Gatlinburg Travel Guide

Gatlinburg Travel Guide

With over 500,000 acres of cascading waterfalls, towering mountain peaks, trees that touch the sky, and roaming wildlife, the Smoky Mountain area has everything you could need on a vacation. With that in mind, we think it’s high time you started planning your next visit.

To help you get started, we have enlisted the help of several local experts and frequent travelers to craft the complete Gatlinburg, TN, Travel Guide. It includes an overview of things you need to know before you get here and suggestions for things to do on your trip. 

What Do You Need To Know About Gatlinburg Before Visiting?

Before visiting Gatlinburg, be aware of how the weather will affect your plans. Do this by reading up on what to do if you encounter local wildlife, coming up with alternative plans in case you get rained out of outdoor events, and making a plan for how you’ll get to the attractions on your itinerary. 

Four tips for a better trip to Gatlinburg, TN.

Keep an Eye on Gatlinburg’s Weather Conditions

Gatlinburg truly does experience the full range of seasons. But for the most part, keeping tabs on the weather forecast will help you know what weather and temperatures to expect. However, thunderstorms can roll in quickly, and the mountains may have more unpredictable weather due to the elevation. 

Respect Bears and Wildlife

Approximately 1,900 black bears call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park home. Though there’s a chance you could see one in wooded areas, bear attacks aren’t all that common and are avoidable if you’re aware of your surroundings, respect the bears, and keep your distance. 

Make a Transportation Game Plan

Before you arrive, think about how you will get around Gatlinburg on your trip. If you’re staying local, you can probably walk most places, take the Gatlinburg Trolley, or order a ride. However, if you want to go on scenic drives, try out some hiking trails, or pop over to nearby towns like Pigeon Forge — consider splurging on a vehicle rental. 

Book Early and Online

Gatlinburg is busy year-round, especially from June through December. This means that local cabins tend to book up fairly quickly. To ensure you get a cabin with your ideal amenities and location, try to book 6-12 months in advance. 

However, if you do need to book a stay today or this weekend, you can check Elk Springs Resort to see the best available Gatlinburg cabins.  

What Should I Do on My Gatlinburg Vacation?

Gatlinburg has no shortage of trails, restaurants, bars, attractions, and landmarks to keep you busy during your stay. Read on to find out where locals and seasoned travelers recommend you visit. 

A bucket list for vacationers visiting Gatlinburg, TN.

Treat Yourself to a Deluxe Cabin Stay

When you book with Elk Springs Resort, you can get a luxury cabin situated right in the middle of nature with stunning views without giving up easy access to all that downtown Gatlinburg has to offer. 

Hike in the Smoky Mountain National Park

With more than 800 miles of exquisite hiking in the Smoky Mountain area, you can follow the same paths that settlers and explorers did hundreds of years ago. To help you set your course, here are five can’t-miss hikes in Gatlinburg that you should add to your bucket list: 

  1. Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte: Best explored between April and November, this trail is popular because of its views and frequent black bear sightings. 
  2. Clingmans Dome Trail: Make the rewarding trek up the observation tower path at the end of this trail to enjoy 360º views of the Smokies. 
  3. Laurel Falls Trail: Originally paved for fire trucks, this trail is well-maintained and offers a comfortable walk for people of all ages. 
  4. Cataract Falls Trail: Take a short and charming walk on the trail that leads from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to find a serene waterfall. 
  5. Rainbow Falls Trail: One of the most beautiful falls in the area (especially after heavy rainfall), it’ll be worthwhile to make this trek. 

Try to Spot Local Flora and Fauna

Gatlinburg, TN, is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. And even if you visit the same path a hundred times, you’re still likely to see something new on each trip. While you’re exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, see if you can spot some local flora and fauna including: 

  • Animals like warblers, wild turkeys, tanagers, elk, foxes, black bears, salamanders, bass, river otters, butterflies, deer, squirrels, snails, slugs, and trout. 
  • Plants like ferns, azaleas, rhododendrons, trilliums, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, tulip trees, laurels, geraniums, and spring beauty wildflowers. 

Take a Scenic Drive

If you take a road trip to get to Gatlinburg, you’ll undoubtedly see miles of beautiful, untouched land. Of course, if you’d rather take a real scenic drive after you’ve settled into your cabin, we recommend trying the Cades Cove Loop, Roaring Fork Motor Trail, or Newfound Gap Road for the best views in the area. 

Check Out Downtown Gatlinburg’s Nightlife

When you step out for a night of fun in Gatlinburg, you can expect good drinks, music, and service in a laid-back environment whether you want to watch the game at a pub or jam out to live music, a good night awaits in East Tennessee. Here are some great Gatlinburg bars to go if you’re not sure where to start your night: 

  • If you like to dance: Loco Burro brings in a DJ and a crowd of partiers on Tuesday nights. 
  • If you like great food with your drinks: The Shamrock Pub doesn’t just offer drinks and karaoke. They also have pizza and sandwiches to keep you energized all night long. 
  • If you like quiet conversations with friends: The Fox & Parrot Tavern offers a unique but homey atmosphere where you can chat with the people at your table. 

Visit an Amusement Park

Gatlinburg doesn’t have your run-of-the-mill amusement parks. Instead, we have family-friendly destinations where you and your family or friends can explore activities unique to Appalachia. Here are a few of note:

  • Anakeesta: This mountaintop adventure park has a scenic chairlift, an observation tower so tall you can see Kentucky, zip lines, gem mining, and an adventure zone. 
  • Dollywood: Located less than 20 minutes outside of Gatlinburg’s city limits, Dolly Parton’s theme park offers live shows, rides, attractions, and a water park. 
  • Ober Gatlinburg: Stop by in the winter to enjoy activities like skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. Or, visit when the weather warms up to experience fun activities like the Tennessee Flyer Mountain Coaster, Alpine Slide, bumper cars, or a rock wall. 

Listen to Live Music

Gatlinburg has a vibrant music scene — to say the least. Local venues bring in acts from near and far, and on any given night, you can hear the sounds of country, bluegrass, and folk music flowing. Here are just a few of the great spots where you can kick back and enjoy live music in Gatlinburg:

  • Three Jimmy’s: Mostly known as a restaurant, Three Jimmy’s is also a popular live music venue in Gatlinburg that hosts performers from around the country. 
  • Country Tonite: Renowned for its high-energy and family-friendly musical acts, this is the place to be if you want to listen to country music accompanied by strong choreography and glamorous outfits. 
  • Ole Red Gatlinburg: Owned by country music star Blake Shelton, Ole Red knows a thing or two about good music. They often bring in local artists to perform at the large venue. 

Go to Local Events

The events in Gatlinburg are known for drawing visitors by creating an entertaining, one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Some popular annual events include:

Of course, there are a ton of other exciting events that occur throughout the year. Keep up with our event calendar to see what will be going on on your next Gatlinburg trip. 

A list of events that occur annually in Gatlinburg, TN.

Give Local Delicacies a Taste

Gatlinburg’s restaurants, distilleries, and wineries stand out for their unique blend of Appalachian flavors featuring locally sourced ingredients and traditional recipes. Whether you want to find the perfect place for dinner or sample some local drink recipes, here are some places that are worth your time: 

Start Planning Your Gatlinburg Vacation Today

From the breathtaking landscapes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Gatlinburg’s energetic nightlife scene, Gatlinburg has everything you need for a memorable and well-rounded experience. As you plan your visit, consider the seasonal weather, explore local events, and immerse yourself in the region’s rich natural and cultural heritage. 

And to make your stay truly special, why not indulge in the cozy charm of a cabin nestled in the heart of the mountains? Booking a cabin ensures a comfortable retreat and an immersive experience in the serene beauty that defines Gatlinburg. So, embark on your adventure, create lasting memories, and let the allure of Gatlinburg captivate you.