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Hometown Spotlight: Great Smoky Mountains

The mountains aren't just beautiful. They also have decades of history and impactful stories of those who live and work in this beauty of East Tennessee.

TENNESSEE, USA — The Great Smoky Mountains aren't just a national park that brings visitors from across the world to East Tennessee. They're more than just a pretty wallpaper to the people across the region.

They don't just hold decades of history but they also set the stage for impactful stories of those who live and work in the area. That's why we want to celebrate the places to visit, things to do and the people who work tirelessly to ensure that these mountains change and grow with the times.

Of course, exploring the present can't be done without paying tribute to the past.

The idea to create a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains started in the late 1890s. In May 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill that established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

President Franklin Roosevelt formally dedicated the Park in September 1940.

Cades Cove

You can't go to the Smokies and not go to Cades Cove. It's a picturesque area full of wildlife and breathtaking views. Right now, Wednesdays are vehicle-free which gives runners, walkers and cyclists a chance to enjoy every inch of the area.

Clingman's Dome

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has some of the prettiest views. It's worth every step to the top.

The hike is also one of the most popular across the park, attracting hikers to explore the area and trek up to see the mountains from a new perspective.

Best Hikes in the Park

Caitlyn Worth with the National Park Service explained where the best hikes are in the Smokies. While Clingman's Dome may offer incredible views, there are other spots to check out in the national park.

Don't forget you can get different, colorful views during the different seasons every year!

Waterfalls like Laurel, Abrams and Grotto Falls also make for picturesque spots to stop and take it all in.

Best Selfie Spots

The Smoky Mountains are breathtaking and perfect for any family photo or even selfies with friends. Here are some suggestions on where to go:

  • LeConte Lodge
  • Newfound Gap
  • Waterfalls Chimneytops
  • Foothills Parkway

Smokies Photographer Nate Nelson

You've probably seen his photos on our website or on television before: photographer Nate Nelson has a knack for capturing beautiful pictures of the Smokies and the creatures that call it home.

He shared some tips on how to make every shot breathtaking in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Camping

There are campground and backcountry campsites available to reserve in the Smokies. It's a good idea to check the park's website for availability.

"Mr. Happy Camper" Todd Howell, shared some sage advice for making sure you get set up the right way. The first step is to find a level place to set up a tent, and he recommended putting a tarp down under your tent to prevent moisture from seeping up.

He also recommended campers not to set their tents up facing east, so the sun doesn't hit them too hard in the morning. Some of the most important equipment includes a blow-up air mattress, pillows and a lantern.

Greenbrier Mountain Festival

David Shultz explains Greenbrier Mountain Festival is in the Hills Creek Baptist Church and Pittman Center Community. It offers crafts music and games at no cost.

Bear History

Of course, folks come to see the mountains but most look for the black bears while they're here. Kim Delozier has made his mission to help the black bears. He has written books on black bears and is the program director for BearWild to help bears and visitors co-exist.

BearWise in the Smokies

Staying BearWise is important whenever visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. There are six important steps for making sure visitors stay safe while sharing space with the region's iconic four-footed friends.

  1. Stay alert and together. Pay attention to your surroundings.
  2. Do not leave trash or food scraps, wherever you go.
  3. Keep dogs leashed.
  4. Set camp up away from dense cover and natural food sources. Cook at least 100 yards from the tent.
  5. If you see a bear that does not notice you, stand still. Do not run away. Then, slowly and quietly move away in the opposite direction. If it has seen you, just back away slowly.
  6. Carry bear spray and know when to use it.

Black Appalachian Music

Black Appalachian music has a long history in the mountains and has influenced today's sounds. 

The African American experience project is looking to capture the stories of Black people in Appalachia. The Park says they plan to host community events in the next few months.

Foods of the Smokies

Food is always a topic that people enjoy and there is no shortage of great foods inspired by the Smoky Mountains. In fact, there are some foods you can buy in the Smokies, called "Foods of the Smokies." Every purchase a person makes helps fund the park.

One of their most popular products is their honey, in particular the sourwood honey which is only available at certain times of the year. 

Another popular product is sorghum, which they get from a local couple. Here's more on Muddy Pond sorghum: