Horses in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (James Randklev/Photographer's Choice)

Wild geranium, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Stockbyte/Getty)

Bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NPS)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tenn. Dept of Tourist Development)

Pioneer Farmstead, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee (C. Borland/Photodisc)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Entrance Sign (Gatlinburg Tourism)

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee Tourism)

President Roosevelt in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee Tourism)

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee Tourism)

Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Dawn breaks over Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Horses Roam Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Mingus Mill, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Spring in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park reflecting the light of sunset (User-submitted)

Great Smoky Mountains, Appalachia (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

Hay bales in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (iStockphoto)

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What to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains have a list of superlatives all their own: It’s one of the oldest ranges in the world (Ice Age glaciers stopped just short of grinding them up). Its 520,000 acres are home to more than 17,000 species; are crisscrossed with 800 miles of trails; and feature thigh-torching hills, swimming holes, and churches, cabins, and barns from the 1800s. And the whole place is often draped in the Smokies’ namesake wispy fog, caused by evaporation from trees. It’s the most-visited national park in the nation, perhaps because most of the eastern third of the U.S. can drive there in one shot. On busy weekends, the roads can be choked with 60,000 cars per day. And neighboring towns such as Pigeon Forge will test your tolerance for tackiness and gridlock. Thankfully, it’s easy to get away from the windshield tourists: Park and walk.

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