The 10 Best Smoky Mountains Towns You Need to Visit

With its signature blue mist and rugged landscape, the Smoky Mountains are a true gem in the South.

But hidden throughout this beautiful landscape are dozens of quaint mountainside towns that are perfect for quick trips and weekend getaways.

If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Smoky Mountains, read on for our guide to the best Smoky Mountains towns.

The 10 Best Smoky Mountains Towns Guide

1. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Where: Pigeon Forge is nestled against the foothills on the northern side of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Why: The splendor of the nearby Smoky Mountains transformed this quaint mountain town into a popular tourist destination.

Home to Dollywood, the Dolly Parton-themed amusement park, this town draws crowds of people each year who flock to its festivals and summer activities.

Popular attractions include the Old Mill, which is a nationally registered historic place and has been in the area since the early 1800s.

While this water-powered mill once played a pivotal role in the daily lives of early Pigeon Forge settlers, the Old Mill is now a popular tourist attraction with a restaurant and cafe.

With its original historic touches, visitors can get a genuine historical experience as they dine and visit its shops.

Pigeon Forge is popular year round, and when long summer days give way to crisp winter nights, the fun doesn’t stop. Pigeon Forge hosts an annual Winterfest Kickoff Festival, which features shopping, live entertainment, and twinkling holiday lights.

Pigeon Forge also has plenty of shopping options, with malls, boutiques, and outlets.

When it comes to Smoky Mountains towns, Pigeon Forge is the perfect place to rent a mountain cabin with your family for a quick trip to enjoy all that this area has to offer.

2. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Where: Gatlinburg is just about six miles away from Pigeon Forge in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, but this town has enough character to stand on its own.

Why: Gatlinburg’s visitors are drawn to this quaint town for its unique charm and quirky vibe.

You’ll find lots of specialty boutiques along its picturesque streets, and those who love arts and crafts will feel right at home. The town also fosters a strong outdoorsy scene, which attracts hikers and campers from all over.

Like in Pigeon Forge, many visitors opt to rent a cabin in Gatlinburg and experience the town as it should be experienced – like a local. You can find mountain cabins in Gatlinburg appropriate for any budget, and they allow vacationers to truly immerse themselves in the beautiful mountain setting.

As far as Smoky Mountains towns go, Gatlinburg offers some great dining options, including fine dining and classic steakhouses.

In addition to the nearby Smokies, entertainment and recreation in Gatlinburg including moonshine distillery tours, a scenic aerial tramway, museums, and souvenir shops.

For visitors considering Smoky Mountains towns for their next trip, Gatlinburg is a great option.

3. Sevierville, Tennessee

Where: Sevierville is located a bit north of Pigeon Forge, where the foothills meet the Tennessee Valley.

Why: Often overlooked for other Smoky Mountains towns, the small town of Sevierville is a hidden gem situated at the border of Pigeon Forge.

Although Pigeon Forge is home to the popular Dollywood amusement park, Dolly Parton was actually born in Sevierville, and you’ll find the famous, life-size bronze statue of Dolly on the Sevier County Courthouse’s lawn.

Other popular attractions in Sevierville include the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, the Rainforest Adventure Zoo, Adventure Park Ziplines and Riding Stables, and two enormous outlet malls with over 120 shops.

Whether you enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, or hunting, Sevierville is also a great way to enjoy the great outdoors.

4. Townsend, Tennessee

Where: Townsend is a quiet mountain town located on the northwest side of the Smoky Mountains.

Why: Out of all of the Smoky Mountains towns, Townsend is one of the smallest. This tiny outpost has just around 500 residents, which is part of its charm.

Because of its close proximity to the Smokies, visitors often use Townsend as a home base for hiking expeditions.

Likewise, this has made Townsend a popular town for adventure seekers and lovers of the outdoors.

What Townsend lacks in shopping and entertainment it makes up for in pristine mountain views and outdoor activities.

The town enjoys a quiet atmosphere, and it’s a great place to visit when you’re looking for a tranquil weekend in nature or a rugged mountain trek.

5. Pittman Center, Tennessee

Where: Pittman Center is nestled right up against the northern side of the Smoky Mountains.

Why: With a population of just under 500 people, Pittman Center is another tiny town on our list.

Pittman Center is only about 6 square miles, but it’s exactly where you’ll want to be to enjoy some solitude in the splendor of the Smoky Mountains’ beauty.

Because of its easy access to the Smokies, visitors to Pittman Center can enjoy quick day trips for casual hiking, or the town can be used as a home base for camping or long-haul hikes.

If you want to beat the crowds while still enjoying the beauty of the Smokies, Pittman Center is the place to do it.

6. Wears Valley, Tennessee

Where: Nicknamed the “Jewel of the Smokies,” Wears Valley is situated in between Townsend and Pigeon Forge on the northern side of the Smoky Mountains.

Why: Wears Valley is the kind of Smoky Mountains town where you’ll find mom-and-pop shops and quirky boutiques and restaurants.

While the town isn’t an official entrance to the Smokies, it’s commonly known by insiders as being the “secret entrance” because it’s less crowded.

You’ll find entertainment options in nearby Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, but Wears Valley is brimming with scenic drives, tranquil views, and the kind of friendly faces that make this town so special.

With its small-town mountain charm, Wears Valley is the perfect place to visit when you want to trade city skylines for mountain vistas.

7. Cherokee, North Carolina

Where: Cherokee is located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation on the southern side of the Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Why: Cherokee is rich with culture, arts, crafts, and outdoor activities. Cherokee is located on an Indian reservation, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for something different from the typical experience you’d find in Smoky Mountains towns.

The area is abundant with wildlife and offers native elk herd viewing, birding, and fishing. Visitors can also go horseback riding on scenic trails, or ride motorcycles through dramatic scenery.

Since it serves as base camp for hikers, Cherokee has an abundance of outdoor activities, like camping, boating, tubing, golf, and more.

For visitors looking for entertainment, Cherokee has got you covered. The area features a Harrah’s Casino Resort, which has all of the luxury and dining options you’ll need to complete your stay in the Smokies.

8. Bryson City, North Carolina

Where: Bryson City is located west of Cherokee near the Deep Creek Recreation Area.

Why: When it comes to cozy Smoky Mountains towns, Bryson City is paradise.

Quaint cafes, galleries, museums, and charming shops line the streets of this bustling little town, and there’s even a microbrewery for those of you who are on the lookout for craft beer.

Bryson City has that mountain village feel to it, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whether you prefer strolling through town or going for a hike.

Only five minutes north of Bryson City you’ll find Deep Creek Recreation Area, which has tubing, swimming, waterfalls, fishing, and enough to keep you and your family occupied for hours.

If you visit the Smokies, you don’t want to pass up this vibrant little town.

9. Elkmont, Tennessee

Where: Elkmont ghost town is right next to the Elkmont campground, about a 30-minute drive from Gatlinburg.

Why: While Elkmont is no longer inhabited, this fascinating ghost town still warrants a visit if you’re taking a trip to the Smokies. For ghost hunters and history buffs alike, a stroll through this town’s abandoned buildings is sure to be a thrill.

Elkmont was once home to the burgeoning national park movement in the 1920s, and the land eventually became the property of the National Park Service.

Walking through this town recalls visions of another time, with a still-standing graveyard, abandoned cottages and chalets, and buildings that are starting to be reclaimed by nature.

If you’re in the Smoky Mountains area, a quick trip to Elkmont is worth the visit.

10. Maryville, Tennessee

Where: Maryville is a peaceful town located northwest of Townsend in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

Why: Maryville is away from the hustle and bustle of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. While Maryville is quieter than some of the more popular Smoky Mountains towns, the area has a perfect blend of mountain village life and tranquility.

From cafes to local restaurants and chains, Maryville has plenty of dining options to keep you satisfied, and like many Smoky mountains towns, the area boasts many options for outdoor activities.

Maryville’s position in relation to the Smokies gives stunning views no matter where you are.

In fact, Chilhowee Mountain’s eastern flank, known as “The Three Sisters,” makes up the western ridge of the Smokies and is visible from nearly anywhere in town. This proud mountain vista is just one of many things that add to Maryville’s charm.

These towns are some of our favorites, but what are your favorite Smoky Mountains towns? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts!

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