great, natural source of energy for the Cable Mill Area that enables us to provide a better visitor experience and to be better stewards of the park.”

The newly solar array boasts 80 photovoltaic panels that provide a quiet, passive energy source to serve the small visitor center, bookstore, and restroom facility at the unofficial halfway point around the Cades Cove driving loop. The panels can be found behind the restroom in an open area that receives maximum exposure to both morning and afternoon sun. A berm was raised around the array and planted with native plants to minimize disturbing visitors view of the historic area.

Cades Cove is one of the most popular parts of the Smokies and averages around 2 million visitors per year. Many visitors stop at the Cable Mill area to tour the old mill, blacksmith shop, Cable house and other historic structures located there. Due to the isolated location at the west end of Cades Cove, the Cable Mill area is completely off the TVA power grid and it is necessary to generate all power on site.

The Southeast Region of the National Park Service provided the funding for this project. The work was completed by Solar Power Integrators, a veteran-owned company. The Smokies is also home to another solar array at the Sugarlands Visitors Center near Gatlinburg which has been helping to reduce greenhouse emissions for several years.