Outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a number of national forests and state parks. The national forests are maintained by the federal government and they offer many recreational opportunities and facilities. These national forests border the National Park and extend the boundaries of the recreational reach of the area. As soon as you leave the GSMNP you might just find yourself in a National Park that allows you to keep the fun going in another environment.
Nantahala National Forest (NNF) – This national forest was established in 1907. Nantahala is the largest of the four national forests in North Carolina. At 531,270 acres, this area is full of waterfalls, natural wonders, beautiful vistas and plenty of recreational opportunities. The Nantahala area has hiking trails, ATV trails, horseback riding, fishing, camping and much more. Well maintained roads and access to these facilities makes the Nantahala National Forest a perfect place to spend part of your vacation to the Smoky Mountains. This national forest covers an enormous portion of Western North Carolina and is the only national forest located there.
Cherokee National Forest (CNF) – This particular national forest was created in 1920 and takes in 655,598 acres of land in Eastern Tennessee. The area it covers runs from the northeast portion of the state to the GSMNP and from the southeast corner of the state to the GSMNP. Though it is divided into two pieces this huge tract of land gives you lots of options and encompasses many of the surrounding towns. The opportunities in the Cherokee National Forest include but are not limited to: picnic areas, beaches, lakes, swimming rafting, hiking, fishing, snorkeling and much more. CNF’s campgrounds are incredible and might even be worth a vacation by themselves while you take in the great outdoors.
Pisgah National Forest (PNF) – On the Western North Carolina side of the Smokies, Pisgah National Forest is another great place to spend a few days of your vacation. Camping, tubing, hiking, kayaking, biking, historical sites and all kinds of other activities are open for you to enjoy in the PNF. Pisgah surrounds the city of Asheville and is nestled in the corner of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain. If you are used to driving to Asheville on I-40 then you have passed through the Pisgah National Forest and you will be hard pressed to find a pretty spot in the southern Appalachians.