15 August Ranger-Led Activities in the Smokies

When we’re in the Smoky Mountains, we love to just chose a hike and start out on it. But if you’re in the mood for something a bit more organized, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are always ready to help.

There are often scheduled activities happening around the park — and most of them are free! Here are 15 fun events that are being offered in August (for a complete listing, visit the GRSM Special Events page):

Anikituwahgi: The Cherokees of the Appalachians

  • When: Wednesday, Aug. 1
  • Where: Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Learn about the inhabitants of the Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, as we discuss aspects of their past and present. After the program, you can try your skill with an authentic Cherokee blowgun!

Bears, Birds, and Black-bellies — Old Naturalist Tales

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug. 9
  • Where: Elkmont Campground Amphitheater
  • Time: 9-10 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Join a long-time ranger/naturalist to hear some true stories of his many critter encounters. Bring your voice and come a bit early for a good ole Smokies’ sing-along.

Cades Cove ‘Early Bird’ Hayride

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2; Monday, Aug. 6; Thursday, Aug. 9
  • Where: Meets at Cades Cove Riding Stables
  • Time: 7:30-9:30 a.m.
  • Cost: $14 per person
  • Description: Join a ranger for an early morning open-air hayride viewing wildlife and discovering the diversity of life in the Cove.

Cades Cove Night Hike

  • When: Friday, Aug. 3; Monday, Aug. 6; Friday, Aug. 10
  • Where: Orientation Shelter at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Time: 9-11:30 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Listen to the spirits of Cades Cove while enjoying a night-time walk in the cove. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Distance: 2.5 mile walk rated easy in difficulty.

Hike the AT!

  • When: Tuesday, Aug. 7
  • Where: Newfound Gap — Rockefeller Memorial
  • Time: 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Experience a taste of Canada in the Smokies as we discover the buds, blossoms, birds, black-bellies, and bear food along a piece of the AT in the spruce-fir forest. We’ll also talk a bit about the history of one of the most walked trails in the U.S. Hike of 1.7 miles rated “moderate” in difficulty.

Junior Ranger: Aw Shucks!

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug. 9
  • Where: Cades Cove Visitor Center/Cable Mill area halfway around Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Time: 1-2 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Cultivate countless kernels of knowledge about the staple crop of mountain families-corn. Make a corn shuck doll to take home.

Junior Ranger: Batteries Not Included

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug. 9
  • Where: Mountain Farm Museum, adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center
  • Time: 1-2 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: What kinds of toys did kids play with in the “old days?” Join a ranger to discover (or remember!) how kids were entertained before video games and iPods. You’ll be able to take home a “buzz button” of your very own. All ages welcome.

Junior Ranger: Be a Blacksmith

  • When: Sunday, Aug. 5
  • Where: Blacksmith Shop at the Mountain Farm Museum, adjacent to Oconoaluftee Visitor Center
  • Time: Various times during morning
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Learn about the blacksmith. Create your own item to take home. Limited to ages 10-12. Other Junior Ranger programs will be going on simultaneously for younger kids.

Junior Ranger Scavenger Hunt

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug 9
  • Where: Oconaluftee Visitor Center Porch
  • Time: 10-11 a.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: If you would like to hone your observation skills in order to search for the unseen, gather on the porch at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Junior Ranger: Silly Salamanders

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug. 9
  • Where: Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Join a ranger to explore the damp, dark world of the park’s most popular amphibian. Be prepared to get a little wet and even a little dirty as we search for this slimy creature. Closed-toe shoes recommended.

Junior Ranger: Stream Splashers

  • When: Thursday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug. 9
  • Where: Oconaluftee River, adjacent to the Mountain Farm Museum
  • Time: 2-3:30 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Roll up your pants and wade through a mountain stream to look for mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, and other aquatic critters. Be prepared to get wet. Closed-toe shoes recommended.

Junior Ranger: Whose Poop’s on my Boots?

  • When: Tuesday, Aug. 7
  • Where: Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Time: 1-2 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: The park is home to over 60 mammals, including black bear, elk, deer, over 240 species of birds, and 39 species of reptiles. Touch furs and learn about these animals that call this special place home.

Toymaking Demonstration

  • When: Wednesday, Aug. 1; Wednesday, Aug. 8; Wednesday, Aug. 15; Wednesday, Aug. 22; Wednesday, Aug. 29
  • Where: Cades Cove Visitor Center/Cable Mill area halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Designing and creating simple toys from wood added some fun to the life of children from the Cove. Accessible to persons using wheelchairs. This demonstration is on-going. Join at any time.

We’ll Leave the Latch String Out for You…

  • When: Wednesday, Aug. 1 and Wednesday, Aug. 8
  • Where: Elijah Oliver parking area, stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Time: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: Learn about Elijah Oliver, his family, and their homestead. Hear stories about life in the Cove. Easy, ½ mile walk on an unpaved trail

WILD by Design

  • When: Wednesday, Aug. 1; Friday, Aug. 3; Saturday, Aug. 4, Sunday, Aug. 5, Wednesday, Aug. 8; Friday, Aug. 10; Saturday, Aug. 11
  • Where: Cades Cove Visitor Center, halfway around the Cades Cove Loop
  • Time: 2:30-3 p.m.
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Description: A talk and hands-on demonstration about the wild things in the park.
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