Stunning sunset photo in the Smoky Mountains.
April 17, 2020

If you’ve ever been to the Smoky Mountains, then you have seen why they named them the way they did! Almost every morning, and sometimes throughout the day, there is a layer of smoke surrounding the mountains. But do you know what causes the smokiness in the area? We want to share that with you! Keep reading to find out why the Smoky Mountains are smoky.

Where Does the Smoke Come From?

The Great Smoky Mountains in the fall

There’s a rumor that goes around quite a bit that locals use smoke machines to create the smoke on the mountains. That’s definitely not true! The smoke actually comes from plants! We all know plants release oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. Plants also release something called volatile organic compounds, which are also known as VOCs. While this sounds intimidating, it’s all natural and harmless. The pine tree smell that releases from evergreens are actually VOCs.

Not only do VOCs release scents, they also release vapors in high concentrations. Since there are millions of plants in the area, they all give off VOCs, which create the signature smokiness of the mountains.

What Makes It Blue?

Smoky Mountain View nears Wears Valley

VOCs not only create the smokiness, they also contribute to the bluish tint of the fog. When vapor is released from the area’s vegetation, the molecules that make up the gas scatter blue light from the sky. The Cherokee who lived in this area a long time ago called it Shaconage, which translates to “place of the blue smoke.” Euro-American settlers took inspiration from the Cherokee and named it the Smoky Mountains. The “Great” part of the name was added later, most likely contributing to the grandeur of the area.

What About Air Pollution?

Unfortunately, air pollution does contribute to the smokiness of the Smoky Mountains. Experts believe about 80 percent of the smoke is from VOCs, but the other 20 percent is from air pollution due to the amount of traffic and coal burning in the area.

Where Can You Find the Smoke?

View of the Smoky Mountains in the fall

You may be wondering where you are most likely to see the famous smoke of the Smoky Mountains. The answer is pretty simple: everywhere! Whether you’re driving on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge or driving on Foothills Parkway, you will be able to see the smokiness from just about anywhere! It is most present early in the mornings and during and after it rains in the area. Cades Cove is a great place to see the fog, as well as the drive along Newfound Gap.

Now you know the answer to why are the Smoky Mountains smoky! Are you ready to come back and experience the beauty of the area? You just need a place to stay! Look through our Gatlinburg cabins and book one today so you can enjoy the Smokies!