Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Updated 6/21/24

There are a number of national parks with higher heights, stunning views of other mountains and deserts, and fewer crowds. But, most of those other parks are in the western US, far away from where 2/3 of Americans live. So, it should be no surprise that the Great Smoky Mountains get the most visitors out of all national parks (not counting the Blue Ridge Parkway). And, it’s not even close, with this park getting almost three times the visitors of the #2 park, the Grand Canyon.

But, it’s not just the proximity of the park that draws the crowds, as the mountains have a foggy allure that other parks in the West just don’t have. Amazing scenic vistas, historic sites, and chances to view wildlife are all easy to find in the park, even if you might get in a traffic jam in Cades Cove. Plus, a great many attractions have sprung up outside the park over the years, and scenic drives like the Tail of the Dragon and Blue Ridge Parkway call drivers.

So, it’s definitely a park everyone should visit at least once. The park also doesn’t charge an entrance fee to get on the roads, but they do charge for parking tags to stop along the roads. So, if you’re just looking for a scenic drive, it’s practically free.

If you’re looking for passport stamps, both visitor centers have several. Each visitor center has a unique stamp, and between them, you can get stamps for the Trail of Tears, Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway (ends on the east side of the park), and a cool bear stamp (not pictured).

Getting There In An EV

Quick Facts and Tips:

  • This is a relatively easy park to get to in an EV, but depending on how much driving you plan to do at and around the park, you may need to do some trip planning.
  • The main road going through the park (US-441) has fast charging at both ends for all EVs. The stations in Cherokee are reliable, as are several in and near Sevierville and Knoxville. Be sure to charge up enough to visit Clingman’s Dome before crossing!
  • There is some trail access on the northeast end of the park along I-40, which is fairly well-covered for EVs. Be sure to charge up before making the climb across the Appalachians from either side.
  • The Tail of the Dragon (US-129) runs along the southwest end of the park. Opportunities for charging are more limited out there, but most EVs can get through the area with some trip planning from the NC or TN sides, or a stop at the Tail of the Dragon store for some L2 charging while getting lunch.
  • There are hotels with L2 charging on both sides of the mountains, and a few near the Tail of the Dragon. Be sure to check Plugshare for reviews before relying on one.
  • There are no campgrounds with hookups you can use to charge in the park itself, but some nearby private RV parks may allow it. You’ll need your own charge cord with a NEMA 14-50 plug to do this. Be sure to call first before you go!
  • If you can charge up near the park, EVs with power output could be useful for glamping in a campsite, but be sure to not deplete the battery too much.

This park isn’t quite to the point where you can go without any planning, but it’s still very much easy to visit. I was even able to do it in my Bolt EUV pulling a trailer (this combination only gives you about 120 miles of highway range).

I used my Chevrolet Bolt EUV to power a campsite at Elkmont Campground on the west side of the park.

Links For Further Park and Nearby Information

Here’s a great video with more information about the park:

Featured image by National Park Service.