The Appalachian National Park Association was formed in 1899 for the purpose of promoting the idea of a national park in the eastern U.S. Although housed in Asheville, North Carolina, the organization was a multi-state effort, attracting representatives from six southern states. One of the highlights of the group's activities was convention held in 1902 to which 1,500 people attended. The association lobbied Congress for the creation of a park, but with limited success. The association disbanded in 1905.

The Carolina Mountain Club began in 1923 as a spinoff of the Appalachian Mountain Club. In 1931 the club united with the newly founded Carolina Appalachian Trail Club, which worked on completing segments of the Appalachian Trail. At the time, the Carolina Mountain Club had about 25 active members. The primary goal of the club was getting the Appalachian Trail routed, marked, and maintained.

The Tennessee-based Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association was organized in 1923 to help make a national park a reality. The association enlisted Jim Thompson to make photographs to promote their effort. In 1925, the association was tasked—along with its North Carolina counterpart, Great Smoky Mountains, Inc.—with raising funds to purchase land within the proposed park boundaries.

The North Carolina-based Great Smoky Mountains, Inc. was a counterpart to Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association. These were not government commissions but, rather, regional groups of park boosters who talked up the park within their states. Both were tasked with raising funds to support the purchase of land for a park. By 1926 the joint effort yielded just over a million dollars in donations. State funding for the project was augmented by a five million dollar gift from the Rockefeller family foundation. More than 4,500 school children donated pennies to raise over $1,000 toward the effort.

The North Carolina Park Commission was created by a special session of the General Assembly in 1924. Its task was to facilitate the establishment of a national park. By the time of its formation, Congress had settled on the Great Smoky Mountains as the site for a park. By 1931, both North Carolina and Tennessee had acquired over 100,000 acres that were deeded to the federal government and placed under the management of the Secretary of the Interior.

The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club was formed after a group of outdoor enthusiasts hiked up to Mount LeConte in October 1924. Enjoying the spectacular views, the group returned to establish a formal hiking club to sponsor regularly-scheduled hikes into the Great Smoky Mountains.  Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, the first official club hike was led by Albert Gordon "Dutch" Roth (1890-1974) in December 1924.  In 1926, the Club began to print an annual handbook that outlined scheduled hikes for each month of the year, including winter. They charged an annual fee of $3.00 to become a member of the club.