How about a fun trivia question?
What is the most visited National Park in America?
We would have guessed Yellowstone or Yosemite, or even the Grand Canyon, but it is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Believe it or not, it attracts nearly twice as many annual visitors as any other park.
There must be some darn good reasons all of those people are coming, so we did a little exploring and discovered plenty. We also found that spring is the perfect season to take in the explosion of wildflowers and greenery while the colorful slopes and foggy valleys burst back to life.
Any good exploration needs a base camp and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the perfect place to start.
This classic mountain village has stunning views at almost every turn or, for a full panorama, the top of the Space Needle can’t be beat. From its over four hundred feet high outdoor observation level the entire town spreads out in every direction beneath the alpine backdrop.
If that’s not quite high enough, there’s no better spot to check out the spectacle of colors than from the top of Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies, as well as the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and on the Appalachian Trail.
No need to bring the climbing gear either, since Clingmans Dome Road opens up April 1st and it is only a half mile hike from the high parking area to the 6,643 foot summit, where another even more spectacular observation tower awaits.
From up here the park’s name is no mystery. The namesake haze settles into the low-lying hollows (known as hollers in these parts) and looks for all the world like smoke.
Down below, saying goodbye to winter also ushers in the return of festivals and celebrations to the mountains.
The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community gets back into full swing with their Easter Craft Show at the end of March, but the historic 8-mile loop Arts & Crafts Trail is open year ‘round. Local artisans have been whittling, painting, sewing, weaving, and carving original works in this neck of the woods for centuries, long before the trail was officially established back in 1937.
Nowadays guest craftspeople from all around the country join in sharing skills and ideas and giving folks a chance to take home a handmade heirloom.
April kicks off with the Annual Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament, the biggest trout tournament in the Smokies. Adults and kids can try their luck whether they’ve lived in these hills for generations or they’re a city slicker just passing through. Either way the fish tales are always flying about all of the whoppers that just barely got away.
Conceivably, some of those more cosmopolitan urbanites would rather indulge in a bit of the fruit of the vine. Perfect timing again, since the middle of the month brings Gatlinburg Wine Weekend featuring the Gatlinburg Wine Tour and the Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Wine Fest.
The award-winning Tennessee wines offer something for everyone from connoisseurs to critics, life-long aficionados or rank amateurs. Luckily, we fit in there somewhere along that scale.
As April draws to a close, the Gatlinburg area blossoms with the Great Smoky Mountain Association’s Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. For nearly seventy years many of the nation’s leading botanical experts and Appalachian wildlife authorities have been meeting here to provide demonstrations and lectures, along with instructional walks and guided hiking tours.
Scenic beauty may always be these mountains’ main attraction, but the music of this region most certainly gives it a run for its money and no one epitomizes that style better than Dolly Parton. In 1985 she took over Silver Dollar City Tennessee, renamed it Dollywood, and quickly turned it into the nation’s premier music oriented theme park.
The park opens in the middle of March and this is a great time of year to beat the crowds before the summer rush. April brings the Spring Mix Festival featuring a wide variety of musical genres from country to gospel to Classic Rock and R&B, with some of our favorites such as The Drifters, Firefall, Crystal Gayle, Amy Grant, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and the Marshall Tucker Band performing.
So maybe we under estimated when we said we found plenty of reasons. With so much to pack into every day, we were sure glad find Piddlin.com, and that daylight savings time had returned.
That just might be the best thing about spring.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
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