Places To Visit During Your First Smoky Mountain Vacation


Looking for the best places to visit during your first Smoky Mountain vacation? We have compiled a list of some of our favorite spots to include on your list. Lush green ridges cloaked in misty blue haze give Great Smoky Mountains National Park an otherworldly appeal. Yet navigating over 500,000 acres of remote terrain seems daunting for first-time visitors.

These promise gorgeous scenery and quintessential Smoky Mountain vibes accessible to everyone.

  1. Cades Cove – Quintessential Mountain Valley 

This broad valley surrounded by towering peaks offers visitors a glimpse into 19th-century pioneer life. Drive the 11-mile loop road to discover log cabins, churches, barns, and mills preserved from the 1800s. Pull off to walk trails winding past old homesteads and imagine simpler times.

Cades Cove’s open meadows also provide prime wildlife viewing. You may spot white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and even black bears emerging from the woods! Arrive early morning or late afternoon for your best chance to see wildlife.

  1. Clingmans Dome – Highest Peak in the Smokies

Make the winding 7-mile drive up to the top of the 6,643-foot Clingman’s Dome for views from the highest point in Tennessee. An observation tower on top surveys an endlessly undulating landscape fading into the distance.

Cool, energizing breezes refresh hikers and sightseers. Take the paved path to the tower, then explore downhill on woodland trails through the unique spruce-fir forest. For unforgettable vistas, catch a Smoky Mountain sunrise or sunset from Clingmans Dome.

  1. Newfound Gap Road – Most Scenic Drive Connecting 

Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina, this 31-mile road offers Smoky Mountain scenery at every bend. The halfway point at Newfound Gap commemorates the Great Smokies’ history with a Rockefeller memorial and awe-inspiring views.

See wave after wave of blue-misted peaks rising in silent grandeur as you drive through verdant valleys lined with historic buildings, water wheels, and mountain streams cascading beneath stone bridges. Stop often for sightseeing or short walks along the way.

  1. Appalachian Trail – America’s Epic Hiking Trail

Stretching over 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine, the iconic Appalachian Trail traces renowned peaks along the East Coast. In the Smokies, it climbs high ridges under rocky outcrops, then drops into quiet valleys as it guides ambitious backpackers through remote wilderness.

Casual day-hikers can sample the AT by walking a scenic stretch near Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap Road. Take in vistas the old-fashioned way—under your foot power!

  1. Gatlinburg – Lively Mountain Resort Town 

Gatlinburg anchors the Great Smoky Mountains Tennessee entrance with an odd mix of natural wonders, touristy schlock, and family fun. Travelers make obligatory stops at quirky oddity exhibits like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and thrill rides like mountain coasters.

The artsy 8-mile Great Smoky Arts and Crafts loop displays studios and galleries selling crafts, woodwork, paintings, and more. Food options range from pancake houses to BBQ joints to high-end steakhouses. Prepare for crowds, kitsch, and constant activity!

  1. Pigeon Forge – Family Fun Central

If Gatlinburg seems too overwhelming, try laidback Pigeon Forge just down the road. Its family-friendly attractions like the Dollywood amusement park, live music venues, and Smoky Mountain Opry stage shows entertain kids of all ages.

Shoppers explore outlet malls lined with enough souvenir shops to deplete anyone’s wallet. The 23-acre entertainment district, The Island, even includes a choreographed dancing fountain show!

  1. Sevierville – Small Town Charm

Quieter still lies Sevierville, the county seat just off the Parkway connecting Pigeon Forge and Knoxville. Its walkable 19th-century downtown centers around a quaint courthouse with cafes and antique shops radiating outward.

Nearby, Sevierville Commons presents musical variety shows in an intimate theater-in-the-round setting. Side trips lead to Appalachian wineries, outdoor adventure companies, and Smoky Mountain knife works—one of the world’s largest knife stores.

  1. Townsend – The Peaceful Side of the Smokies 

Dubbed “the peaceful side of the Smokies,” tranquil Townsend entices nature lovers to its gorgeous valley terrain minus chaotic commercialization. Tuckaleechee Caverns reveal stunning underground formations and rock walls glowing under bright lights.

Several quiet trailheads access the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including serene Abrams Creek. The Little River Railroad is a great destination for more local history. Townsend’s evenings under the stars peacefully cap off lovely days.

Find Your Perfect Smoky Mountain Getaway 

With countless activities across dozens of towns, the Smokies offer endless possibilities. Whether you crave outdoor adventure, musical entertainment, or family fun, these eight destinations deliver quintessential Smoky Mountain experiences for first-timers.

Create special memories exploring America’s most visited national park! Call us today to book a room: (865) 448-2211