The Unbearable Appeal of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Established in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts as many as 10 million visitors a year. The name is no mystery to those who have been — most days the skies over the mountains are covered by a smoky blue haze. Also, there are black bears. Even before the park, the mountains were a popular destination for travelers because of the mountain climate and natural springs. according to the National Park Service, biologists estimate about 1,500 bears live in the park. That's almost two bears per square mile of the park, making sightings common. The park service is tasked with keeping bears (and humans) safe, so warnings about the animals are even more common.