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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Graze blueberry patches, explore swimming holes, and tag the South's high points on this sultry hike.
INTRO | GLACIER | <a

href=”/articles/12517″>YOSEMITE | GRAND CANYON | <a

href=”/articles/12523″>GREAT SMOKY
| OLYMPIC | <a

href=”/articles/12526″>YELLOWSTONE | DENALI

 

Don’t be fooled–though the Smokies can be busier than a NASCAR stadium, the lush peaks and hazy mist that inspired the park’s name hide a lifetime’s worth of adventure. Packed into the park are verdant groves of tulip poplar and wind-whipped spruce-fir forests where elk and black bears roam. Three-foot salamanders swim beneath clouds of fireflies blinking in unison. On a typical multiday hike, you could pass more than 10,000 plant and animal species (though scientists believe 90,000 could live here). In this Eastern oasis, in the shadow of 300-million-year-old mountains that once soared as tall as the Rockies, life explodes in a shock of blooming, buzzing, slithering, and chirping–a rare escape where hikers can leave civilization and lose themselves in deep wilderness.

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