The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range rising along the Tennessee-North Carolina border in the southeastern United States. They are among the oldest mountains in the world, formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago. The Smokies are part of the larger range of the Appalachian Mountains, and form part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province. The range is sometimes called the Smoky Mountains or the Smokey Mountains, and the name is commonly shortened to the Smokies. The Great Smokies are best known as the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which protects most of the range. The park was established in 1934, and with over nine million visits per year, it is the most-visited national park in the United States.
The name “Smoky" comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and looks like large smoke plumes from a distance. This fog, which is most common in the morning and after rainfall, is the result of warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling rapidly in the higher elevations of Southern Appalachia.
The Smoky Mountains are home to Clingmans Dome, which rises to an elevation of 6,643 feet. The mountain is the highest in Tennessee and third highest in the Appalachian range. Biological diversity is the hallmark of the Smoky Mountains, boasting an extremely diverse system of flora and fauna life. This diversity is mostly due to the presence of multiple forest types.
Whatever the season, visitors to the Smoky Mountains never experience a dull moment. Rafting, either leisurely river tubing or in full whitewater, is common all summer. Downhill skiing is also enjoyed in the winter, though for a short season, at places like Cataloochee and Ober Gatlinburg.
The Smoky Mountains are a diverse and awe-inspiring place at which to enjoy your next vacation.
Baskins Creek Vacation Rentals (http://baskinscreek.com ) provides some of the most accommodating Smoky Mountain cabin rentals just minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Billings Farnsworth is a freelance writer.