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Are you headed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? You’ve come to the right place for Smoky Mountains Tennessee things to do ideas!
We love the mountains and we’re lucky to live so close to the most visited national park in the country. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Whether you’re the type to enjoy a scenic drive, are an outdoorsy person who loves a good hike, or you’d rather enjoy relaxing at a cozy cabin, there’s something for everyone.
On your way into town, you can always stop off at the Sugarlands Visitor Center (main entrance on the Tennessee side) or the Oconaluftee Visitor Center (main entrance on the NC side) to get information.
These are the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!
Smoky Mountains Tennessee Things To Do
1. Walk The Appalachian Trail
While setting out to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) is a commitment that not everyone can do, you can hike a section of it.
Seventy-one miles of the trail bisects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We have a hard time going to the Smokies without visiting Dollywood, a theme park in Pigeon Forge. It is, as the name suggests, owned by and highlights the legendary Dolly Parton. Everything in the park is Appalachian-themed.
You can learn about Dolly’s life and legacy, listen to live country music, or enjoy the thrills. As people who love roller coasters and thrill rides, we stand by the opinion that Dollywood is one of the best theme parks out there.
3. Elkmont Ghost Town
Nestled in the park, you can wander around the once-inhabited Elkmont. This was once a weekend getaway, but as the National Park Service took over the area, the buildings were left to deteriorate.
You can read an in-depth explanation of the history in our Elkmont Ghost Town post.
4. Check Out the Wildflowers
The Smokies have an abundance of wildflowers in spring and summer with more than 1,500 flowering plants in the region.
There are several types of wild geranium, lilies, azaleas, and much more. The best blooms are found from mid-April to mid-May.
You can even go for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage which showcases the abundant wildflowers, plants, mosses, and wildlife.
Highlights of the Pilgrimage include guided hikes, edible mushroom walks, workshops, nighttime bat walks, and more.
The 2024 Pilgrimage takes place May 1-4, 2024.
5. See The Synchronous Fireflies
The Smokies are one of less than a handful of places you can see synchronous fireflies. I’ve done this once and it is an unforgettable experience.
Check out my post on exactly how to see them.
6. Mount LeConte
Mt. Leconte is the third highest point in Tennessee and a popular hiking spot. There are actually six trails leading to Mt Leconte – Alum Cave Trail, The Boulevard Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, Trillium Gap Trail, Bullhead Trail, and Brushy Mountain Trail.
Alum Cave Trail is the shortest, but also the steepest. It’s also probably one of the more popular ones along with Rainbow Falls.
7. Gatlinburg SkyPark
Since 1954 Gatlinburg SkyPark has delivered some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg.
Unfortunately, the wildfire a few years ago destroyed it, but it was built back and even better.
The newest addition is the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America.
8. Stay In A Mountain Cabin
There are so many amazing cabins in the Smokies. You can find solitude and relaxation all within a short driving distance to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, hiking trails and so much more.
9. Clingmans Dome
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and also the highest point in Tennessee.
The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers jaw-dropping 360° views of the Smoky Mountains and beyond.
It does require a steep half-mile walk to get to the observation deck. The road leading to the tower is closed seasonally, typically early December through late March.
The lookout point is popular, so go early in the day to beat the crowds. But it’s definitely worth it!
10. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Even if you only have one day to explore the natural aspect of Gatlinburg you can have a blast.
Take a drive on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It’s a one-way loop road (about 5 miles) that winds through the Smoky Mountains and starts right off the main road in Gatlinburg.
Driving only, it takes about one hour to complete, but there are also many places to stop along the way to do some hiking to waterfalls and historic buildings.
11. Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap Road is one of the easiest ways to experience the park as it runs right through it.
At 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This is a great way to experience the fall colors.
Anakeesta is a mountaintop adventure park that offers a unique experience.
You can explore the treetop skywalk made of rope bridges or check out the view from the one-of-a-kind observation tower.
13. Cades Cove
Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11-mile stretch of paved road. You can just drive it if you wish, but we suggest stopping along the way to hike or check out the historic structures.
This is one of the best places to see black bears in the wild. It’s also a great place to see wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and other wildlife.
Make sure to go at sunrise (when the gates open) or a couple of hours before sunset for the best views and more chances of seeing wildlife.
14. Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Smokies. It’s one of the longest paved trails also.
15. Take A Paddle On Fontana Lake
Located on the park’s southern border, Fontana Lake is formed by a dam on the Little River.
It’s a long, skinny lake that’s a haven for kayakers, canoeists, and stand-up paddleboarders.
16. Be A Tourist
The highlight of the Smokies is the natural beauty of it, of course. But there’s nothing wrong with having a little touristy fun in town either.
There are a few towns surrounding the Smokies in Tennessee, including Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. And there are plenty of touristy things to do in them too.
From countless Ripley attractions to moonshine tastings to roller coasters at Dollywood, there’s plenty to do. Or continue heading East to Asheville, North Carolina.
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