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.

Free Smoky Mountain Ranger Events

Find all the free Smoky Mountain Ranger events on the HeySmokies.com daily events calendar!

Find all the free Smoky Mountain Ranger events on the HeySmokies.com daily events calendar!

Free Smoky Mountain Ranger Events occur each day all summer long. 2019 is the perfect year to enjoy some quality time with a ranger in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! All the free events can be found on our HeySmokies.com daily events and special events calendars year round! Your favorite places in the Smoky Mountain like Sugarlands, Cades Cove, Elkmont, Oconaluftee and Cataloochee all offer fun and informative ranger events that the entire family will enjoy.

Bring out the Junior ranger in yourself and your kids with a fun program like Stream Splashers. This is your chance to get wet and wild with a ranger.
You won’t have to guess what all those crazy critters are that you find in our cool, clear mountain streams. Tadpoles, salamanders and more slimy things than you can shake a stick at are waiting to be discovered.

Got a hankerin’ to do some hammerin’? Regular blacksmithing demonstrations will introduce you to the ways of the anvil. Cades Cove blacksmith shop will be stoking the fires and creating useful tools and decorative works of art. Once the blacksmith was an integral part of every community forging everything from nails to build homes to horseshoes to keep the farms and mountain commerce moving. Discover the mysterious art of working metal.

Ranger campfire talks are your chance to discover secrets of the Smoky Mountains. Topics discussed are bear safety, what kind of snakes and reptiles inhabit the park, what is an elk rut and much more! Kick back and relax under the stars with a cozy fire burning bright and let your imagination run wild through the hills!

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Cades Cove Car Ban

Cades Cove car ban is under way.

Cades Cove car ban is under way.

Cades Cove Car Ban began May 2019. 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

Cades Cove car ban allows you to take a break without all the noise and traffic.

Cades Cove car ban allows you to take a break without all the noise and traffic.

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

Take time to enjoy the quiet of the Cove and get a little exercise!

Take time to enjoy the quiet of the Cove and get a little exercise!

Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced

Smoky Mountain synchronous firefly dates announced.

Smoky Mountain synchronous firefly dates announced.

Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced. 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 26 at 8:00 a.m. until Monday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Friday, May 10. 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 seven 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. All lottery applicants will be charged a $1.00 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and a $24.00 reservation fee will be charged to the same credit or debit card used for the application fee. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont. The $24.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, event supplies, one red-light flashlight per pass, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and 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 by May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

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Updated Great Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Lottery Dates

Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies

The Smoky Mountain synchronous firefly lottery, you can’t win it if you            are not in it!

Updated Great Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Lottery Dates. The dates for the 2019 Synchronous Firefly shuttle operations calendar will be announced April 22, 2019. Evening access to the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont campground will be restricted to those possessing parking pass confirmation. Elkmont access will be limited to those utilizing the firefly shuttles and campers.

The parking passes will be awarded via lottery. The lottery opens Friday, April 26, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. and closes on Monday, April 29, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. The parking confirmation passes lottery can be participated in at Firefly lottery. Parking passes are only valid for a specific date. You will be allowed to enter your preferred date and one alternate date on your lottery application.

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