Invest in Salamanders, Elk, Cades Cove and Education in the Smokies

By Holly Scott, Marketing Director

Every year, Friends of the Smokies commits to supporting a list of Park needs. This year the list adds up to nearly $1.6 million. The projects and programs fall into several broad categories with federal governmenty-sounding names like Natural Resource Management & Science, Resource EducationFacilities Management, and Resource & Visitor Protection. We want you to know just how good it is to be a Friend of the Smokies. We want you to know some of the things that your giving makes possible. Orange Eft by Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Billy Jones

Support of Salamanders

Did you know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the salamander capital of the world with over 30 species including the largest and most elusive hellbender? Friends of the Smokies funded air & water quality research last year totaling $150,000 to ensure that they have a healthy habitat to live and grow in.

Jordan's Salamander by Appallachian Trail Ridgerunner Billy Jones

Jordan’s Salamander or red-cheeked salamander

Cataloochee’s Elk

Did you know that Friends of the Smokies partnered with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to reintroduce the majestic elk to Cataloochee Valley after a 150-year absence? Today the herd numbers over 200 animals, and tens of thousands of visitors every year flock to Cataloochee to see and hear them bugle during their annual courtship rituals. Cataloochee Bull Elk by Sam Hobbs

Smokies Brook Trout

Did you know that the brook trout is a native of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and that Friends of the Smokies has funded projects to reintroduce them to their native habitat, enabling you to tell even bigger and better fish stories (or lies) to your friends and grandkids for generations to come?

Underwater Brookie by

A native brook trout underwater, courtesy of

The Success of Parks as Classrooms

Neyland Stadium by Jack Williams

Neyland Stadium by Jack Williams

Did you know that Friends of the Smokies has contributed more than $2.3 million over the last 21 years to educate more than 18,000 schoolchildren in Tennessee and North Carolina every year? That totals more than 378,000 students. That would fill Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee almost 4 times!!!


Log Cabins of the Smokies

Did You Know? Did you know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the largest collection of historic log cabins and churches of any national park? The Park asks Friends of the Smokies every year to fund restoration work from Cades Cove to Cataloochee Valley, with projects costing anywhere from $12,000 to more than $30,000 each.

John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove by Sam Hobbs

John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove by Sam Hobbs

Volunteering in the Smokies is a Big Deal

Did You Know? Each year almost 3,000 individuals donate over 150,000 hours of volunteer service to Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Friends of the Smokies thanks each and every member of the Park’s Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) program for making our national park a welcoming place for families who visit.

Elk Bugle Corps Volunteer Members in Cataloochee Valley

Members of the all-volunteer Elk Bugle Corps educate visitors on ways to safely and responsibly view wildlife, including the elk, in Cataloochee Valley

Great Smoky Mountains National Park as Job Creator

Did You Know? Did you know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an economic engine for its surrounding communities? The latest study shows the Smokies annually bring in $741 million to the towns around our national park and create nearly 11,000 jobs. Fall Color Over Gatlinburg by Sam Hobbs Taking care of Great Smoky Mountains National Park makes our communities stronger. Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization has been helping to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and awareness and recruiting volunteers for needed projects. Over the last 21 years, support from Friends of the Smokies members, sponsors, donors, and Tennessee and North Carolina specialty license plate owners has totaled more than $44 million. To see this year’s list of Park Support Projects visit our website at

Group hiking opportunities: ‘Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends’ and Danny Bernstein’s ‘Classic Hikes of the Smokies’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

by Julie Dodd

If you are just getting into hiking or if you are looking for a more social hiking experience, group hiking could be just what you’re looking for.

Experienced hikers Danny Bernstein and Missy Kane each lead group hikes that provide great hiking opportunities and also benefit the Friends of the Smokies.

Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends

Missy Kane

Missy Kane

“Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends” hiking program is a partnership with Missy Kane, Covenant Health and the Friends of the Smokies.

Missy is an Olympic runner, a Pan American Games medalist, and a member of the Knoxville Sports hall of Fame. She is the Covenant Health fitness expert and leads a number of fitness programs, from hiking and biking to corporate wellness and senior fitness.

Missy’s hiking series takes place each Wednesday during the months of April and October. Each hike has about 50-60 participants.

Continue reading

Hiking 101 workshop at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (Farragut location), on March 27, helps get you ready for hiking

by Julie Dodd

Blue Ridge Mountain Sports logoJust in time to help you get ready for Spring hiking, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is hosting Hiking 101, on Thursday, March 27, at the Farragut location, 11537 Kingston Pike.

This free workshop starts at 6:30 p.m., and light refreshments will be served.

Continue reading

Ice on the Appalachian Trail vs. Spring flowers in Cades Cove = Smokies Surprises

by Holly Scott, Marketing Director

When last week’s blog post debuted on Wednesday at 6 a.m., it was 60+ degrees at my house, and I had the windows and screen doors open. Sam McGroom’s excellent advice about Winter Hiking seemed untimely, but winter was on its way.

The temperature dropped 40 degrees that same day, and I woke up Thursday morning with a sheen of snow covering my driveway. Things can change quickly in the foothills of the Smokies this time of year.

As a study in contrast, I wanted to share with you some high elevation views that the Smokies’ long-season Ridgerunner Billy Jones captured from the Appalachian Trail in the first week of February along with Genia Stadler’s latest Smoky Mountain wildflowers from the floor of Cades Cove and other lower evaluation places. These photos were taken within days of each other at different elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


On Billy’s first patrol of the season at the end of February, he captured this image of icicles one mile south of Dry Sluice Gap Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Daffodils in Cades Cove the first week of March

Continue reading

Tips for winter hiking in the Smokies

by Sam McGroom

Sam McGroom with GSMNP trail sign

Sam McGroom during a “magical” winter hike at the trail intersection of the Gregory Bald Trail and the Appalachian Trail at Doe Knob. All photos (including this one with a self-timer) by Sam McGroom

I used to be a big cold weather wimp until I moved to the edge of the Smoky Mountains and decided to try to hike all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Winter hiking became a wonderful experience that now I anxiously look forward to as I poke along in leaf peeper traffic each fall, trying to find places to hike that aren’t choked with tourists admiring the spectacular autumn show in the Park.

What’s so great about winter hiking?

For starters, no bugs!!  It’s nice to not coat the body with repellant and stick dryer sheets in the hat to keep the pesky buggers at bay.

On many trails, winter offers views that simply aren’t there when leaves are on the trees and the lower humidity and cool air often result in amazingly beautiful azure skies. The quiet that occurs with less traffic, fewer people and less forest activity is delightful.

Continue reading

Secretary Sally Jewell Hikes Chimney Tops Trail with Friends of the Smokies

By Holly Scott, Marketing Director

March 3, 2014

Secretary Sally Jewell and Interim Superintendent Pedro Ramos on Chimney Tops Trail

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Interim Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pedro Ramos at Chimney Tops Trail. Photo by Warren Bielenberg

United States Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the Smokies over the past few days. She says she’s been here a half-dozen or so times to hike and enjoy the culture of the area, like in 1977 when she spent the summer with her sister who lived in Waynesville, NC.

The purpose of her trip was to join Senator Lamar Alexander and Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials to announce the construction schedule for the Joint Curatorial Collections Facility in Townsend, TN, also known as the Collections Preservation Center. This $4.3 million facility is coming to fruition with nearly $2 million in support from Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and will be built on 1.6 acres of land donated by the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

The center has been a long time coming. In the words of Senator Lamar Alexander, “Someone had to make the decision, and she did it.” The approval process began a few years ago, and has taken the hard work of recently retired Smokies’ Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, Senator Alexander, and the cooperation from the boards of the Heritage Center, Friends, and GSMA.

Click here to read park press release of Collections Preservation Center construction timeline

Secretary Sally Jewell in Great Smoky Mountains

United States Senator Lamar Alexander with Secretary Jewell and Superintendent Ramos. Photo by Jack Williams

Continue reading

Travel Channel Presents Evergreen Ball- A Showcase of Hard Work + Generosity for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

By Lauren Gass, Special Projects Director


Nearly four weeks have passed since the 2014 Evergreen Ball, but I am still overcome with feelings of gratitude for everyone who worked to make the evening a success – and friends, it takes a village! A few of our volunteers started working with me as early as Wednesday in an effort to be ready for the big event on Saturday. And ours are not your run-of-the mill volunteers. These guys will do anything you ask! File paperwork, move taxidermy, even craft tee shirts into beautiful chair covers.

Jess Curtis volunteers with the setup crew

For the Evergreen Ball committee and about 20 additional volunteers, the day of the ball begins early.  All hands are on deck at Cherokee Country Club as we transform the Sequoyah and Dogwood rooms and the Pub into upscale boutique chic.  Everyone is negotiating for table top easels, black table skirts and looking for missing bid sheets.  Sometimes it feels like a race, but no one slows down.  By the middle of the afternoon, it looks like everything is coming together.  We take just a moment to peek in the ballroom and it absolutely takes our breath away.  Once again, the decorations committee has outdone itself and we are so proud!  Now, it is time to rush home, change into evening attire and return for the big event.

Continue reading