You’ve been itching to do something different for your upcoming vacation. A lot of people like heading out to the beach, especially when the weather gets warmer. And while you won’t knock a good holiday by the water, that’s not hitting the right note in terms of a more invigorating getaway. And so, you look to the mountains and the woods for a weekend vacation that will be thrilling. The destination? The Smoky Mountains. A sub-range of the Appalachian Mountains, the Smoky Mountains stretch out along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina for over 500,000 acres with close to 200,000 of those acres being old forest, making it the largest such expanse east of the Mississippi River.
The “Smokies”, as they’re sometimes affectionately known, get their name from the natural fog that settles over its peaks and valleys, making it a boon to those looking to enjoy a simple outdoor getaway. They have also been a source of heavy industry in terms of logging thanks to the acres and acres of forest that are present. The area has a number of attractions to check out, and in this article you’ll find out about the best activities to include on the ultimate mountain vacation itinerary in the Smoky Mountains.
Visiting the Smoky Mountains is a terrific experience for those who are enamored with having fun in the great outdoors. The first activity travelers should partake in is to be found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which was first chartered in 1934 and was formally dedicated in 1940. The park can be accessed by two towns – Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina. U.S. Highway 441 bisects the park, so visitors can drive right through to check out the many wonders of the park, in particular the Newfound Gap which provides some stunning views of the land being over 5,000 feet in elevation. Driving this route also allows hikers to reach many of the park’s 850 miles of trails as well. The trails range from moderate ones like the Grapeyard Ridge Trail to ones for more experienced hikers like the Rocky Top Trail that takes you up to one of three summits at Thunderhead Mountain. Other points of interest within the park include Clingman’s Dome which is the highest point in the park, and Cades Cove, a highly popular spot for those who want to set up camp and spend the night.
If you need something a little less cumbersome, the Deep Creek Loop trail might be more your speed. The park is home to four historic districts and an archeological district for those looking to gain more insight into the area’s past. Finally, there’s also some fine places to go fishing within the park, particularly fly fishing. The main fish to be found here is trout, which includes the rainbow variety. And if you want to go horseback riding, the park also offers that on select trails.
Another thing to check off on your itinerary is a visit to Dollywood, named after the iconic country music superstar Dolly Parton. Co-owned by the entertainer, Dollywood is a family-friendly theme park that’s located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee which is forty miles from the Smoky Mountain National Park. First opening in 1961, Dollywood covers 150 acres of heartland and has theme park rides as well as a water park on the grounds. It’s also a popular destination for those looking to hear some good country music acts thanks to dinner shows held there. The park also has its own hotel and spa as well as some traditional cabins with modern furnishings available for those who want to make an extend visit there.
The town of Pigeon Forge itself has their own local attractions that are a delight to guests, such as The Island which is a tropical oasis-themed shopping and dining plaza with the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at its center. The ferris wheel stands in at 200 feet tall, and it gives riders some sweeping views of Pigeon Forge and the surrounding landscape on a year-round basis. And at night, there’s a light show that doesn’t fail to appease the onlookers who get a chance to watch.
The town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one place not to miss if you’re looking to really get into the small town mountain experience. It sees about ten million visitors a year, and is home to a number of fun activities. First among those is the Gatlinburg Space Needle, which is in the downtown area and stretches up 407 feet into the air giving visitors dynamic views of the town and rolling clouds of fog and mountains. Another fun destination is Ober Gatlinburg, a mountain theme park that’s been around for over 50 years but still thrills guests with chances to go bobsledding and view local wildlife. Visitors can also get a view of the mountains either by their aerial tramway or take a chairlift up to a vista where they can be regaled by bluegrass bands and dance.
Of course, you’ll need to rest and unwind after all of these fun things to do, and nothing says relaxation mountain style than being in a traditional cabin vacation rental. These cabins exude charm thanks to their rustic wood exteriors, and will allow guests to truly relax in serene comfort surrounded by verdant forests. These cabins range from intimate homes that are just right for couples to massive dwellings that are great for large groups indulging their love for the mountainside life. Each of these vacation rental cabins are outfitted with all of the modern furnishings one is accustomed to, which include full contemporary kitchens and indoor fireplaces. And there’s a number of them that come with special amenities such as large outdoor decks, indoor and outdoor hot tubs and even arcade rooms and theater rooms for movie nights. Sites such as Owner Direct help you pick the perfect vacation rental for your next trip.
All of these things are guaranteed to make your Smoky Mountain weekend getaway one that will make you count the days until you can return. For more destination guides and accommodation recommendations on vacation rentals and hotels, check out Trip101.