Happy 86th birthday to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park turned 86 on Monday, June 15, and we've got to say it is still looking great for its age.

The United States government established the park in 1926, though it took roughly eight years to raise funds to officially open it. On June 15, 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was born!

The park shattered its all-time visitation record in 2019 with 12,547,743 visitors who came for hiking, camping, scenic drives and a chance to enjoy the area's natural beauty.

While it's the most visited park in the United States, nearly 80 percent of the forest was destroyed by logging when it was first made a national park.

Donations from conservationists, the U.S. Park Service, and the collaboration of other loggers and landowners allowed the forest to restore the over 100 native shrub and tree species that thrived there.

To celebrate the beloved park's birthday, here are 10 things to love about the Smokies.

  1. Bears

Though the park itself is a major draw for visitors, we all know everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the famous black bears that make their home in the mountains.

  1. History

From the Walker Sisters to Elkmont and everything in between, some much of East Tennessee's history has played out on those winding trails.

  1. Wildlife

The black bears may be a main attraction, but the Smokies boast a variety of creatures in all shapes and sizes.

  1. Hikes

With over 800 miles of trails currently maintained, the possibilities are endless!

  1. Drives

If hitting the trails isn't really your thing, there are plenty of treelined drives to take to enjoy the views.

  1. Cades Cove

Of course, no list about the Smokies would be complete without mentioning one of its most popular destinations.

  1. Wildflowers

Springtime visitors are treated to the Smoky Mountains' variety of wildflowers.

  1. Fall foliage

Who can resist the gorgeous views as the Smokies' trees turn from green to red, orange and yellow in the fall?

  1. Variety

Sure, you could say this answer is a bit of a free pass, but when you really think about it, there is just so much to do in the park! No two visits have to be the same.

  1. Stories

Last but not least, everyone comes away from their trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a story (and sometimes we are fortunate enough to get to share them).

Source: WBIR

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Published June 15, 2020