If you’re traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), one place you’ve likely seen and even stopped at, is the Sugarlands Visitor Center. It’s located on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just south of Gatlinburg along US 441. Sugarlands is on your right hand side as you enter the national park from Gatlinburg. Aside from being able to obtain a wealth of information about the park there, Sugarlands offers guest facilities, as well as free programs for kids, hikers, naturalists, and on basically any reason there would be to come to the national park.
Though it is and will always be a popular stop for people looking for a restroom, the bookstore in the visitor center is worth the stop alone. If you need a hiking guide, or a wildlife book, they’ve got it. And after you’ve perused their gift shop, check out the Smoky Mountain wildlife museum. They profile all the mammals, reptiles and birds you’re sure encounter (at least some of them) on any of the hiking the trails in the Smokies. Sugarlands is really a great first stop before going into the park, whether it’s to get a map, check out the wildlife presentation, or just a simple break from the road. One suggestion before leaving – there’s a 20 minute film on the history of the park that can be seen there, it’s worth 20 minutes to watch.
Park rangers also provide the public with educational programs at Sugarlands Visitors Center. You might encounter a ranger talking about some of the park’s first settlers, edible wild plants that grow along the trails, or a simple GSMNP history lesson. All these talks and presentations are specifically developed for Sugarlands by the Park Service. One good move might be to contact the visitors center before coming to the park to see what programs are running during your specified trip.
Another reason to visit Sugarlands is if you plan staying overnight in the Great Smoky Mountains at a campground or backcountry site. Not only can you make reservations at one of the park’s campgrounds, Sugarlands is an ideal place to make lodging plans for one of the park’s backcountry shelters. Each backcountry shelter must be reserved as they are managed by the park service. For anyone planning an overnight trip on one of the trails, make plans to stay in one of the shelters. Any of the Sugarlands park rangers will be able to help you out with that process.
Due to the amount of visitors that come to the Smokies year after year, Sugarlands has become a destination for many people. Take in the gift shop and the wildlife exhibit, come listen to any of the special programs given each year or check on your backcountry reservation next time you’re coming in from Gatlinburg. Sugarlands is a literal “one stop shop” for all the information you might need on your Smokies trip, Sugarlands’ experienced staff will help make your trip one that you’ll always look back on fondly and with great remembrance.
Sugarlands Visitor Center
2 miles south of Gatlinburg on US 441
Open every day except Christmas Day