Best Tennessee Towns and Cities to Visit in the Great Smoky Mountains

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Lovingly called as the “Smokies” due to the fog present in its peaks that often look like smoke especially from a distance, the Great Smoky Mountain Range is one of the most well-known mountain ranges in the United States. Covering the Southern states of Tennessee and North Carolina, it is a part of the larger mountain range called the Blue Ridge Mountains that stretches from Pennsylvania and Maryland down to Georgia and even Alabama. This mountain range is also home to the tallest mountain in Tennessee, Clingmans Dome, which stands at around 6,643 feet or 2,025 meters. In addition to this, the Great Smokies also host the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited national park in the United States with about 11 million visitors a year since it was built in 1934.

Many Americans and even foreigners from all over the world travel to the Great Smoky Mountains to see what the mountain range has to offer. However, many tourists praise it for its natural and breathtaking beauty along with endless activities to do. In the mountain range, visitors can walk the Appalachian trail, climb the Clingmans Dome, ride a boat then paddle around Fontana Lake, or just climb on one of the range’s peaks and see the colorful trees that cover most of the mountain range especially during the fall.

But if you want to start your visit to the Great Smoky Mountains from the Volunteer State, you can travel to the best towns and cities in Tennessee that are near the mountain range and see the best of this southern state.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is one of the cities in Tennessee that heavily relies on the tourism drawn by the Great Smoky Mountains and it is located 7.6 miles or 19 minutes away from the mountain range and the national park that protects most of it. Along with Pigeon Forge, it is the most popular and the busiest gateway city to the Great Smoky Mountain Range and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Gatlinburg has many shops, restaurants, and lodgings where tourists could eat, buy souvenirs, and get some rest from doing various activities in the mountain range. Home to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Gatlinburg is proud to have the most accessible entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Visitors could ride the Gatlinburg Trolley and get to the largest visitor center in the national park from Ripley’s Aquarium. In addition, tourists could also see the Lauren Falls trailhead and the Elkmont campground park inside the national park with the help of the trolley.

While Gatlinburg was affected by the 2016 fires in the area, the downtown of this city was not impacted, and many tourists love to visit this city because of the numerous amenities it could offer as well as for its unique charm. Gatlinburg also has a lot to offer when it comes to entertainment and dining and visitors could rent a cabin in the city that allows them to experience the beautiful mountain setting of this wonderful city.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Widely popular as the home of Dollywood, Pigeon Forge is the second of the most popular northern gateway towns to the Smokies along with Gatlinburg. From resorts to amusement parks, Pigeon Forge also has a lot of places where tourists could eat, stroll, and enjoy their stay. Pigeon Forge used to be a quiet town on the northern side of the mountain until its potential was realized due to the tourists that are increasingly coming to the area.

Just like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge offers numerous souvenir shops, malls, and boutiques. However, Pigeon Forge has a more historical feel compared to the other towns in the Great Smoky Mountain Range. This is because it is home to the Old Mill, which has been registered nationally as a historical place and has been standing in the town since the 1800s. Pigeon Forge also hosts an annual event known as the Winterfest Kickoff Festival, filled with live entertainment, shopping, and holiday lights.

Tourists could also rent a cabin in Pigeon Forge where they could stay and experience the best of this Great Smoky town. More will be discussed about cabins in Pigeon Forge in the later sections of this article.

Sevierville, Tennessee

While this town is often overlooked for more popular Great Smoky towns, Sevierville is a place where the foothills meet the Tennessee Valley and it is a town that also has a lot to show. This is also a good destination for those who still want to be near the Smokies and avoid the hustle and bustle of the more prominent towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge could be the home of the amusement park that bears Dolly Parton’s name. But Sevierville is actually considered as the hometown of one of the most famous country singers in the United States as well as the entire world. In fact, a life-sized bronze statue of Dolly Parton was erected in the lawn of the Sevierville County Courthouse.

Furthermore, museums and zoos such as the Tennessee Museum of Aviation and the Rainforest Adventure Zoo could be found in Sevierville. This city also features two malls with over 120 shops as well as other attractions like the Adventure Park Ziplines and the Riding Stables. Nevertheless, Sevierville is a great city for those who still want to experience the great outdoors near a majestic mountain range.

Townsend, Tennessee

Compared to the other three towns on this list, Townsend is smaller in terms of size and also quieter. However, this makes Townsend a great destination if you are looking for a place where you could enjoy the best of nature in a tranquil setting without the noise from shops and fellow tourists alike.

While Townsend is a small town in the Smokies made up of about 500 residents and does not have as much shops or entertainment as Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and even Sevierville, it often acts as a home base for outfitters and hikers because of its proximity to the mountain range. Because of this, Townsend has become popular for both adventure seekers who want to dig deep into the mountain range and outdoor lovers who simply want to experience the calm silence and pristine views that the Great Smoky Mountains has to offer.

Where to stay on Pigeon Forge for Vacation

For those who have decided to stay in Pigeon Forge as part of their trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, the town has among the best cabins in the area with numerous amenities such as outdoor grills, access to great mountain views, and even jacuzzis. There are about 400 cabins in the town that you and your family could choose from, with bedrooms ranging from a single bedroom for a single traveller to 13 bedrooms for large groups and families.

Furthermore, numerous types of cabins exist in Pigeon Forge, from the Value Cabins for those on a budget to Luxury Cabins that have the best amenities and could accommodate up to 40 guests. There are also pet-friendly cabins in town for families and single travelers who want to experience the beauty of the Smokies along with their furry friends.

The Great Smoky Mountains offer a lot of great scenery, numerous activities and fun experiences for those who have the time and willingness to pay a visit. Moreover, the towns that are located near the mountain range in Tennessee have a lot of amenities that tourists could enjoy, from souvenir shops where visitors could buy items as remembrance for their trips, to amusement parks like Dollywood where families could enjoy. The Great Smoky Mountains is a perfect tourist destination for everyone, whether you are an adventure seeker looking for new thrills, or someone who simply wants to experience the calmness and beauty of Mother Nature.