Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee are two of our very favorite places to visit when we are planning holidays or summer vacations. There is something for everyone in the area, no matter your age. Not only are there plenty of attractions, there is cuisine that will meet every picky eater in your family! Days can be spent visiting area attractions and shows but we also love the laid back, relaxing days that we spend in the National Park. We have several must-visit spots when we are in the area and often pick up a boxed lunch or even pack our own picnic lunches and spend the day soaking in the beautiful, peaceful mountains.
Here are our top 5 Favorite Spots-
- Cades Cove- Cades Cove is an 11 mile, one way loop road that has an abundant of wildlife and serene mountains surrounding it. The drive through Cades Cove can take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the traffic and your personal preference on seeing the homesteads, grist mills, visitor’s center, churches, and cemeteries. There are many pull off areas and trails for those that would like to hike further into the woods. Deer and bear can often be seen throughout the area. The cove is filled with long-standing history from the early 18th Be sure to pick up an auto-guide to learn about each site. Books about Cades Cove history can be found at the Visitor’s Center, which is mid-way through the loop.
- Roaring Fork Motor Trails- While Roaring Fork Motor Trails is only 5.5 miles long, it offers a slow paced, narrow, winding, one way road around beautiful streams, waterfalls, forests, and historic buildings. There are few pull off areas that offer spectacular views of the mountains over Gatlinburg. Roaring Fork Motor Trails also offers an auto-guide at the beginning of the trail at a minimal cost. Before actually getting into the one way road part, stop by the Historic Bud Ogle log cabin. Beyond the homestead is a 5.4 round trip hike to one of the most popular water falls in the area, Rainbow Falls.
- Greenbrier- One of the less touristy spots is Greenbrier which is actually located about 6 miles east of Gatlinburg on Hwy 321. Wildflowers are abundant in the area that can be viewed from the car or on several trails. The picnic and shelter area offers a place to stop for a bite to eat while enjoying the beautiful Pigeon River surrounded by the forest. The cascading water over the boulders offers visitors a place to wade in the cool mountain river. Greenbrier is a great spot for photography and trout fishing.
- Metcalf Bottoms- Metcalf Bottoms is a great spot for families that are interested in grilling, picnicking, and tubing. Grab a tube from a local store or rent one from a tubing company and head to Metcalf Bottoms. There are several areas within a short span to get in the River, float down for as long as you like, then climb back out on the river bank. There are bathrooms, pull in spots set up with grills and picnic tables, and plenty of area to even take your fishing rod for fly fishing or trout fishing.
- Chimney Tops- One of the most popular areas in the Smokies, Chimney Picnic Area is filled with huge boulders with beautiful cascading water flowing. There are over 60 individual pull in areas set up with grills and picnic tables. During the summer months, tourist and locals can be seen climbing over the boulders and playing in the water so be sure to bring your swimsuit.
Whenever you are in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area, be sure to take time out from the hustle and bustle to visit one of these scenic mountain drives and/or picnic areas. Be sure to take your camera for beautiful photos of wildlife, historic log cabins and churches, and mountain and valley landscapes. Immerse yourself with the sounds of the flowing Pigeon River as you are engulfed in nature. It always fills my soul and renews my spirit when I take a trip to one of these spots in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Where is your favorite spot? What do you love about the Great Smoky Mountains?