How To Have the Perfect Smoky Mountains Vacation
Itching for a change of scenery while staying in relative seclusion? What better way than in a private cabin nestled in the woods? Whether you crave hiking or relaxation amidst beautiful scenery, or if you’re working from home indefinitely and wish to “work from home” someplace new, a retreat to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has it all. No matter the season, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, named for the frequent blue-gray haze floating over the mountain ridges, is a perfect destination for nature-inspired wine lovers.
Travel Tips and Practicalities
The Great Smoky National Park is acclaimed as being one of the most visited National Parks in the United States, and thus a park familiar to many. It was established in 1934, spans an area of more than 522,000 acres, and is situated almost evenly within the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. For a point of reference, whether you’re planning to drive or fly to the Smoky Mountains, the National Park is located ~3 hours from Atlanta, ~1 hour from Asheville, ~3 hours from Nashville, and ~50 minutes from Knoxville.
The park is known for being the home of diverse plant and animal life. There is presently no entrance fee to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since many go to the Smoky Mountains for hiking. Here are some generic tips. Plan ahead. Within the National Park, cell service can be spotty at best. Pre-download trail maps or bring paper trail maps with you that are available at the visitor centers. The All Trails app proved to be an excellent resource while hiking. The app allows you to search nearby hikes along with some less common ones. You can pre-download trail maps for GPS navigation to be used when you don’t have cell service.
Prevent blisters by wearing broken-in shoes or boots. Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks. Don’t drink the stream water unless properly treated first. The more popular the trail naturally tends to coincide with it being the most crowded. Go early to avoid crowds and find parking. Parking areas get congested quickly. For those who don’t mind a long walk to the start of the trail, you can usually find something with a little bit of patience.
Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains
Cabins in Sevierville
Retreating to a private cabin in the upscale Grandview Resort in Sevierville is an excellent place to base a Smoky Mountains getaway. The cabins are comparably priced to staying in a nice hotel. Sevierville is located just north of Pigeon Forge. Grandview Resort has cabins of various sizes available for rental. The cabins feature rustic charm while being soaked in luxury with all the modern amenities creating a cozy home-away-from-home. Light-colored wood walls with vaulted ceilings, full kitchens, bedrooms with king-size rustic log framed beds, electric fireplaces, porch swings, porch rocking chairs, spacious back porches with mountain views, and outdoor hot tubs are common traits. Available within the community is a pool and a zip line.
Winetraveler recently stayed at the Zip-a-Dee-Doo 2,100 sq. ft. 2-story cabin with 2 bedrooms/2.5 bathrooms with a pool table and a spacious outdoor porch with beautiful views and an 8-person hot tub.
While there, Winetraveler scoped out the neighborhood and took note of larger units, as well, offering enviable views. The Vrbo 1875189 is a 4,000 sq. ft. new cabin with 4 master suites, a theater room, wrap-around porches, a hot tub, a pool table, and much more. The 9-bedroom/10-bathroom Serenity Mountain Pool Lodge, which can be booked at Vrbo 7924457ha, is perfect for larger groups.
For those dreaming of working remotely while staying in a luxury cabin, Winetraveler experienced strong WiFi with an internet connection more than adequate to host video-teleconference calls.
Treehouses in Gatlinburg
Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek Resort offers eight luxury two-bedroom/one-bathroom treehouses in the heart of the Smoky Mountains nestled privately in the woods.
Resort in Gatlinburg
For those preferring a resort atmosphere, the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park located in Gatlinburg offers single rooms to five-bedroom villas with full kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies featuring spectacular mountain views. If you choose one of the spacious villas, you may feel like you’re in a cabin while still being at a resort. On-site, there are outdoor pools, a putt-putt course, the Flying Bear zip-line, a 60,000-square-foot waterpark under a retractable roof, a playground, restaurants, a fire pit, and a spa.
Winetraveler Tip: As observed during a recent visit, the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort appears to be in the process of undergoing renovations. If possible, try to request a newer unit or a recently renovated unit.
Wineries & Drinks
While in the Smoky Mountains, taste local, and bring wine bottles back to your cabin to enjoy by the fire or on the porch overlooking the mountains. Winetraveler previously covered the wineries included within the Rocky Top Wine Trail, which are located within the heart of the Smoky Mountains.
Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville, Tennessee
Hillside Winery in Sevierville, Tennessee
Mountain Valley Winery in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Mill Bridge Winery in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Sugarland Cellars in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Virtual Rocky Top Wine Trail: Even if you aren’t planning a visit to the Smoky Mountains, for a limited time, you can enjoy the Rocky Top Wine Trail from home. Click here and make your selection.
Stop in at Smith Creek Moonshine, a moonshine-tasting destination in Pigeon Forge, for a quintessential Tennessee experience. Smith Creek has twelve unique moonshine flavors: straight, sweet tea, peach, apple pie, chocolate silk, coffee, orange cream, lemon-lime, butter cake, salted caramel, cinnamon, and vodka. Collect several jars of their moonshine and have a fun taste-testing experience with friends and family back at home long after your trip.
Try local craft beer and cider at The Abbey in Townsend which has nice outdoor seating along a river.
Things To Do in the Smoky Mountains
While it may be difficult to slip away from the cozy cabin life, there are nearly endless possibilities to keep all traveling-style personalities of any age busy. Explore hiking trails, nearby towns, and museums. Go horseback riding, zip-lining, river tubing, fly fishing (with a license), rafting, paddle boarding, canoeing, or kayaking.
Hiking: With over 800 miles of hiking trails, over 70 miles of which are along the Appalachian Trail, there are trails for casual hikers, families hiking with young children, and experienced hiking enthusiasts.
The National Park Service website identifies these five hikes as being some of the most popular in the park: the 4-mile one-way hike to Charlies Bunion along the Appalachian Trail; the 2.5-mile one-way hike to Alum Cave Bluffs along the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail; the 1.8-mile one-way hike to Andrews Bald along the Forney Ridge Trail; the 2.7-mile one-way hike to Rainbow Falls; and the 4-mile roundtrip Chimney Tops Trail.
Clingman’s Dome offers expansive views. It is a 0.5-mile one-way hike up to a dome spiraling pathway to a circular 360-degree panoramic lookout that, at 6,643 ft. high, is the highest point in Tennessee, and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is wide, paved, and moderately steep. While many trails in the Smoky Mountains are covered by dense forestry, this trail is not covered (so remember your sunscreen). Spectacular views can be enjoyed the whole way up.
The lookout spot from Newfound Gap is known for being one of the best lookout spots along the Newfound Gap Road. For those who love to step one foot in two different states, there is a sign at this parking area designating the state lines between North Carolina and Tennessee.
Waterfalls: There are many waterfalls within the Smoky Mountains. Below are a few to consider (along with Rainbow Falls listed above):
Laurel Falls is an 80-ft. high waterfall accessible via a pleasant 2.6-mile roundtrip mostly paved trail through dense trees. Allot ~2 hours for this hike.
Abrams Falls is a large volume of water 20-ft. high waterfall that is obtainable with a 5-mile roundtrip hike that generally takes between 3-4 hours.
Grotto Falls is a 25-ft. high waterfall accessible via a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike that generally takes 2-3 hours.
Mingo Falls at 120 ft. tall is one of the highest in the Appalachians and can be viewed after a short 0.4-mile one-way hike. The trail starts with a long stretch of short and wide concrete steps through thick green forestry and then follows a rocky and rugged trail a short distance to the waterfall.
Spruce Flats Falls is a ~30 ft. tall waterfall accessible via a 1.4-mile roundtrip hike.
Museums: There’s a wide variety of museums. Here are some popular museums to consider: Tennessee Museum of Aviation, and Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville; and Titanic Pigeon Forge, Alcatraz East Crime Museum, and Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge. BUSH’s Beans Visitor Center in nearby Chestnut Hill is currently closed due to Covid-19 concerns, but check back at the time of your visit.
Other popular attractions for families are Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. For sport shooting enthusiasts, Gatlinburg Sportsman’s Club, Hog Heaven Gun Club, Chilhowee Sportman’s Club and Smoky Mountain Sports Club all provide great outdoor facilities for individuals who enjoy activities like skeet and trap shooting.
Pigeon Forge has seemingly endless places to keep tourists entertained with a Ferris wheel, mini-golf courses, arcades, a comedy barn, the Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show, lots of restaurants, shops, and museums.
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