There are five forests dominating the Great Smoky Mountains: a spruce-fir forest, a northern hardwood forest, a pine oak forest, a hemlock forest, and a cove hardwood forest. Together, they are home to over 140 trees species and more than some 4,000 other plant species. A great number of subalpine species, typical of Canada, can be found above 5,000 feet. Wildflowers are abundant here, including fire pink, bee balm, Dutchman's breeches, Solomon's seal, and even showy orchids. There are also several native species of rhododendron.
About six decades ago the most common trees in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were American Chestnuts, comprising 30 percent of the park's vegetation. Today, there are no adult chestnuts in the eastern United States due to chestnut blight disease.
Wildlife sights are common throughout the park's area. The best opportunities for viewing are offered at Cataloochee and Cades Cove. The park has a significant population of black bears, totaling at least 1,800.
The humidity of the park is generally high, with nearly 55 inches per year in the valleys and 85 inches per year on the peaks. It is more than in any parts of the United States, except for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Tourism is seen as a huge draw to the region, particularly to Cherokee in North Carolina and Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. Major attractions include Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, the Mountain Farm Museum, Mingus Mill, Fontana Dam, Deep Creek, and more. Here, you'll enjoy a great number of recreational activities, like hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking, horse riding, and enjoying spectacular views of waterfalls.
Today, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park faces many problems and challenges which require management and monitoring. Man's civilization has resulted in the low quality of water, with nitrogen reaching dangerous levels in some places. The most serious threat to the Smokies' ecosystem is the balsam woolly adelgid, which causes trees' death. Over several past decades, 95% of the Frasier firs were killed, and the other species are believed to suffer the same fate in the near future.
Regardless of the fact that rains are plentiful here, drained slopes of the park dry out often. Since 1996, the park has been controlling burning to prevent accidental fires and insure regeneration of such species as pitch, chestnut oaks and white pines.