Enjoy the North Carolina Side of the Park

Elk calf stands in a bush.
Elk are often seen in Cataloochee Valley and Oconaluftee Valley.

Susie Neel Photo

The south side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers plenty to see and do. Walk to a picturesque waterfall, wander through a historic log cabin, or watch an elk graze in a secluded mountain valley—whatever you do, you will find something spectacular in the North Carolina Smokies!

Stop by the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for information, park maps, and a free copy of the Smokies Guide newspaper. For additional books, DVDs, music, and more, visit the Smokies Life bookstore inside the visitor center or online.

Scenic Drives

  • The 6-mile-long Lakeview Drive offers fantastic views of Fontana Lake. Lakeview Drive begins outside of Bryson City, North Carolina.
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway and Cherohala Skyway are both located outside the park, but offer spectacular views of the mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway can be accessed from US-441 just south of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Access to the skyway is along US-129 near Robbinsville, North Carolina. Both roads are subject to weather closures, especially in winter.

Historic Structures

Guidebooks that explain the history of the area and buildings are available for purchase at the visitor center.

Wildlife Viewing

The best areas to see the reintroduced elk herd are Cataloochee Valley and Oconaluftee Valley located near the visitor center.


Visit the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for more information, hiking maps, and directions to trailheads.

  • Deep Creek waterfall hike to Indian Creek Falls, Juney Whank Falls and Tom Branch Falls is 2.4-miles roundtrip.
  • Mingo Falls, the tallest waterfall in the southern Appalachians, is a 0.4-mile roundtrip hike.
  • Chasteen Creek Falls is 4 miles roundtrip and begins in the Smokemont Campground.
  • Twentymile Cascade is 1.25 miles roundtrip and begins near the Twentymile Ranger Station.

More Hiking

Visit the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for more information, hiking maps, and directions to trailheads.

  • The Oconaluftee River Trail that begins at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is 3.2 miles roundtrip and is both pet and stroller accessible.
  • The Mingus Creek Trail, located at Mingus Mill (various distances), offers hikers many highlights including a historic cemetery, a Civilian Conservation Corp campsite, and an old home site.
  • The Smokemont Nature Trail is 0.75 miles roundtrip and located at the Smokemont Campground. It gives hikers a view of natural reforestation and the Bradley Fork Creek.

Fontana Dam

Fontana Dam is the largest dam east of the Mississippi River and is located on the southwestern side of the park. Visitors can fish, boat, and access the Appalachian Trail from the Fontana Dam area.


Two park trails are bicycle accessible in North Carolina:

  1. Oconaluftee River Trail
  2. Lower Deep Creek Trail

Other mountain biking trails are open on national forest and recreation lands outside the park's boundaries.


Smokemont Campground is open year-round. Tents and RVs up to 35 feet can be accommodated. Group camping is also available. Reservations are required and available online or by phone at (877) 444-6777.


Deep Creek Picnic Area is open year-round. A picnic pavilion is also available and can be reserved online or by phone at (877) 444-6777.


Fishing regulations are available at all visitor centers. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required to fish within park boundaries. A fishing license may be purchased in nearby communities or online from the states of Tennessee or North Carolina.

Last updated: February 17, 2024

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Mailing Address:

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738



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