One of the natural wonders in the Smoky Mountains are the sections of Old Growth Forest. Inside the 500,000+ acres of land lays 100,000 acres of old growth forest.
Old Growth Forest in the GSMNP is defined as those areas that were not harvested for lumber during the heavy times of the lumber industry before the National Park was founded. The lumber industry before the park service came into play was clear cutting the mountains. They were harvesting the trees as quickly as they could and leaving whole sides of the mountains bare. This, of course, affected the ecosystem and the environment that the animals lived in. With the lumber companies leaving, the new trees did spread and fill in those gaps that had been left behind and planting programs made sure that the trees came back as quickly as possible. Fortunately there were still section of the forest that had been left alone by the lumber industry.
These stands of old growth trees now tower over the trees that are next to them. You can tell when you enter one of these areas due to the enormity of the trees and state of the forest floor around them. Due to the fact that these areas have been left alone the ground cover is different in these areas, the canopy has an entirely different look and you can feel the age of the forest when you step into the shadows of these giant trees.
Most of the time to find these old growth areas you are going to have to hike for a while to get into the middle of these old growth areas. One exception is the Chimney’s picnic area. If you hike almost a mile up the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, you will find yourself wAndering through a pristine section of old growth forest. Towering hardwoods with their limbs intertwined to shade the floor of the forest and create a canopy that is unbelievable. This short hike is the quickest way to get to an old growth forest section of the GSMNP. Looking for a longer hike that might not be quite as populated: Ramsey Cascade and the Albright Grove Loop Trail will lead you on a meandering trail through old growth sections that are as beautiful as they are hard to reach.
Next visit to the GSMNP, try to find an old growth forest in the Smokies. Take a short hike and stand in the middle of trees that have been around for hundreds of years. Get in the middle of the trees and lie down, looking up through the canopy to the sky. Think of the changes that have happened around these groves of trees as they have survived through the years. You are now a part of that old growth history, take a moment, enjoy it.