Park Number: 3/61
First Visited: August 10, 2009
I first visited the Smokies as a matter of pragmatics: it's a drive-through park linking the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, a winding corridor through Appalachia. Because of this gateway, and because of its central location amongst some of America's densest populations, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the system (with over ten-million people a year, which is double the next most-visited park).
My second visit was one of intent, offering me multiple days of exploration and ample hours studying the replete ecosystem (I've been told the Smokies have more species of trees than all of Western Europe). This is all to say, though this park pales in comparison to the iconic monuments and peaks of the West, its biodiversity is second to none.