3 Reasons Not To Go to the Smoky Mountains, From a Local

the great smoky mountains national park sign with a scared emoji

There are more reasons to go to the Smoky Mountains than not to go. But if you're looking for a few good excuses not to – you're in luck (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

Look, I’ve lived on this Earth long enough to know that nothing has a 100 percent approval rating. There are people – if you can believe it – who don’t like pizza or Star Wars movies. But as someone who left the Smokies for a brief period in the early 2000s and was desperate to return, I can say the mountains are one of my favorite places on Earth. Still, I know somewhere out there are people who don’t like the Smokies and have no interest in the National Park. 

There are many reasons to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park but for some people, there are also many reasons not to. For instance, there are a ton of salamanders and conspiracy theories. It can also be a bit expensive.

Eastern Hellbender Salamander
The Eastern Hellbender can easily be over 2 feet long (photo by Hamilton/stock.adobe.com)

1. Salamanders

Personally, I ain’t afraid of no amphibians. However, it’s worth noting that if you have a fear of salamanders, the Smokies might not be the place for you.

We just stumped Google, y’all. I asked if there is a scientific name for fear of Salamanders and the predictive search just gave up. We may be the first people to ever ask Google that question. We did find, however, ranidaphobia – fear of frogs – which my wife has. And we also found batrachophobia which is fear of amphibians covering newts and salamanders. 

Why is this important? Because the Smokies is the Salamander capital of the world. According to the park service, the majority of living beings with backbones – including people – in the park each day are salamanders who enjoy streams, rock ledges and the leaf-littered forest. 

But should I be afraid of salamanders? I’m not here to judge your fears which we often can’t control. But the Smoky Mountain salamanders aren’t dangerous. There are 30 known species in the park, including 24 different kinds of lung-less salamanders. 

I will say the bright red ones freak me out a little. They just don’t look natural. And I’ve never encountered a Hellbender salamander in the wild. The Hellbender is a big boy, growing up to 29 inches long. I consider myself a stoic individual, but you let a two-and-a-half salamander surprise me while fording a mountain stream and I just might scream in an exceptionally high pitch. 

a wildman in the woods by a fire
The legend says that Wildmen are more humanoid Bigfoot-like creatures who even have families in the forests (photo by SF Grayson/TheSmokies.com)

2. Conspiracy theories

If you are prone to believing stories shared in shadier parts of the internet, the Smoky Mountains might not be for you. Wild People. Ever heard of ‘em? I lived down here more than two decades before I ever did. The stories go like this. There’s a tribe or tribe of Wild People living in the forests of the National Park. Deep, deep in the forests away from people? Not as much as you’d think. The stories say these cannibals like to abduct children and livestock and do unspeakable things. Certain people also say the government has run clandestine hunting operations or paid locals to hunt them on the down low. 

Why aren’t these bizarre and dangerous tribes common knowledge? The theorists say it’s because the powers that be – and the locals – don’t want to scare off the tourists and their spending money. There are also other theories about ghosts and haints and haunts and mountain legends. If you’re prone to believing every ghost story you hear, maybe it’s best to vacation somewhere less mysterious, like Rhode Island. 

People walking around the Village in Gatlinburg
Turns out, visiting the GSMNP and surrounding area can be pricey due to its popularity (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. It’s expensive

The good people of Tennessee essentially turned the Great Smoky Mountain National Park into a loss leader. When the National Park was being created, Tennesseans demanded that it be free to visit as part of the agreement. Tennesseans also turned the surrounding mountain communities into tourist spots designed to drain money from visitors’ pockets one pancake or go-kart ride at a time. 

According to TravelLemming.com, the GSMNP is the 50th most affordable national park to visit in the country. Only 13 are more expensive. The site divided total visitor spending per park by the total number of recreational visits and came up with $157.92 per recreational visit. That also includes money spent on attractions, hotels, food and more. That’s not Disney trip money but it’s not chump change either. 

The Smokies are among the best travel destinations in the world. I mean, 13 million people who visited the park in 2023 can’t be wrong. But if you’re looking for reasons not to visit, a fear of amphibians or wild people is a good place to start. If that doesn’t work, maybe check the old pocketbook and see if there’s someplace closer to home that might be a cheaper option. 

Are you planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains? Be sure to check out our coupons page!

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