What makes the Smoky Mountains so smoky? No, it’s not a fire. The Great Smoky Mountains are constantly shrouded in fog and mist. But it’s not caused by weather–– it’s caused by the plants.
There are thousands upon thousands of trees in the Smokies. As each one of those trees takes in carbon dioxide, it gives off water vapor. With so many trees crowding the landscape, it’s no wonder the Smokies are constantly covered with a thick layer of fog.
How foggy is it? Here’s an idea of how much “smoke” covers the Smoky Mountains. From the top of Clingmans Dome, you should be able to see about 100 miles in any direction. But due to all the fog, the visibility is only about 20 miles. That’s why, for hundreds of years, this range has been known as the Smoky Mountains.
But wait a minute… where does the “Great” part come from? It was actually a publicity stunt from Charles Webb, a newspaper editor in the 1920s. To encourage tourism to the Smokies, he hired a journalist and a photographer to capture the mountains’ natural beauty. Webb thought “The Smoky Mountains” was too boring; he needed to capture the grandeur, the scope, the sweeping majesty. So all his advertisements and brochures were emblazoned instead with “Visit the Great Smoky Mountains!” And that’s the name that stuck when the mountains were turned into an official national park.
To learn more about the history and culture of the national park, check out the Great Smoky Mountains tour. This self-guided driving tour downloads directly to your device and automatically narrates stories about the Smokies as you drive. There’s so much more to discover!