The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a 500,000-acre (2,023.43 km²) national park in North Carolina and Tennessee notable for its splendid nature, fauna, and historic homesteads. With 12 million visitors each year, it is the most frequented national park in the United States of America, beating Yellowstone. With six park gates to select from, it’s critical to stay close to the visited attractions. Each entry town has its distinguished flavor, but few garner the same amount of attention as Gatlinburg. To help tourists pick where to stay for their vacation, here are the most scenic towns closest to the Smoky Mountains.
10 Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is embraced by breathtaking natural surroundings and mountain landscapes, but it also has a lively downtown filled with restaurants, activities, and shopping. Gatlinburg is a wonderful location to visit because of its unique blend of rustic charm and vacation entertainment. The town, unlike some other Smoky Mountain areas, is relatively walkable. It’s also near Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest peak, with an observation site and a link to the amazing Appalachian Trail.
9 Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
“The Center of Fun in the Smokies” is Pigeon Forge’s motto. The neighboring Smoky Mountains’ splendor has turned this previously calm mountain village into a major tourist attraction due to its bewitching vistas. The Parkway, Pigeon Forge’s main thoroughfare, is lined with an infinite number of dinner theaters, museums, go-karts, racetracks, restaurants, and souvenir stores. The popular and magnificent Old Mill is a nationally protected historic site that has existed in the area since the early 1800s.
8 Wears Valley, Tennessee
Wears Valley, a gorgeous town along the Pigeon Forge Parkway that travels through mountain scenery towards Townsend, Tennessee, is considered a hidden treasure in the Smoky Mountains. Near the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, this picturesque valley offers stunning mountain panoramas, a tranquil environment, and a “hidden” entry to the exceptional Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
7 Cosby, Tennessee
Cosby is located on the north side of the Great Smoky Mountains. This astonishing and separate town, formerly known as the Moonshine Capital of the World, currently has a population of only approximately 5,000 people. It’s the ideal spot for some peace and quiet time while hiking in the radiant Smoky Mountains. Travelers are recommended to take the less-crowded Foothills Parkway to witness stunning vistas of the exceptional Appalachian Trail, which runs through North Carolina and Tennessee.
6 Waynesville, North Carolina
Waynesville, North Carolina, has no shortage of entertaining activities. It is a great outdoor enthusiast’s heaven, with everything from waterfall trekking and cycling to fishing and more. Cataloochee Valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway are two of Waynesville’s most popular attractions, and they both provide mesmerizing vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains. Travelers choose between spending their vacations practicing exciting activities and relaxing while breathing the pure fresh mountain air.
: nature tours, golf, theaters, museums, horseback riding, and shopping.
5 Townsend, Tennessee
Townsend is known as the “quiet side of the Smokies.” A modest but awesome downtown area next to the Little River with convenient entry to the national park helps tourists relieve their stress and move away from the cities’ crowdedness. The park’s two spectacular waterfalls, Spruce Flats and Meigs Falls, are located in the eastern portion of town. The Smoky Mountains feature over 700 swimmable rivers, counting the Little River, which may be explored with the guide of Little River Outfitters near Townsend.
4 Bryson City, North Carolina
Bryson City is heaven on earth when it comes to little Smoky Mountain communities. It has a unique mountain village vibe specific to it, and there are plenty and various activities for everyone to enjoy, whether they choose to wander through town or go hiking. This village also has a distinction: it is where Horace Kephart was buried. Many consider him the founder of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
3 Cherokee, North Carolina
Cherokee offers a diverse range of cultural and outdoor activities. It is situated on an Indian reservation, making it ideal for anyone seeking a unique experience outside the conventional Smoky Mountain cities. The region is rich in wildlife and offers opportunities for observing native elk herds, birdwatching, and fishing. Horseback riding on picturesque routes and motorcycle rides through stunning surroundings are also available to visitors.
: boating, camping, golfing, tubing, and hiking.
2 Sevierville, Tennessee
The little community of Sevierville, located on the outskirts of Pigeon Forge, is often neglected in favor of neighboring Smoky Mountain villages. The Rainforest Adventure Zoo, the Tennessee Museum of Aviation Riding Stables, Adventure Park Ziplines, and two massive outlet malls with over 120 shops are all prominent attractions in Sevierville. It is an irresistible place to experience the great outdoors, whether tourists prefer camping, hiking, hunting, or fishing.
1 Elkmont, Tennessee
Elkmont is no longer populated, but it’s an interesting ghost town worth visiting. Adrenaline seekers will enjoy a tour through this town’s abandoned structures. Wandering in this town transports hikers to another era. There are two still-standing cemeteries, abandoned chalets and homes, and structures that are being reclaimed by nature. Travelers have to always observe National Park Service regulations and take all of them into consideration. These structures are rapidly deteriorating, and it can be safer to watch them only from abroad.