Nestled in the heart of East Tennessee and the North Carolina border, explore the waterfalls, wildlife, and the small-town charm of the Great Smoky Mountains. This mountain range and the surrounding area make for a great weekend getaway with a variety of things to do. Here’s your guide to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Where are the Great Smoky Mountains?
The Great Smoky Mountains are located in both East Tennessee and along the border with North Carolina. It’s about an hour outside of both Asheville, North Carolina and Knoxville, Tennessee and are a subrange to the Appalachian Mountains.
However, you’ll likely base yourself in Gatlinburg, Tennessee when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains as it’s a touristic town full of rustic charm, breweries, and distilleries, cozy cabins, and plenty of things for visitors to do.
What to do in the Great Smoky Mountains
There’s plenty of things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains, no matter your travel style. From hiking trails, charming cabins with jacuzzis, and the bustling downtown Gatlinburg, it’s a great place for aassortment of experiences in Tennessee.
Hike up Clingman’s Dome, Tennessee’s highest point
As the highest point in the Smokies as well as in Tennessee and along the 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail, a trek up Clingman’s Dome is both rewarding and picturesque.
You can get to Clingman’s Dome either through a trail along the Appalachian or you can drive to the Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center and trek up the paved Clingman’s Dome Trail. The path is only ½ mile but is extremely steep as you’ll reach up to 6,643 feet.
Bonus: the drive up to the visitor center is picturesque full of tall trees lining the road. You’ll likely want to stop for a couple of photo pit stops along the way.
Check out small town shops
Head over to the corner of Glades and Buckhorn Road where you’ll find small country shops, art galleries, and more. Both roads individually offer attractions, so it’s worth a drive along both.
Some highlights include the G Webb Gallery, full of stunning paintings and photographs of the Smokies. Visit Judy Jones Pottery for unique handmade pottery pieces and head across the street to the Wild Plum Tea Room for lunch. Here you can enjoy an old timey lunch experience with rustic charm. The tearoom serves up delicious lunches, pastries, tea, coffee, and beer. You can even bring your own wine with a small corkage fee.
See bison at the Brown Farm
For a great family friendly activity, visit the Brown Farm to see bison. There’s parking along the road and it’s free to go up to the farm and take photographs of the bison.
Hike to Mount Cammerer
Beginning at the Low Gap Trailhead, hike 11.1 miles up to Mount Cammerer for a rewarding and a scenic hike in the Smoky Mountains. The mountain reaches 4,928 feet and has a cabin-like lookout at the top where you can enjoy 360 views of the mountains. It’s a perfect day hike in the Smokies!
Visit Grotto Falls
Hike a short 3 miles to the 25-foot waterfall known as Grotto Falls. In summer, enjoy a dip in the swimming hole after arriving at the waterfall.
You’ll follow along Trillium Gap Trail where you could also access Rainbow Falls, another picturesque waterfall.
Sip moonshine at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
Head over to the rustic distillery whipping up Tennessee’s fine moonshine. The distillery offer tours, tastings, and a range of moonshine flavors like salty caramel and mango habanero. Ole Smoky Moonshine is certainly a southern experience and an adventure for the taste buds.
Wander downtown Gatlinburg
Downtown Gatlinburg is something like an amusement park. It’s full of both adult and family-friendly activities like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
Check out the Gatlinburg SkyLift for picturesque views over the town as well asthe Great Smoky Mountains.
You’ll also enjoy a wander through The Village which is full of boutique shops from an Irish-Scottish Celtic Heritage shop, a quirky sock shop, and quality coffee at Coffee & Company.
Spend a day at Dollywood
An amusement park meets an old country town, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood is a great way to spend the day with family in the Smokies. Ride the train through the park, get your adrenaline fix on the Wild Eagle rollercoaster, and eat your way through its old school diner and country cafes.
If you’re lucky you might catch Dolly Parton there herself!
Where to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains
Most likely you’ll want to stay at a cabin duirng your stay in the Great Smoky Mountains. Here are some excellent cabin options.
Hearthside Cabin Rentals
Hearthside offers beautiful cabin rentals in Gatlinburg and Smoky Mountains and a picturesque experience among the mountains. Curl up by the fire, unwind in a jacuzzi, and enjoy the tranquility of being nestled in the mountains.
Timber Tops Cabin Rentals
Another great selection of cabins in the Smoky Mountains are Timber Tops. Choose small or large multiple story cabins with a variety of amenities like pools, jacuzzis, picturesque decks, and more.
Christa Adams is a writer, photographer, and sustainable traveler based in Barcelona. She’s been traveling solo since 2014 has a passion for the outdoors, coffee culture, and exploring quaint European towns. Follow her adventures at www.thespiritedexplorer.com