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How to enjoy East Tennessee's gorgeous wildlife while trying to avoid crowds

For the past two weekends, visitors have swarmed popular areas like Rainbow Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. Here's a list of others places to explore.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On the first weekend the Great Smoky Mountains National Park launched Phase One of its reopening plan, visitors from 26 states and Washington, D.C. showed up.

For the most part, visitors dispersed throughout the national park. However, some of the more popular areas, like Rainbow Falls, drew crowds.

"Parking lots overflowed and people parked along the roadside for about a mile to access the trail," said Dana Soehn, spokesperson for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "At these places, there seemed to be little regard for following social distancing guidance in the parking lots, destinations, and restroom areas."

This weekend, visitors crowded the area once again.

Here's a list of two dozen places to go exploring that might draw smaller crowds than the Rainbow Falls trail head.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

1. Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain (via Anthony Creek Trailhead in Cades Cove)

2. Mount Camerrer 

3. Gabes Mountain

4. Hen Wallow Falls

5. Sugarlands Mountain Trail

6. Huskey Gap 

RELATED: Great Smoky Mountains begins reopening in phases

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

7. Pinnacle Gap

8. White Rocks

9. Tri-State Peak Trail

10. Chadwell Gap

RELATED: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park reopens trailheads after COVID-19 closure

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

11. Honey Creek Loop

12. Twin Arches

13. Yahoo Falls

14. Angel Falls

15. Slave Falls

16. Grand Gap Loop

RELATED: Trails & backcountry camping back open in Big South Fork NRRA

South Cumberland State Park  

17. Fiery Gizzard Trail

18. Grundy Lakes Loop

19. Big Creek Gulf Trail

20. Greeter Falls Loop

East Tennessee 

21. West Overlook Trail (House Mountain)

22. Lookout Tower (Frozen Head State Park)

23. Ozone Falls (Cumberland Mountain State Park)

RELATED: Tennessee state parks reopen for daytime use under new guidelines

City of Knoxville 

24. Sharp's Ridge Trails

25. Ijams Nature Center Trails

26. Fort Dickerson Park Trails

RELATED: Grant to bring new mountain bike and hiking trails to Foothills Parkway in Cocke County

RELATED: Townsend tubing opens with pandemic precautions

RELATED: TVA opens most recreation areas & campgrounds

Before You Leave, Check This Out