North Carolina

Discovering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Explore highlights of the Park from the height of Clingmans Dome to the depth of Cataloochee Valley: view historic structures, natural ecosystems, and reintroduced elk.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20552RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Join historians, naturalists and other local experts on an extraordinary adventure in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Learn about its human history and exploration on visits to Newfound Gap, Oconaluftee River Valley and Cataloochee Valley. Gain insight into ongoing environmental conservation efforts at a National Park Service research station.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking between 2 and 4 miles most days over grassy, forest trails; some short stream crossings on narrow footlogs. Elevations above 5,000 ft.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Walk along sections of the Kephart Prong and Appalachian Trails with our naturalist as we learn about the importance and formation of the park and its ecosystems.
  • Visit a historic Civilian Conservation Corp camp site which had been in use during the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and learn the history of logging in the forest where portions of cables and rails remain.
  • Observe protected elk in Cataloochee Valley and participate in a Citizen Science Research Project at Purchase Knob.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a single room to yourself for only $100 more (for many programs).
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Lee Knight
Raised in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Lee is a folk singer, story teller and outdoor leader, performing at concerts, workshops, festivals and schools. He shares his knowledge of the natural world leading hikes, canoe trips and guiding whitewater rafts. Lee has collected and shares Cherokee legends and plays the Cherokee flute and rattle, as well as the Native American drum. He also plays the five-string banjo, guitars and the Appalachian dulcimer.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Greg Kidd
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Lee Knight
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Suggested Reading List
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