Traveling With Pets to the Smoky Mountains

We have many pet-friendly vacation cabins for rent in the Smoky Mountains, with no restrictions on size, weight, numbers of animals or type, and all we ask is a deposit per each pet. Check our list of pet-friendly cabins.

Taking a trip to the Smoky Mountains is an adventure for all the family, and if you’re planning to bring your furry friend along for the ride, please take a look at the safety and comfort tips below. There are a few things to add to your travel list to help ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable journey, whether you’re a seasoned traveler with pets or this is your first outing.

Image courtesy of Lauren Guardala

Pet basics when traveling by vehicle

  • Prior to the trip, help acclimate your pet to riding in a vehicle. Do short trips and gradually increase the length of time so they are used to longer drive times.
  • In the vehicle, secure your pet for their protection. This is especially important when you make stops along the way, and you open the door. Dogs and cats are quick and can leap out and be lost forever. A pet seat belt is one option, but securing your pet inside a carrier that is secured by a seat belt is a safer choice.
  • It goes without saying, do not allow your pet to have free range inside the vehicle. This is a distraction to the driver, plus, they may get under your feet while you’re trying to put on the brakes. Dangerous.
  • Although dogs love to ride with their head out the window, on a trip at speed they could get eye damage from things in the air, so consider keeping the windows closed.
  • Before you go, ensure you have the appropriate tags for your pet that include contact information in case they become separated from you. If your animal is chipped, make sure your current phone numbers and contact information are updated. This is a common oversight, but it’s easy to do – let Martha Stewart explain how to Update Your Pet’s Microchip Information.
  • Stick to their feeding and walking routines. Like humans, pets are creatures of habit. Be aware of their routine, so you can be sure to make stops along the way for dogs to use the restroom. For cats, place an appropriately sized litter pan inside the carrier.
  • Do not change their food type/brand as this can disrupt their stomachs. Also, bring water from home or use bottled water to keep their stomachs from becoming upset. Do not let your pet drink from other sources, as the water source may contain chemicals your pet isn’t used to. If hiking with your pet, bring a bottle of water and a bowl. Do not allow your pet to drink from ponds, lakes, streams, etc.
  • Be sure to have all your pets’ medical information available to include proof of immunizations along with enough medication, if needed, for the duration of the trip. Include the name of your pet’s veterinarian and phone number.
  • Bring your pet’s food and water bowls, treats, a favorite blanket, toys, food, litter, garbage bags and a scoop for clean-up after a dog or to employ your cat’s litter pan.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended at any time, ever. If you need to make a pit stop at a rest stop along the way, someone needs to remain in the vehicle. Bring plenty of snacks and beverages for yourself and others. If you need food, stop at a fast food chain with a drive-thru window. Reasons: 1. vehicles become too hot or too cold, which is detrimental to your pet’s well-being. 2. Someone may steal your pet. 3. Someone may let your pet out of the vehicle because they feel it is unsafe. 4. Someone may call the police to report pet abuse – remember that in Tennessee, as in many states, it’s actually illegal to leave your pet alone in a vehicle.
  • When in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be very sure to follow the regulations – rangers do hand out stiff fines. Most trails there don’t allow dogs (roads, picnic sites and overlooks are okay), and the few that do require a leash. It’s not just a national park, it’s a wildlife preserve as well, and even on a leash, dogs can disturb wildlife. See here for where you can take your furry friend in and around the park: Pet Friendly Hiking Trails.
  • There is a dog park in Gatlinburg, in Mills Park. Fairly new, the park has been clean and well tended since it opened in 2021. Mills Park is a really nice park too – see our guide to the Great Public Parks of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
  • In Pigeon Forge, you can run up to Sevierville and find a great dog park open year-round, but staying in town, don’t forget Patriot Park, where you can take your leashed animal on a great walk along the river. And from there, you can extend that stroll all the way along the pet-friendly Riverwalk Greenway.
  • Invest in a harness versus a collar. Cats are like Houdini; they are great escape artists, and a collar is easy to get out of. With a harness, you have better control of your pet, which supports their safety when out and about.
  • Your pet will be hearing a lot of new sounds along the travel route and once you’ve reached the Great Smoky Mountains. Take time to talk to your pet to reassure it that everything is a-okay.
  • Once you’ve settled into your cabin, find a quiet, safe, and secure place for your pet to relax and get comfortable in the new surroundings.
  • Last, but not least, follow all rules pertaining to pets when exploring the great outdoors. Keep your pets safe and secure. Don’t leave them unattended outside, and don’t let them run free.
  • If you’re heading to Dollywood during your stay here, you can leave your pet for the day at the theme park’s Doggywood day boarding facility, while you enjoy the park (here are some of our Best Cabins Near Dollywood).

Enjoy your pet-friendly cabin and all that the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer for a memorable vacation at one of the most beautiful places on earth

Image credit: Lauren Guardala

TIP: here’s how to find an affordable Gatlinburg cabin, and see all of our cabins in the Smoky Mountains, including our Pigeon Forge cabins and our Wears Valley cabins.

About Tony Perez

I'm a people person, and I enjoy the atmosphere that working with Cabins Of The Smoky Mountains entails, interacting with different types of people and trying to relate to each one uniquely. From Michigan originally, I've been coming to the Smoky Mountains since I was a child, with family in Wears Valley. Summer fun for me is exploring the Cades Cove area, swimming in the creeks, and hiking Mount LeConte and many other trails. I love the Smoky Mountains.