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The Great Smoky Mountains - America's Treasure

By Shari Hearn

Okay, everyone who's visited the Great Smoky Mountains in the past year raise your hand. That's right, all 9,000,000 of you! And, if you're not one of the 9,000,000 who visited within the past year, you owe it to yourself to visit this year.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, part of the Appalachian

Mountains, is located along the border between Tennessee and North

Carolina, and covers 521,621.15 acres of land (both Federal and non-Federal lands).

Open all year round, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers an incredible range of activities for visitors. Besides touring the area by car, you can take your pick of fishing, camping, hiking (over 800 miles of trails), horseback riding and nature viewing.

Five forest types dominate the Great Smoky Mountains, consisting of more than 130 species of trees, including red spruce, Frasier fir, yellow birch and mountain-ash. 4,000 other plant species live in the park. You'll find wildflowers, mountain laurel, flame azalea and rhododendron, so be sure you take your camera everywhere.

If you're lucky you may spot some of the parks numerous wildlife to photograph: bears, red and gray foxes, bison, elk, bobcats, woodchucks, rabbits, squirrels, and beavers.

Aside from camping, the only other lodging within the park boundaries is Le Conte Lodge, which is accessible by trail only. The lodge is located atop 6,593 foot Mount le Conte, the third highest peak in the park. Reservations must be made within a year in advance. Le Conte Lodge is opened from mid-March to mid-November. For reservations, write to:

Le Conte Lodge

250 Apple Valley Road

Sevierville, TN 37862

If you can't make reservations at Le Conte Lodge, don't despair, other lodging is provided in nearby Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Whether you just drive through the park, or plan an extended stay in or near the park, you're sure to make memories to last a lifetime.

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