5. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Just about an hour drive from Knoxville, this beautiful and peaceful park is a must do.  If you head towards Gatlinburg you will see the sign to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Look around! You are one of the most beautiful places on this planet and one of my all time favorites.

Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which encompasses over 800 square miles in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. No other area of equal size in a temperate climate can match the park’s amazing diversity of plants and animals. Over 17,000 species have been documented in the park during an on-going inventory, and scientists believe an additional 30,000-80,000 species may live here.

Some 100 species of native trees find homes in the Smokies, more than in any other North American national park. Almost 95% of the park is forested, and about 25% of that area is old-growth forest. Over 1,500 additional flowering plant species have been identified in the park. The park is also the center of diversity for lungless salamanders and is home to more than 200 species of birds, 66 types of mammals, 67 native fish species, 39 varieties of reptiles, and 43 species of amphibians. Mollusks, millipedes, and mushrooms reach record diversity here.

Grab your camera, a bag full a snacks and head out for the day to explore!