As 2016 rolls around, I’ve been reading a lot on social media about the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, and more specifically the Find Your Park initiative. According to the National Park Service, the campaign is not only about national parks, but “state parks, local parks, trails, museums, historic sites and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture, enjoy nature, and make new discoveries.” As a family, we have visited many of the top parks, and still have quite a few on our list. Now more than ever is a great time to plan a trip to one of these magical places, whether it’s a weekend trip to a nearby park, or a week long vacation halfway across the country. This article is the first of several that I’m going to post throughout the year, highlighting parks big and small throughout the US, in the hopes of inspiring readers to get out and explore.
To kick off the year, I decided to highlight the most visited park in the country based on 2014 statistics. Many people would guess the Grand Canyon, but it’s the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which takes the top honor. We’ve visited several times, and each time have discovered something new. And if you are worried about large crowds, be sure to read the park tips for beating the crowds before you go.
Things to Do
With 800 miles of hiking trails, amazing waterfalls and scenic views, along with a variety of wildlife, it’s easy to see why this park is so popular. The park straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, and has several entrances to make it easily accessible from several directions. Here are some suggestions of things to do, with lots more to be found on the National Park website.
It's always a good idea to read the Smokies Guide Newspaper for detailed information about all the activities available in the park for each season. And don’t forget about all the wonderful ranger programs and special events, particularly in 2016. They even have the Not So Junior Ranger Program, for kids 13-130. Just attend 3 ranger led programs and turn in a special card at the visitors center and you’ll earn a free patch.
After your visit, feel free to share your story on social media, either via Twitter at #FindYourPark or through the Find Your Park website.