UPDATE – Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed for two weeks to flatten the curve of the epidemic spread. Plans are to re-open on April 7, 2020. The scenic drives listed below are open except for the roads in the national park.
Even with a world of entertainment and relaxation right there in your vacation cabin, if you want to get outdoors and explore, there are many easy ways. You can get close to many scenic wonders and still remain in your car, as well as sample many easy walks and other ways to enjoy Great Smoky Mountains National Park without a lot of effort – and all of it is free of charge.
So here’s our Big List of outdoor adventures in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.
If you’re looking for a getaway in the Smokies, a cabin is always the best place to stay, but especially in a time of avoiding contact with other people. There are plenty of entertainments inside each cabin to keep the whole family occupied, and it’s easy to get out and explore too. Here the very easiest ways to do it.
First, check out our guide to Easy Outdoor Adventures for a summary of many of the ways to enjoy the outdoors here. From scenic drives to drive-up waterfalls, to less visited areas of incredible beauty, and to nature walks that are even wheelchair accessible, it’s all here.
Easy Walks in the Smoky Mountains
Learn about all the Easy Walks in the Smoky Mountains that we’ve compiled for you, most of them in the national park but even including the lovely city parks of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge., with pathways and river banks in parkland settings. Learn about the Nature Trails and the Quiet Walkways of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, some of the very best natural and scenic spots selected by park rangers to share with the public.
Some of our favorite trails have their own feature guides we’ve written to give you a better knowledge of the lie of the land. Check out Little River Trail, an easy and fun walk that the whole family can take and enjoy, traversing some beautiful terrain, with a chance for swimming and fishing along the way. And for the pet lovers who want to walk the dog or ride a bike, there’s the Gatlinburg Trail, a beautiful, flat and easy trail that conveniently reaches into the national park right from Gatlinburg itself.
Speaking of pets, while the park trails are not open to pets, the campgrounds and picnic areas are, and some of these are gorgeous spots for the family to hang out in. To the eastern end of the park, about 20 miles from Gatlinburg, the Cosby campground and nature trail are never crowded and are astonishingly beautiful, especially with spring wildflowers.
Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains
Pile the family into the car and check out the gorgeous scenery of the Smoky Mountains – it’s easy. Start with our guide to Scenic Drives in the Smoky Mountains. Couple that with our highlights from Scenic Driving in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.One of the most popular places to get a fantastic view is Clingmans Dome – it’s a pretty drive up and a beautiful view at the parking area even if you have family who can’t make the paved sloping path up to the observation tower.
When in Gatlinburg, don’t miss the scenic wonders of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This is a true nature trail, as abundantly teeming with nature as all the others, but this one is special – it starts from Gatlinburg and runs 5.5 miles in a one-way loop for cars to take, traversing extraordinary terrain and ending back in town. Check out our guide linked above for more details.
Waterfalls are one of the scenic wonders of the national park, and there are two that you can actually get to without leaving your car. See our guide to the Many Waterfalls of GSM National Park, and especially check out the drive-up falls – see our guide to the Place of a Thousand Drips, which can be found towards the end of the Roaring Fork scenic loop, and also Meigs Falls.
Cades Cove and Other Roads
No visit to the Smoky Mountains is complete without a drive to Cades Cove, the national park’s most popular place.There are nature trails along the loop, and other scenic pleasures, while the place itself seems to possess a magical quiet. Don’t miss the best road to get there, Little River Road with all its charms and attractions. And as a side trip, take Rich Mountain Road over to Townsend, on the Quiet Side of the Smoky Mountains, and continue your explorations of the less traveled pathways of the Smoky Mountains.
Also see our guides to Gatlinburg Hiking Trails, and our Smoky Mountains map page, as well as more outdoor ideas in our Smoky Mountains Activities guide. Check out our Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains guide as well and the all-important, Things to Do in Gatlinburg With Kids. And remember we have cabins all over the area, so pick your vacation headquarters from our Wears Valley cabins, our Pigeon Forge rental cabins and our Gatlinburg cabins – and if you’re bringing a pet check our updated list of pet friendly cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.