The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is full of nature, history, and beauty. We know how exciting it is to learn more about this beautiful area, and we want to share some fun facts with you! Check out these top 5 facts about the Great Smoky Mountains you may not know:
1. Most Visited National Park in the United States
The first fact about the Great Smoky Mountains is it is the most visited national park in the United States. There were over 12.5 million visitors in 2019, which is more than it’s ever had before. The popularity of this national park stems from the fact that it’s within a reasonable distance of 60 percent of the United States population. People from two thirds of the country can travel less than 24 hours to get to the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s also a great place for families because of all the amazing attractions and fun activities you can do. Another major reason why the national park is one of the most visited is because it’s one of the only parks in the US that is free. You don’t have to pay an entrance fee to get into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, if you would like to make a donation, you can put money in one of the donation boxes throughout the park, or donate online at Friends of the Smokies.
2. Salamander Capital of the World
There are over 17,000 documented species of plants and animals in the national park. Scientists are finding more and more all the time. One cool fact about the Great Smoky Mountains is it is considered the unofficial salamander capital of the world. Over 30 different species of salamander live in the park. There are 24 species of lungless salamanders in the area. These creatures use walls of tiny blood vessels in their skin and linings of their mouths and throats to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. You are likely to find salamanders near creeks and under rocks.
3. Smokiness is Created by Plants
You may be wondering why the Smoky Mountains are so smoky. This “smokiness” is actually a blue-colored fog created by the plants in the national park. The plants give off something called a volatile organic compound, or VOCs. When there are many VOCs, they create a vapor, making a fog. And since there are millions of plants in the area, that’s why the Smokies look so smoky!
4. 1,500 Black Bears Live in the Park
Biologists estimate there are 1,500 black bears living in the national park. That’s a population density of about 2 bears per square mile. Black bears can come in black, brown, and even white, but you’ll mostly find the black variety in the Great Smoky Mountains. These creatures are omnivores that eat plants, berries, nuts, fish, and other small animals. They hibernate in the winter, and you are most likely to see them in Cades Cove or along a hiking trail.
5. Clingmans Dome is the Highest Point
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in the state of Tennessee, and along the Appalachian Trail. It stands at 6,643 feet or 2,024 meters. On a clear day, you can see over 100 miles away at the top of the observation deck. The hike to the top is less than 1 mile, but the steepness makes it difficult. The mountain views from this vantage point are absolutely breathtaking.
These are just a few facts about the Great Smoky Mountains. Want to know more about the area? Check out our area information about Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to learn more.