We’re celebrating National Parks Week from April 16-24. The National Park Service (NPS) celebrates an important milestone this year: 100 years of the National Park Service Organic Act. Today, the NPS manages 401 park units and attendance hit a peak last year. While we’ve got easy access to two of the most visited units – the Blue Ridge Parkway (#1) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (#4) – day hikes are only the beginning of adventures that can be had when you venture just beyond our community. Grab the car and the kids and head out for these weekend trips this spring or summer.

There are 850 miles of trails and unpaved roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for hiking, including seventy miles of the Appalachian Trail. The only lodging inside the park is LeConte Lodge on top of Mount Le Conte near Sevierville. However, it operates on a lottery system so if you visit in 2016, you’ll most likely use one of the ten pet-friendly family campgrounds.

Stop at Clingmans Dome Observation Tower for a perfect example of American modernist architecture and a stunning 360° view of up to 100 miles in each direction. Spend a night or two camping and exploring at Cades Cove or Smokemont and then take the family to Gatlinburg to satisfy every tourist curiosity you’ve ever had – from the Museum of Salt & Pepper Shakers and indoor skydiving to horseback riding and musical dinner theatre.

If you’re not quite in the traveling mood or want to try some local hikes before setting out on the trails in Virginia and Tennessee, try portions of these trails to join the NPS Centennial Celebration.

  • The Appalachian Trail at Max Patch
  • The Mountains-to-Sea Trail at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Memminger Trail at Carl Sandburg Home
  • Deep Creek Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee on the Trail of Tears

Half Tank Getaways highlights some of our favorite places just outside of Buncombe County and is powered by our pals at Prestige Subaru.