Great Smoky Mountains National Park, established in 1934 covers approximately 800 square miles. It includes some of the most remote and rugged mountains in the Eastern United States. The park is known for its outstanding biological diversity, scenic mountain vistas, vast recreational opportunities and chances for learning about Appalachian culture.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over 800 square miles (521,490 acres) divided almost equally between the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, and is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States. The uninterrupted chain of mountains range to 6,643 feet and for 36 miles the crest of the range remains more than 5,000 feet above sea level, including 16 peaks over 6,000 feet.
Precipitation levels are among the highest on the North American continent, with annual averages of 85 inches in parts of the park. Higher elevations average 69 inches of snow annually. The Park is within easy driving distance of two-thirds of the U.S. population and is the most heavily visited National Park, with nearly 10 million annual visitors. The extraordinary biodiversity of the Great Smokies is world-renowned, as reflected in its designation as an International Biosphere Reserve. Every major eastern forest type can be found within the Park's boundaries.
The park also features tremendous historical sites, many of which are found at Cades Cove, the most popular historic district in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At its peak in the mid 1800s, this beautiful mountain valley was home to 700 individuals and included family farms, general stores, grist mills and churches. Several of these home sites, churches and a working grist mill are still standing in Cades Cove today.
Because this area has been maintained as a historic district, the fields in Cades Cove are open and pastoral, rather than left to grow up with trees. This makes Cades Cove one of the best places for wildlife viewing.