We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

Toronto
Level Contributor
197 posts
6 reviews
Save Topic
First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

Hi All,

We are planning to drive from Toronto, Canada to GSMNP for family vacation next month. Couple of questions:

1.We will have 10 days in total, how many days do people averagely need to visit the park? Since driving to and back might take 2-3 days, it remains 7 days, is it enough to see around the park completely?

2. We won't camping inside the park, so which town shall we stay for a easy commute everyday to the national park, Pigeon Forge Townsend Or Gatlinburg?

3. Along this trip, we'd like to visit Nashville. Is one day time enough?

4.We have 2 kids at age of 7 and 13. We would like do hiking, horse back riding, but not rafting. Are there any other activities

in the park or town suitable for kids?

5. Also, please suggest any must-see stops on our way to and back from GSMNP.

Thank you for your time and response, really appreciated.

CMOOD

Townsend, Tennessee
Destination Expert
for Townsend, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Level Contributor
962 posts
14 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

In 7 days, you will be able to see much of the GSMNP. The PF, G'burg, Townsend question is really a matter of your preference - PF and G'burg offer a much wider selection of motels, restaurants and all of the attractions - shopping, go cart rides, putt putt golf, aquarium and much more. Yop will find Townsend to be much quieter with a dozen restaurant and motel choices and few attractions other than the Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Little River Railroad Museum, Tuckaleechee Caverns, horeback riding stable(s) , biking and tubing on the Little River. And a convenient, less crowded Park entrance that provides access to Cades Cove and the SE area of the Park. I would be sure to see: the elk in Cataloochee ((in NC); the 11 mile Cades Cove auto tour and the 5 mile RT hike to Abrams Falls; Clingman's dome and the observation tower - at 6,643', the highest point in the Smokies; do the hike up to Alum Cave - 5 miles RT; Roaring Fork Motor Trail near Gatlinburg; the drive from Townsend to the foothill parkway and then over to Chilhowee Lake and 129 over into NC and Fontana Dam and Lake (and the southern entry of the Appalachian Trail into the Smokies). Nashville is approx 4 hours from Gatlinburg - one way.

Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
611 posts
104 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

tnoutdrsmn gives great advise above for your trip! I would add that if you prefer to be away from crowds and lots of traffic to stay in Townsend. I would suggest a cabin instead of a motel. We've had luck with Townsend View Cabins and Dogwood Cabins. There's also a large grocery store in Townsend if you decide to stay in a cabin and want to cook some of your own meals. There's also a good bar-b-q restaurant there, Little River BBQ with a screened in back porch if you want to eat outside.

Depending on your hiking level, this site will give you trail information based on the difficulty of the trail:

www.hikinginthesmokys.com/difficulty.htm

You can also rent bicycles in Townsend and there's a nice bike path that runs along town.

Grand island, NY
Level Contributor
37 posts
1 review
Save Reply
3. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

I second the thought on staying in Townsend. We are there right now camping at a koa. I had a hard time deciding whether to stay in pigeon forge or Townsend and we are so happy with our choice. Pigeon forge is only a 25 min drive from here so if you want the shops and touristy stuff you can still do it, but be warned the traffic in PF is bumper to bumper. It took us 35 mins yesterday to go 3 miles and this was around 7 pm. Townsend makes you feel like your in the mountains. Good luck and have a great trip.

Elizabethtown...
Level Contributor
135 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

Another great cabin rental company to consider in Townsend is Bearly Rustic Cabin Rentals. They've been around for a very long time, I've used them multiple times and always been happy with them.

http://www.bearlyrustic.com/

Plymouth...
Level Contributor
136 posts
26 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

I have to agree with the above posters and say Townsend would be my choice. We are going back for the fifth time in late September. It is a lovely little town that you will look forward going back to after a long day of sightseeing and activities. PF and Gatlinburg are within 30 to 40 min depending on traffic. If I were doing Nashville, I would allow 2 days as it is 4 hours from Townsend and there is so much to see and do there. I also recommed the dogwood cabins in Townsend. There is a swimming pool and golf course there also. Have a great trip!

Iowa
Level Contributor
1,448 posts
454 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

We stayed in Townsend this past May, and really enjoyed it. Very quiet and pretty.

However--if you do plan on doing many things in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, you might be better off staying in one of those towns. Out of our four days spent in Townsend, for three of them we ended up driving over to Gatlinburg/ PF or Roaring Fork area of the National Park. We did get a bit tired of all the time spent driving. If we had to do it over again, I probably would stay in Gatlinburg, just to cut down on driving time to the things we were interested in doing.

Elizabethtown...
Level Contributor
135 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

Hrm...well I have to play devil's advocate on that perspective kren...its not *that* long of a drive....really only roughly about 30 minutes to either place direct route, and most of that is due to the routes for each, and honestly, the view/scenery on both (especially so going from Townsend to Gatlinburg through the park & coming out at Sugarlands) is such that you would never really want to rush it anyway. Obviously if someone just hates driving period, its understandable to want to be closer, but for many half the enjoyment of the Smokies is the scenic views/drives. Just depends on someone's individual/personal taste. Up until last year I've always stayed in Townsend and always enjoyed the drive into either town each day.

Of course, I'm someone whose taken a full day just to do a full circle from Townsend down the Foothills Parkway, down & around Chilhowee Lake/Fort Louden area, down to Tellico Plains, across the Cherohala Skyway, back up towards the Tail of the Dragon & cut across Fontana Lake area, head over to Bryson City/Dillsboro, and then back up to Gatlinburg/PF through the park....all for the scenic drive/views. Maybe I'm warped, but I love it :)

Atlanta
Level Contributor
450 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

tgroce that last paragragh hit the nail on the head for us.

Iowa
Level Contributor
1,448 posts
454 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

Yeah, for us the drive to and from each day got to be a little much....especially with kids. Also, keep in mind we had a 15 hour drive from Iowa just to get to the Smokies. We might feel differently if we lived closer;-).

Toronto
Level Contributor
197 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: First time to GSMNP, plan advise pls

WOW, thank you all above for the helpful suggestions. Really appreciated.

CMood