It is not like the Great Smoky Mountains fall under any easterner's travel radar. Over nine million people visit the Park every year. So how do the Smokies qualify as an unexpected treat? Because nine million people visit every year.
We had braced ourselves for the worst. Unbearable traffic jams, (pardon the pun) thick air pollution and familiar east coast scenery. Here were our preconceived notions: there is no way the Park and its roads could handle all of our fellow autumn travelers; the barrage of megalopolis smog will have ruined the pristine views; and the Great Smokies couldn't possibly be as beautiful as the western wonders of Yosemite NP, Zion NP and Mount Rainier NP.
We were wrong on all three accounts.
The Park feels like a place where, if you wander of the beaten path, you will be rewarded with tremendous scenery and some peace and quiet. Waterfalls, stone bridges and small animals appear when you least expect them. We found it impossible to drive farther than a few miles at a time without stopping to admire the scenery around us.