Sugarlands, of course, is the home of the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the headquarters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sugarlands is also an area of the National Park that stretches from the Grapeyard Ridge and the Roaring Fork area to Sugarland Mountain. The road out of Gatlinburg runs straight through Sugarlands and is one of the most used access points to the GSMNP.
The Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee hunted the land that came to be known as Sugarlands for thousands of years before the first European Settlers go to the area. The settlers that came to East Tennessee found a valley in Sugarlands that was good for growing crops, protected them from the harshest of the winter storms and provided them with natural insulation from outsiders. The Sugarlanders were isolationary and stayed to themselves. Their communities flourished and though life continued around them (the Civil War and other national occurrences) the people of Sugarlands continued along their path.
With the coming of the logging industry, the people of the Sugarland area began to have visitors to their valley. As the rail lines brought in summer vacationers, the Sugarlanders had new people to sale to their goods to. They embraced the people of other areas that wanted a mountain spot to vacation. In fact many Sugarlanders took on legendary status. Mountain guides like Wiley Oakley helped to map the trails that would become the trails in the Smokies. Oakley guided visitors on a trail through an area called Scratch Britches that would become known as Rainbow Falls Trail.
When Congress passed the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the people of Sugarlands were some of the first to be displaced be the coming change. Most of them took the buyout offered by the Park Service but some of the Sugarlanders had to be forced out of the area. After all of the residents had been removed from the area, the Park Service the CCC began the task of building the structures that we have all come to know and love in the GSMNP.
Modern Sugarlands offers everything a visitor to the Smokies could want and more. Reservations for campsites, a museum of the wildlife in the Smokies, a video about the foundation of the park, trails and of course, contact with the guardians of the National Park – the Park Rangers. Ask them questions, get help planning your hike for the day or even let your little ones participate in the Junior Ranger Program. Sugarlands was a place that visitors of old went to learn about the mountains, some things have not changed.