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Holly Kays

Christine Hoyer has always loved the outdoors and backcountry exploration. After a first career in research psychology, she decided it was time for a change and quit to volunteer on the Appalachian Trial. more

Mountain Explorer

Firefly talk

Radim Schreiber photo

A Great Smoky Mountains National Park entomologist since 1997, Becky Nichols knows a lot about the park’s nearly 10,000 insect species, but perhaps the most celebrated of the six-legged creatures is the synchronous firefly. more

Mountain Explorer

Hiking with Nana

Holly Kays photo

It was a perfect summer day along a gorgeous riverside trail when our multi-generational entourage—two dogs, five people—set off for a high-elevation adventure in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. But my enthusiasm was mixed with nervousness. more

Mountain Explorer

The Smokies’ Fish Master

Gary Verholek photo

Since joining the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a fisheries technician in May 1994, Matt Kulp has yet to find a reason to leave. Kulp took a break from the field for a conversation about trout, water quality and habitat restoration. more

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Creative Commons

For centuries, gathering sochan—also known as the green-headed coneflower—has been a rite of springtime for the Cherokee people. more

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A review of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s handling of the devastating Chimney Tops 2 Fire in November 2016 found no evidence of negligence by park staff but revealed several shortcomings in the park’s disaster preparedness. more

Mountain Explorer

From boonies to boomtown and back again, the Hazel Creek community’s complicated history comes to life in a new book from the Great Smoky Mountains Association. more

Mountain Explorer

The Elkmont Historic District in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is getting a makeover, with work now underway to restore some buildings and demolish others. more

Mountain Explorer

Indigo bunting

Holly Kays photo

It was only 8 a.m. when I parked my car in a dewy meadow near Franklin, North Carolina, but the bird banding crew I was meeting had already been at work for hours. more

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Phenology training

NPS photo

Spring came to the Southeast three weeks early this year, and a burgeoning citizen science effort in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park aims to put a bead on whether seasonal patterns are shifting for good. more

Mountain Explorer

Lost in the Blue Ridge Triangle

Holly Kays

Like its mysterious cousin the Bermuda Triangle, the Blue Ridge Triangle — apparently — causes inexplicable disorientation for hikers attempting to traverse its domain in North Carolina’s Middle Prong Wilderness. more

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Picture-perfect Alum Cave Trail, marked by smooth tread and tightly constructed steps and bridges, is the result of two years of backbreaking work involving 50,000 hours of work from a continuously rotating crew of 50 people. more

Mountain Explorer

Tsali Recreation Area

Max Cooper photo

I pulled into my parking spot at Tsali Recreation Area with a fair number of nerves in tow. The lot churned with vehicles bearing out-of-state plates, their owners tuning up the bikes they’d brought with them or filling small backpacks. more

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It was 20 degrees, snowing, and I was alone with my dog in a trackless middle of nowhere. I couldn’t have been happier. more

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Winter Pinnacle

Cataloochee Ski Area

Few things bring out the child within like a blanket of white and some good old-fashioned fun in the snow. more

Mountain Explorer

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Kristina Plaas photo

A kaleidoscope of color defines fall in the Smokies. The hue of a tree’s leaves tell the story of the natural history of each species. more

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Whether explorers or stewards, park creators or residents—countless people have left their mark on the Smokies. Yet the Great Smoky Mountains Association has gone ahead and counted 100 such people who it has deemed the most influential. more

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Alone in the woods

Holly Kays photo

There’s always that moment of no return: the instant you are forced to admit that whatever foolhardy plan you’ve been batting around, there’s no longer any option to back out. more

, Mountain Explorer

Courtney Lix has penned plenty of words about the Smokies and the people who shaped their history. But over the course of time and words, she came to a realization. more

Good Reads

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NPS photo

It’s not too often that celebration of a century on Earth gets commemorated with a vow to hike 100 miles. For the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, however, that’s exactly what the plan is. more

Mountain Explorer