Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains
Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on January 3, 2023
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America, receiving some 9 million guests each year. While many of those people enter from the North Carolina side of the park, as well as through other entrances on the Tennessee side, most access the park through the Gatlinburg entrance, which is only a couple of miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center - a great starting point for any adventure one might plan within GSMNP boundaries.
One of Sugarlands' best functions is that of provider of information. A staff made up of both paid and volunteer park rangers is on hand to answer virtually any question a visitor to the Smokies might have, whether it's an inquiry about the behavior of black bears, the location of a trailhead for a specific hike or even the history of the region before it became a national park in the 1930s.
Supplementing all this firsthand knowledge is a treasure trove of printed information. Some park newspapers and maps are available free of charge, while the gift shop on site has tons of books and other informative resources for sale, covering everything from the history of the area to more in-depth studies of the native flora and fauna.
Visitors to Sugarlands Visitor Center should also take advantage of some of the interpretive learning opportunities available at the facility. There's a self-guided wildlife exhibit that features replicas of the many types of animals that call the national park home - everything from snakes to owls to foxes. This section provides lots of information about the animals and their habitats as well as many of the types of wildflowers and vegetations that thrive within the park throughout the year.
If you have enough time to devote to your visit to Sugarlands, you might also want to step into the theater space, where they screen a 21-minute movie about Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a repeating schedule throughout the day.
We mentioned the center's gift shop earlier as a source of information, but visitors will find all types of park-related merch at this retail center as well. Look for national-park-themed clothing items as well as souvenir mugs and ornaments and games and activities designed for kids.
And whether you're just headed into the park or on your way out of it for the day, keep in mind that this visitor center has lots of free parking (although on busy days, it can still be challenging to find an empty spot), vending machines and restrooms. It's also the location for the park's backcountry office, so if you plan to hike to or camp in one of the park's backcountry sites, this is where you'll need to go to get your permit.
Sugarlands Visitor Center is not only a place to learn about the national park and gather information, it's also a good place to get your feet wet (figuratively) in terms of outdoor experiences. The center is your starting point for three different hikes, all of them rated as easy.
You can hike a half-mile to Cataract Falls, a 25-foot waterfall, enjoying lots of wooded areas, streams and bridges along the way. This is a great outing for families with younger children. Fighting Creek Nature Trail is a 1.2-mile loop that's also suitable for all ages. A gentle climb follows Fighting Creek and passes by two historic properties - the Noah McCarter cabin and the John Ownby cabin.
There's also the Gatlinburg Trail, which runs 1.8 miles from the visitor center and terminates at the southern border of Gatlinburg. Then you travel the same distance to get back to Sugarlands. The terrain is mostly level, with some moderate inclines along the way. The path crosses the West Prong of Pigeon River at one point and runs alongside the river for much of the route. Gatlinburg Trail is also unique in that it's one of only two trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that allows dogs and bicycles.
The next time you visit our Gatlinburg zipline attraction, we recommend that you also work in a trip to the national park and be sure to make Sugarlands Visitor Center a part of your outdoor experience. Smoky Mountain Ziplines is generally open March through December of each year, operating on a more limited schedule during off-season periods.