48 Hours in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Jeep with Motion Blur Driving Past the Entrance Sign to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Route 441 in Tennessee

The most visited national park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers an unusual combination of natural beauty and Appalachian culture. The 800-square-mile wilderness area straddling the Tennessee/North Carolina state line is both a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. It is the most biologically diverse national park in the continental U.S., with an estimated 100,000 species of plants and animals. Some creatures, including the Jordan's salamander, can only be found in the Smokies.

Until 1934, when the park was established, several Appalachian communities dotted the hills and hollers here. Although most traces of those towns were removed when the government bought the land for the park, more than 100 homes, mills, schoolhouses, barns, outbuildings and churches remain to tell the story of the region's hearty mountainfolk.