On a recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park I did what I always do at any National Park location.
I hunted down stamps for my National Park Passport.
Since we planned to spend a full week in the park (that later turned into three days thanks to some extraordinarily wet weather and a leaky tent) I knew we would have all the time in the world to hunt down stamps across the vast park. Since it was the middle of the week so I didn’t anticipate any traffic congestion (for which the park is famous) keeping us from our destinations.
Here is where we scored our Great Smoky Mountains passport stamps for our National Parks passport cancelation stamps collection.
Townsend Visitor Center
We came into the park from Knoxville down highway 321. Our first stop was the Townsend Visitor Center — which featured an art show from a local painter, a book store, bathrooms and a very small display about the area. The stamp was hanging out on the counter. I found a stamp there for the “Townsend, TN” but no special stamps.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
It was a nice little side drive to this small ranger station and bookstore. I was disappointed because I was hoping for some sort of educational display, but all they had here was a bookstore and some bathrooms. Still — scored a stamp.
Cades Cove Welcome Center
The National Park Traveler’s Club (NPTC) noted that the stamp at Cades Cove campground was in the “welcome kiosk” or “permit station.” When I think of “kiosk” I think very, very small. This was more like a small ranger station. It also happened to be the check-in area for the campground, which we were staying in that night. I found a stamp there for “Cades Cove, TN”
Cades Cove Visitor Center
The Cades Cove Visitor Center is located on the Cades Cove loop road. This loop is The Thing To Do at Cades Cove, but it can take a solid chunk of time to get through, especially if you are there during a high traffic time where cars just craaaaaawl over there loop.
It was pouring rain when we were there and we hit the loop at about 9 a.m. We were able to drive without interruption the majority of the loop road and hit the Visitors Center pretty quickly. The stamps there were for “Cades Cove, TN” (same stamp as at the welcome center) and a special 75th anniversary stamp for which I had to ask. (And photo fail).
Sugarlands Visitor Center
This center was rocking with visitors since it is among the closest in the park to Gatlinburg. They had a great information center packed with knowledge about the park. And I failed to get a photo of the “Sugarlands” stamp
The park stamp folks reported that the Dollywood stamp was at this visitor center in the book store, stored in a red bag. But when I asked after it the Rangers had no idea where it was. Long after I had given up, they were still shuffling through the back storage area looking for it. They even called a few other Rangers who were off working on other locations that day. Nada. But that’s OK since I hadn’t actually been to Dollywood. Always fun to find a secret stamp, though.
Clingmans Dome Visitor Station
Since the road to Clingmans Dome also crosses the Appalachian Trail, that stamp is available up there, too. We did the long drive up and saw what we could, but I admit that I got the stamp without actually going up to the dome. It was freezing, completely socked in with fog and the visibility was such that from the path to the center I couldn’t even see it. I had to ask another visitor if it was up there, even though it was no more than 100 yards up the path.
I didn’t get a photo up there, either.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
This was a gorgeous visitor center with some awesome elk roaming nearby, not far from the Smokmount campground where we stayed the night. We enjoyed reading all the information inside and – score! – got several stamps — “Trail or Tears North Carolina,” “Oconaluftee, NC” and “Blue Ridge Parkway, NC-VA.”
Deep Creek Campground
We had planned to stay another night here, but were so sick of camping in the pouring rain in our leaking tent that instead we stopped and went on a short waterfall hike.
The guide said that the stamp was either in the check in area (which was totally closed) or “in the patrol vehicle.” Why thought was “seriously? How are you supposed to track THAT down?” when lo and behold it pulled. And, yes, he had the stamp. Score! This stamp sad “Deep Creek, NC.”
We didn’t make it the Gatlinburg Welcome Center (because, really, why go into Gatlinburg if you don’t HAVE to?), out to Cataloochee or up to Sevierville, Tenn.,where there is also a stamp. I guess that means we have to go back. Hopefully this time it’s not pouring rain the entire time.