College group vacations are a great time to enjoy yourself with friends and create positive memories for a lifetime. Especially if the memories are made while strolling along some hiking trails with breathtaking views and waterfalls, zip-lining amid the mighty mountains, rafting in the beautiful rivers, enjoying a barn show with friends and some good food, or a night of stargazing under the full moon.

One of the great group vacation destinations in the United States is The Great Smoky Mountains of the Appalachian range in the east of Tennessee.

Amid the peaks, you will find adventure, natural beauty, waterfalls, and thick forests, among other attractions that charm tourists all year round. The two main towns in this range are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. While the towns do not offer night parties, clubs, bars, and beaches, they certainly have a lot to offer people of all ages and groups.

Here are some suggestions to consider as you plan a visit to the exquisite Smoky Mountain National Park. These tips will help you get the most out of your time with your mates.

1. Choose Where to Stay

If you and your friends are a bunch of adventurers and you aim to stay close to The Smoky National Park, Gatlinburg should be your city of choice. Gatlinburg’s main attractions are the Ariel Tramway, The Space Needle Bridge, The Snow Dome, the beautiful hiking trails, scenic attractions, aquariums, and museums. Gatlinburg serves as one of the three entrances to the park.

Gatlinburg offers some of the best lodging options to stay and relax. If you are a group of college students who want to enjoy the nightlife without being disturbed and disturbing others, you may want to book one of the large cabins in Gatlinburg. These cabins offer comfort, privacy, and all the privileges of a home away from home. They could include swimming pools, jacuzzies, game rooms, and home theatre systems, to name a few perks to ask for when you book a cabin. 

On the other hand, Pigeon Forge is a few miles away from the National Park. Tourist attractions like music theaters, theme parks, factory shopping outlets, and dining options make it considerably different from Gatlinburg. 

The theme parks in Pigeon Forge have waterslides, amusement rides, and live musical shows. One of the main tourist attractions of the town is the Titanic Museum. The museum is constructed like the Titanic and features recovered artifacts from the ship. 

There are many budget-friendly lodging options in Pigeon Forge. You can book a cabin, rent a lodge or a hotel where you will find all the necessary facilities.

2. Plan Your Activities 

The two towns and the national park offer a range of activities to choose from. The number of fun-filled and adventurous activities, like the scenic drives, the historical sites, long hiking trails, waterslides, and live theatrical shows, in the Smokey mountains are numerous. Therefore, it is best to do thorough research and plan your itinerary ahead of time. It is challenging to cover everything in one visit. Therefore, it would be best to set your priorities before going.

You may need to make bookings for activities like theatre and dinner shows in the area and activities like snow tubing. You can also get great discounts on shows if you book tickets before visiting Pigeon Forge.

3. Watch Out for The Climate

The Great Smoky Mountains have cold winters and warm summers. Fall and spring are quite pleasant. There are a variety of activities to indulge in every season.

Since the summers are warm, you can cool off a little and enjoy a pool party with your friends at the natural swimming holes in the Smoky Mountain National Park. You can also experience the beautiful waterfalls or take a summer hike with your group. During summer, dam water is regularly scheduled for release in the Little Pigeon River. The additional water flow makes white water rafting during this season truly an experience of a lifetime.

The Smoky Mountain range turns into a winter wonderland during the winter season. Snow covers the entire range in white fleece. One of the famous activities during the winter season is snow tubing, which is accessed via the Ariel Tramway. You can come down the slopes with your peers and return to the top on a magic carpet ride. Alternatively, you can go for a hike in the snowy mountains of Gatlinburg with your friends. 

Gatlinburg also offers skiing and snowboarding trails for thrill seekers. Apart from the activities, the towns in the Smokey Mountains are a must-see sight on a winter night. They are decorated with thousands of lights, fuelling the spirit of the holiday season.

The Smoky Mountains are covered with darling buds of May in Spring. The diverse and exemplary flora wraps the peaks in its arms. You can go for a hike or fish if you plan your vacation for spring break. While the season of fall paints the Smokey mountains in beautiful fall colors. You would not want to miss witnessing beautiful fall foliage if you plan to visit Gatlinburg in October.

4. What to Pack

Even though days during the summer are hot, the nights can get a little colder. Pack some warm clothes even if you plan your trip during the summer vacation to ward off the chilly evening winds. 

However, expect the temperature to go negative in winter. It would be wise to pack some sweaters, jackets, mufflers, and all the winter stuff if you intend to visit the range during your winter break.

You must also keep in mind that the Smokies are not flat. If you wish to avoid screaming with pain by the end of the day, avoid packing heels. Instead, pack sketchers, flats, and joggers for a comfortable trip.

5. Dining Options to Choose From

The towns in the Smoky Mountains do offer a variety of restaurants with many food options and cuisines to choose from. From comfort food to vegan and plant-based options, from international cuisines to traditional southern food, the towns cater to almost all kinds of taste buds.

However, it is practically illegal to eat anything but pancakes for breakfast, and the towns feature numerous cafes and delis that serve pancakes. Little House of Pancakes, Pancake Pantry, and the Log Cabin Pancake House are known to serve scrumptious traditional pancakes to kick-start the day.


The Smoky Mountains are undoubtedly a beautiful vacation destination. The variety of theatre and dinner options, adventure activities, amusement parks, and shopping destinations do spoil you for choice. However, planning everything before your trip, knowing all about the lodgings, types of activities, and dining options, is necessary to avoid last-minute glitches. 

Traveling in groups requires meticulous planning and attention to detail that goes beyond organizing lodging to arranging transportation and coordinating meals while managing the group’s financial resources and ensuring everyone has a great time. 

So, plan your vacation to the Smoky Mountain National Park with our tips for a great trip. Make rich memories alongside friends around waterfalls, on the hiking trails, and under the sky full of stars.