Posted by: kerryl29 | April 25, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: An Introduction

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border, about an hour from Knoxville, Tennessee and a bit further from Asheville, North Carolina.  What I love the most about the place is its photographic versatility: misty mountains; rushing streams, creeks and rivers; (in the spring) copious wildflowers; wildlife; verdant valleys; pioneer buildings…the Smokies have it all.  GSMNP is probably the single best location for nature photography east of the Mississippi River in the United States, precisely because of the variety of subject matter available.  There’s always something to shoot, no matter the conditions.

Setting Sun, Clingman's Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

Setting Sun, Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

I just returned from my fourth extended photo trip to the Smokies; three of those journeys, including this one (obviously), have taken place in the spring.  I arrived mid-afternoon on April 15 and departed following a morning shoot on April 23.  Because of my experience at the location, I know the lay of the land quite well, but I still took the time to explore some new trails and obtain some new perspectives.

White Trillium, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

White Trillium, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The images that accompany this entry were all  made on this trip.  I’ve scarcely had time to go through most of the material, but I selected a small sample set of images to prepare to demonstrate the variety of subject matter that is present in GSMNP in the spring.

Middle Prong of the Little River, Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Middle Prong of the Little River, Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Dating to my trip to West Virginia (also see here and here) in the fall of 2011 and continuing through my trip to Utah/Nevada (see the bottom of the linked entry for links to all related posts) in May of last year and Arizona in August, 2012, I’ve more or less provided a chronological travelogue of my photo excursion experiences on this blog.  I’m not planning to do that with this Smokies trip.  Rather, my intention is to deal with things in a more thematic fashion.  I’ll still post plenty of images from this trip to the Smokies, but rather than simply laying things out in day-by-day form, the approach will (hopefully) be more meaningful.

‘Til next time…

Hyatt Lane Morning, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Hyatt Lane Morning, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee


  1. Nice to see the trilliums again, they were the provincial flower in Ontario where I grew up.

    • There’s trillium all over the place in the Smokies in the spring: white, large-flowered, nodding, yellow, painted…you name it.

  2. As you know, I’m a great admirer of your work, I can’t wait to see your future posts!

    • Thanks, Jerry. Hopefully I won’t disappoint.

  3. Excellent introduction! Can’t wait to see more.

    I have another trip planned to GSMNP in May (going to miss the spring bloom). I’m sure your images will provide some inspiration.

    • Thanks, Derek. Are you going to be there in late May, to catch (at least some of) the rhododendron bloom?

      • That’s exactly when I’ll be there. With everything so early last year, I missed it by about two weeks. Hopefully this year will play out a little better.

        • Well, the good news is that the spring bloom was essentially right on time this year, so hopefully the rhododendrons will be on time too.

  4. Loving your post and captures:) Mr. Craves and I need to head that way to visit family next year – thinking of putting the Smokey Mtns on the list of things to see and do. Have a Great Day!

    • Thanks. I strongly encourage you to take a long look at GSMNP if you have the chance. The most flattering times for the park are spring and fall, but it’s worth a visit at any time of the year.

  5. Especially love your last shot. Well done

    • Thanks very much, Tina.

  6. The trillium and middle prong are gorgeous. Thank you!

    • Thanks very much, Jane.

  7. What a beautiful teaser post, Kerry! Can’t wait to see the photos as you continue posting – the trilliums are breathtaking!

  8. Kerry, this is a fine introduction to a beautiful and diverse landscape. This has always been a location I would love to visit. We’ve made it to Shenandoah NP but not as far south as GSMNP. I think I can safely say we are all looking forward to your future posts.

    • Thanks, David.

      For a kind of ultimate eastern-half-of-the-U.S. photo road trip you could start in the Smokies in the spring, then pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway at the southern entrance to the park, on the North Carolina side, and drive the parkway all the way to Shenandoah (where it turns into Skyline Drive). Note that while I’ve done a little bit of poking around at some of the overlooks on the very southern end of the parkway (the final 30 miles or so) I haven’t undertaken the proposed trip myself, but I’m confident that it would be a phenomenal experience.

  9. Your shots are fantastic! (of course!) I was over in the Smokies about a month ago. There was snow on the AT, green grass at the lower elevations, and no leaves yet. Didn’t get to spend much time there, but it’s on my list of places to revisit

    • Thanks very much.

      Yeah, March is a bit early for the Smokies–definitely too early for any blooming (except, perhaps, for last year when everything was insanely early).

  10. Your images are really fantastic. I tried to pick the picture I like best and that has not been possible. They are really enjoyable.

    • Thanks very much–that’s very kind of you to say.

  11. This is such a special place. I’ve had the pleasure several times and am really enjoying seeing it through your eyes, Kerry. Thanks so much for the reminders!

  12. Soulful pics:)

  13. Beautiful images! They are absolutely stunning!

    • Thanks very much!

  14. […] I announced the decision to back off the copious, daily log structure in the aftermath of a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the spring of 2013, I received a slew of e-mails asking me to reconsider.  People–those […]

  15. […] it’s been a few years since I’ve been there, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been a frequent destination for me.  I’ve spent extended time five times, all but one of […]

  16. […] those nine cannot be accessed by car.  By comparison, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (a place I have visited numerous times) drew more than 11 million visitors in 2018.  But Big Bend has roughly 60% more […]

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