The Great Smoky Mountains are a nature lover’s paradise. With over 800 miles of hiking trails, abundant wildlife, and stunning views, this beautiful region has no shortage of things to do.
Most travelers come here to hike and explore the many waterfalls and scenic overlooks. However, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the Smokys. You can shop for unique hand-crafted gifts, relax in one of the many hot springs, or bask in the sun while enjoying the stunning views.
Regardless of how you spend your time in the Smokys, you could use experts’ tips to make the most of your week-long vacation. So, here they are – the well-kept secrets to enjoying The Great Smoky Mountains to the fullest.
- Ditch Hotels for Cabin Rentals
You might think staying in a hotel will give you all the amenities and comforts you need for your trip. But will the sophistication compensate for the breathtaking views you could have from a cabin rental? We think not. Not to mention, cabins of this modern tourist-centric era come complete with all the amenities of home that you could ever need on vacation, like fully stocked kitchens and game rooms. So, look for cabins with mountain views and enjoy your mountain vacation to the fullest.
- Get an Early Start on Your Hiking Trails
The Great Smoky Mountains are popular with adventure seekers and nature admirers. It is why the well-known trails, like the Appalachian and the Bunion Ridge, often see a lot of foot traffic. So, if you want your experience to be nothing short of serene and breathtaking, you should get an early start. That way, you will miss the crowds and have the trails to yourself for most of the day. And don’t miss the perks of finding a parking spot right at the trailhead!
- Visit in the Spring or Fall
The Great Smoky Mountains are a year-round destination. Summers are bright and cheerful, with a variety of wildflowers in bloom. And if you head here for the holiday season, it will be a winter wonderland with picturesque views of snow-capped mountains. However, the region experiences a significant influx of visitors during these seasons. It sucks the fun out of exploring all the Smokys offers. So, plan your trip for spring or fall if you want to enjoy your vacation without the crowds.
- Don’t Miss Out on the Local Festivals
What’s a vacation without the taste of the local culture? The Smokys have no shortage of cultural festivals that offer a glimpse into the traditional Appalachian way of life. From music and dance to arts and crafts, there’s something for everyone to participate in and enjoy. So, check the calendar of events before planning your trip.
During summers, the Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales celebrates the region’s rich musical heritage with live performances by talented musicians. The festival runs from mid-June to early August in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
In autumn, the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival is the perfect opportunity to indulge in all the seasonal favorites, like pumpkin spice lattes and Thanksgiving dinner.
- Pack Your Camera
The Smokys are home to some of the most Instagrammable views in the country. So, ensure you have your camera (or phone) with you at all times to capture the incredible vistas. From lush green valleys and rushing waterfalls to snow-laden mountain peaks, there’s no shortage of postcard-worthy views in the Smokys.
You can create lasting memories of your trip by taking a scenic drive down the Newfound Gap Road or hiking to one of the many lookout points. While at it, don’t forget to snap a picture of the wildflowers in bloom or the autumn leaves in all their glory. Like this, you’ll take a piece (or a huge chunk) of the Smokys back home with you.
- Taste the Local Cuisine
Savoring the local flavors of a place is like getting a glimpse of its culture and history. And the Smokys are loaded with culinary delights, just waiting to be discovered. So, make sure to sample the region’s traditional dishes, like Appalachian Stew, during your trip.
You can find some of the best Appalachian cuisines at the Mountain Lodge Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The restaurant sources its ingredients from the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park and serves up some of the most mouth-watering dishes you will ever taste. Some of the most relished dishes include the Smoked Trout Chowder and the Grilled Rainbow Trout.
- Visit Cades Cove
Cades Cove is a popular destination in the Smokys for a good reason. This serene valley is home to abundant wildlife, including black bears, deer, turkeys, and coyotes. These animals often roam freely in the open fields and forests, providing excellent photo opportunities. Cades Cove is also home to historic buildings and structures, like the Cable Mill, which offers a peek into the lives of early settlers in the Great Smoky Mountains.
You can explore these buildings and hike the trails that wind through Cades Cove on your own or join a ranger-led tour. An ideal time to visit is early in the morning or late evening. Yes, because it gets busy!
- Stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center
The Sugarlands Visitor Center is the perfect place to start your Great Smoky Mountains adventure. Located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Visitor Center is just a short drive from many of the Smokys’ most popular attractions.
At the Visitor Center, you can learn about the park’s different hiking trails, picnicking areas, and scenic drives. You can also pick up a map of the park and grab a bite to eat at the cafe. The Visitor Center is open all year round, so make sure to stop by, no matter when visiting the Smokys.
The Smokys, royally nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, offer more than just stunning views. From its amusing culture and history to its delicious cuisine, this breathtaking region will wow you in more ways than one. So, add it to your travel list and check off all the items on this guide to have the best vacation!
You can, of course, make amends to the list as you please. For instance, if you’re traveling with kids, you can include a visit to Dollywood or Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokys in Gatlinburg.
And if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation, you can go ziplining, horseback riding, or whitewater rafting. The adventures await!