Smoky Mountains Overview
- Black forest plateaux
- Country life
- Bluegrass, bears and blueberry pie
Hugged by the haze of mist that gives them their name, the Smoky Mountains form the southern tip of the Appalachians, both a biodiversity haven and a cradle of classic Southern Americana.
Spectacularly beautiful, riddled with waterfalls and populated with mighty pines, the Smokies are the Deep South’s own homegrown pastoral paradise. Straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains are consistently America’s most visited national park, and with views like these, it’s not hard to understand why. In addition to the lush flora, diverse fauna and the jaw-dropping spectacle of the scenery, you’ll find traces of Cherokee tradition (the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’ originates in nearby Chattanooga), as well as a rich tradition of open-armed hospitality, bluegrass music, and finger-lickin’ Southern cuisine.
Suitably Smoky Mountains
If you like your entertainment man-made, kitsch and in-your-face, who could resist Dollywood in Pigeon Forge (www.dollywood.com)? Top-heavy country legend Dolly Parton’s answer to Disneyland is part theme park, part concert venue, part museum of Smoky Mountain culture, and all rip-roaring, thigh-slapping Americana.
- It’s seriously rural round these parts, so flagging down a cab ain’t an option. The husband and wife team behind Smoky Mountain Taxi (+1 865 659 0151) cover the area around Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.
- Tipping culture
- As in the rest of the States, 15–20 per cent is standard – less means there was something wrong.
- Packing tips
- You don’t go to the Smokies to laze around doing nothing, so make sure you bring lots of energy for the wealth of adventurous activities on offer. Binoculars will come in handy for bear-spotting, and a stash of trail mix (nuts, seeds, fruit and chocolate) is an essential accompaniment on mountain hikes.
- Recommended reads
- Thirteen Moons, Charles Frazier’s follow up to Cold Mountain chronicles a young man’s journey from the Cherokee reservation on the edge of the mountains to Washington at the turn of the 19th century. Also inspired by the region’s Native American heritage, Cataloochee by Wayne Caldwell is a Civil War Saga that tells of the forced relocation of the area’s inhabitant when the Smoky Mountains National park was created. Neil Gaiman's blackly comic fantasy American Gods reaches its dramatic climax at Rock City, on Chattanooga's Lookout Mountain.
- Tennessee is a bastion of good ol'-fashioned Southern cuisine, meaning that you’re never far shy of a fried chicken joint in the larger towns. If food doesn’t come fried, it’s barbecued – a much slower, smokier process than it is in the UK – pulled pork, a popular shredded meat dish served with a sweet tomato sauce – is prepared this way. Around Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find plenty of farms producing local artisan cheeses, hams, jams, and breads. The terrain and climate means mushrooms, especially morels, and ramps (a leek relative) grow in abundance, and chicory, which also thrives, is the traditional coffee substitute in these parts.
- US Dollar
- Time zone
- Eastern Time (GMT -5)
- Dialling codes
- USA: +1; Tennessee: 865.
- Do go/don't go
- The Smoky Mountains is a fantastic year-round destination – balmy outdoorsy summers are perfect for outdoor activity, but rugging up warm for bracing hiking/fishing/riding/snowball fighting, and returning for a hot toddy in front of an open fire make this a fabulous mid-winter spot. If you’re ideal trip involves at least some laying-by-the-pool-soaking-up-the-rays, anytime from late April to early October will be perfect for you.
Don't go home without...
…edible bear poop. This gimmicky little confection is available in giftshops everywhere in the region. Tacky toilet humour and tasty sweets? What’s not to love?