• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Tour Bus Guide

Bus drivers bringing tour groups to the park should download and read the Tour Bus Guide (This is a PDF file that is 1,315 KB in size.)

Tips for Bus Drivers
If you have not driven in the mountains before, there may be some hazards that are not obvious. These tips are offered to familiarize you with mountain driving and to prevent unnecessary delays and possible accidents.

1. Overheating brakes are a major problem in mountain driving. If you find that you are constantly riding the brakes, shift to a lower gear. This is best accomplished prior to descending mountain roads. In general, a vehicle will require the same gear while traveling downhill as it would while traveling up the same road. Unless you are an experienced driver, it can be dangerous to shift to a lower gear once the vehicle has started the descent. Proper tire pressure is important to prevent heat build up on tires while negotiating the many curves on park roads.

2. Vapor lock, engine or transmission overheating, or radiator boil over can all be caused by long steady ascents. Usually a 30-minute cool down period will alleviate the problem.

3. Consider stopping at scenic vistas while traveling. Not only does this allow your passengers more opportunity to view the park, it also allows your brakes to cool while traveling downhill. Occasionally pulling over while traveling uphill will give other motorists an opportunity to pass and might prevent impatient drivers from passing at dangerous locations.

4. Weather in the mountains will vary with the elevation. The lower elevations will often be warm and clear. But at the higher altitudes it may be cool, raining, snowing, or foggy. Thick fog is more likely to occur in the early morning and at night. Falling rocks are common after heavy rains.

5. Buses are prohibited from idling engines in parking lots of developed areas.


Recommended Reading
For a guide to the roads in the park, you may want to purchase The Smokies Road Guide, which offers detailed descriptions of what you might see while touring the park roads. Additional recommended books are listed below. These publications can be purchased online or at park visitor centers

Exploring the Smokies: Things to See & Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Newfound Gap Road Auto Tour booklet

Cades Cove Auto Tour booklet

Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum self-guiding tour booklet

Great Smoky Mountains Starter Kit · Includes many popular maps and tour booklets

Smoky Mountains Audio Tour: The Newfound Gap Road - Free Podcast

Did You Know?

Marbled salamanders are one of 30 salamander species native to the park.

There are at least 30 different species of salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This gives the Smokies the distinction of having the most diverse salamander population anywhere in the world and has earned the park the nickname “Salamander Capital of the World.” More...