The Great Smoky Mountains, a canvas of tumbling rivers, historic homesteads, and mist-drenched peaks, provide an awe-inspiring backdrop for outdoor adventures. From Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of America’s best-loved national parks, to the southern hospitality of Gatlinburg, let this be your guide to all the best things to see and do in the “Land of Blue Smoke.”
Things to See in the Great Smoky Mountains
A turquoise gem in the wilderness, Douglas Lake’s sun-kissed surface shimmers against a panoramic mountain landscape. This reservoir is a haven for water sports enthusiasts to dip their oars into the mirrored waters for an afternoon of kayaking, fishing, or paddleboarding. As the sun sets, the rippling waters become a canvas for twilight’s orange and pink hues, creating an ambient setting, a must-see in The Smokies.
Nestled in the green heart of the Smokies, Laurel Falls is a majestic 80-foot waterfall that cascades down a lush, mossy cliffside. The trail to Laurel Falls includes a moderate hike, winding through an old-growth forest teeming with rhododendrons and giant hemlocks. Upon reaching the falls, the symphony of the water tumbling onto the rocks below and the crisp scent of mountain air is refreshing. Take a dip in the swimming holes there, one at the base of the two-tier falls and the other tucked away in seclusion.
Courthouse Rock, the only freestanding rock formation in the Smoky Mountains, stands as an imposing sentinel of sandstone against the lush woodland landscape. The dramatic outcrop, rich with geological intrigue, is a playground for hikers and rock climbers. Its distinct shape and commanding presence make for striking photographs, particularly during sunrise when the rock bathes in a gentle, golden glow.
Town of Gatlinburg
At the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg embodies the perfect blend of quaint mountain town and bustling tourist hub. Quaint boutiques and inviting eateries line the walkways, while unique attractions like SkyLift Park and Ripley’s Aquarium add a touch of adventure. Gatlinburg’s enchanting blend of southern hospitality and natural beauty is sure to captivate.
Top Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains
Ride the Pigeon River White Water Rapids
Embark on an adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting experience, where you’ll navigate the twisting rapids of the Pigeon River. Guided by seasoned professionals, you’ll feel your heart race as you cruise down the river, all while enveloped by the beauty of the river-carved gorge. It’s a thrilling, immersive way to connect with nature. Our Adventure Concierge is here to help you add this adventure to your stay.
Tour Historic Buildings
The Great Smoky Mountains harbor a treasure trove of over 90 historic structures. From pioneer log cabins to Appalachian grist mills, these structures echo whispers of the past, providing a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage. From Cade’s Cove, with its pioneer-era log cabins and churches, to the rustic charm of The Walker Sisters’ Place, a testament to a bygone way of life in the Smokies, history is deeply woven into the tapestry of this region in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Don’t miss the iconic Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, an operational 19th-century grist mill located in Pigeon Forge. Set out on a journey through time as you explore these well-preserved traces of the past.
Climb Clingmans Dome
The journey to Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest peak, is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. As you traverse the steep path, the enveloping haze and fragrant spruce-fir forest lend an ethereal quality to your adventure. Upon reaching the top, your efforts are rewarded with sweeping 360-degree views of the mist-enshrouded Smoky Mountains.
Hike Part of the Famous Appalachian Trail
There’s no better way to experience the Smokies than by foot, specifically on the world-renowned Appalachian Trail. Trek along a portion of this iconic pathway, encircled by lush flora and melodic bird songs, while soaking up breathtaking vistas that stretch beyond the horizon.
Where to Eat and Drink in the Great Smoky Mountains
Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains
We serve an ever-changing menu emphasizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy al fresco dining amidst the lush spruce forest, from hot breakfasts with premium coffee and hearty sandwiches to Grab N Go items for your outdoor adventures. Complement your meals with a choice of wines, beers, and canned cocktails. As the night draws near, gather around the campfire for a nightly s’mores-making under a starlit sky.
In Pigeon Forge, visit Junction35, a local distillery that pairs mouthwatering American fare with handcrafted spirits. This unique eatery offers an authentic taste of the Smokies, nestled within a lively, rustic setting. Whether savoring a cocktail or feasting on a gourmet burger, your palate is in for a treat.
Honey Bee Coffee
For a cozy retreat, stop by Honey Bee Coffee, a quaint café just outside of Pigeon Forge. Indulge in a warm cup of locally sourced coffee paired with delicious pastries. The rustic charm and homely ambiance make this coffee shop a delightful pit stop during your Smoky Mountain exploration.
Hungry Bear BBQ
Satiate your barbecue cravings at Hungry Bear BBQ, a renowned eatery serving mouthwatering sandwiches, dinners, and sides. Whether you eat in or take out, their slow-cooked, tender meats, slathered in house-made sauce, are an explosion of flavors, making this a must-visit food joint in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains
Discover an immersive blend of comfort and nature at Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains. Situated on 182 acres of lush, wooded terrain, our safari-inspired accommodations offer a unique outdoor experience for couples, families, and groups alike. Just ten miles from Gatlinburg, the resort has been named a top resort by both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. Come experience the magic of Tennessee’s ancient mountains and misty blue vistas.