How to Avoid the Crowds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a place of absolute wonder, featuring forests filled with vibrant wildflowers, old-growth forests, cascading waterfalls, winding trails, and vast 360 degree views of the misty mountains.

Because of the area’s immense beauty and easy access to outdoor adventure, it’s unsurprisingly a pretty popular place. In fact, the Smokies bring an estimated 10 million visitors each year—the most of any national park. While such heavy interest in our natural world is remarkable, seemingly inescapable mass crowds can be frustrating when trying to experience nature in its purest form.

But don’t be discouraged: Even in the Smokies, there are ways to escape the chaos and find solitude. Here’s what you should know.

Timing is Everything: It’s no secret that weekends and holidays are the worst, as with any national park. In comparison to Monday through Thursday, weekends are packed; and peak seasons—mid-summer (June-August) and the entire month of October—are much more congested than the rest of the year.

You should also take into account the time of day. Depending on when you set out for adventure, things can move slowly. If your plan is to go for a rigorous hike in the woods, your best chance to avoid leisurely-paced crowds is to wake up early and hit the trails before standard breakfast time. A lot of larger groups will start flooding in around 10 or 11 a.m.

Location is Also Everything: Congestion is similarly dependent on where you choose to go within the park. There are over 850 miles of hiking that span the 522,427-acre park; yet only select trails see dense traffic. Most tourists occupy the easy-to-access trails and overlooks with easy parking availability. In order to bypass large crowds, avoid these all-too-convenient pull-offs, and always opt for the “road less traveled.” After all, the lesser-known areas may surprise you.

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