Running in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Tennessee

Smoky Mountain RunningLooking for some unique and wonderful  places to run when visiting Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains aside from right down the main parkway(which can be an enjoyable run with plenty to look at)?  There are many great places to log some  miles in the area so we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of a few our favorites. No matter where you choose to run you will have the Great Smoky Mountains as a glorious backdrop to each step you take.

Sevierville

Sevierville, TNSevierville City Park is a nice quiet place to run. Close to downtown Sevierville, this is a place for almost any activity! The park has a 0.5 mile walking/running trail that is connected to the Memorial River Trail Greenway which travels under the main parkway and continues along the river an additional 1.8 miles. With no roads to cross this is a nice run along the Little Pigeon River. For maps and additional information here is the Sevierville Walking (Running)/Biking Trails Brochure. The park facilities also include softball fields, little league baseball, eight tennis courts (four lighted), concessions, restrooms, picnic areas and shelters along the river, a spectacular self-contained playground and an outdoor pool at the Family Aquatic Center.

The Memorial River Trail Greenway is a riverside park featuring a walking/running trail along the water’s edge. The beautifully landscaped greenway adjoins the Paine Memorial Park with picnic tables and a gazebo. Benches line the walking/running trail for enjoyment of the scenery along the river, which includes numerous migratory birds and other waterfowl. The greenway passes the McMahan Burial Mound in Sevierville before continuing on a boardwalk to the Great Smoky Mountains Parkway Bridge over the Little Pigeon River in Sevierville. At the bridge, the greenway continues to Sevierville City Park through a forested area and across a small covered bridge.

Veteran’s Boulevard Greenway runs alongside Veteran’s Boulevard which connects Sevierville’s Dolly Parton Parkway past Dollywood to traffic light #8 in Pigeon Forge. The actual greenway currently ends right at the entrance to Dollywood although for a longer run a wide sidewalk continues to traffic light #8 on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, passing Patriot Park along the way. This greenway is currently 3.5 miles long but from Dolly Parton Parkway to The Pigeon Forge Parkway it is about 6.5 miles. A very nice run with a few rolling hills to traverse. A disclaimer must be noted, although this is a nice run the traffic noise and fumes as well as the lack of shade can be a bit of an issue during the warmer and busy summer months. This greenway has several extensions planned which will connect to the Sevierville Community Center and Little Pigeon Trail system as well as connections to the Pigeon Forge/Patriot Park greenway.

Pigeon Forge

Patriot Park Pigeon Forge, TNPatriot Park is a large open space ideal many activities. A 0.6 mile paved walking/running trail lined with flagpoles featuring flags from all 50 states surrounds the perimeter of the park, which also features an historic patriot missile, a large model of the Liberty Bell, and in the winter, WinterFest lighted displays. Adjacent to Patriot Park is the historic Old Mill built in 1830. A pavilion with 14 picnic tables and four electrical outlets may be reserved by calling 865-429-7373. This is a nice place to get in a few miles while the rest of the family feeds the ducks or just runs crazy in the large open field.

The walking/running trail at Patriot Park connects to Phase I of the city’s Greenway plan. Beginning with the completion of a Greenways Master Plan in 1999, the City has undertaken the planning and construction of greenways in the City. From Patriot Park you can cross Old Mill Avenue and continue along the greenway past several homes to the mini-park/trail-head. The greenway then turns and runs along the river to Jake Thomas Road and then continues to the city’s new parking area. This trail will eventually continue past the Riverwalk Village at LeConte Center, formally known as Belle Island and currently under construction and set to open spring of 2012.

Pigeon Forge City Park is a beautiful park featuring two children’s playgrounds, four softball fields, a 1 mile paved walking/running trail, tennis and basketball courts, a soccer area, and easy access to the Pigeon Forge Community Center, where an indoor and outdoor pool as well as an indoor track are housed. This city park also has numerous pavilions which can be reserved for gatherings by calling the Pigeon Forge Community Center at 865-429-7373. This running trail runs along the Little Pigeon River and around the ball diamonds and community center. IF you are looking for a quiet place, right in town to log some miles, this is a great spot.

Gatlinburg

Mills Park is a large park convenient to the East Parkway in Gatlinburg. It is accessed from U.S. 321 at stoplight #3 to Mills Park Road. The park features a 400 meter track, great for getting in some speed work while on vacation.  The park has public restrooms and a fireplace. Mills Park also features two children’s play areas, a basketball court, soccer field and a nine hole disc golf course. Mills Park is within walking distance of the Gatlinburg Community Center. The Gatlinburg Community Center features an indoor swimming pool, a bowling center, tennis and racquetball courts, a fitness center, and a skate park for skateboards and other skate equipment.

The city of Gatlinburg has recently approved 14 mile greenway which in planned to be built in 13 smaller increments and when finished, the pieces would create a connected, paved path beside roads, streams and through some wooded areas that would stretch from the Glades area to downtown Gatlinburg.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park

There are plenty of amazing places to run in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With over 800 miles of trails, the Smoky Mountain is a wonderful place to enjoy a romp through the woods. While there are many trails to run we have listed our favorite runs in the National Park and challenge you to find the perfect trail for you. Please note running on the main heavily traveled roadways in the National Park, while beautiful, can be hazardous due to heavy traffic, steep terrain, and narrow roads with limited shoulder area, many roads in the park really aren’t conducive for safe and enjoyable running. For all practical purposes, only experienced runners, using extreme caution, should attempt to run on many of the main roads in the Smokies.

Cades Cove Loop RoadThe Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11 mile paved one way road and is a very popular running and cycling route. The loop provides runners with excellent wildlife viewing opportunities as well as running past several 19th century homesteads. You can make the route shorter by cutting across Hyatt Lane, a dusty two lane gravel road that dissects the loop. If you truly want to enjoy the beauty and majesty of this run, come early on Wednesday or Saturday. Beginning the 2nd week in May the loop is closed to motorized traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10.a.m. This closure continues thought the second to last Saturday in September. The Cades Cove Loop is a must if you want to truly enjoy the beauty, wildlife and serenity of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The Townsend Bicycle/Running Path is a paved trail, approximately 3 miles long and is located, as the name suggests in Townsend, TN, the self proclaimed “Peaceful side of the Smokies”. The path is an easy to moderate run with some rolling hills and runs along Hwy. US 321 with a small section running along the Little River. There is access to restaurants, shops and motels along the way and parking is available at both ends of the path.

Greenbrier AreaGreenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is approximately 6 miles east of Gatlinburg out US 321 and features a 6 mile gravel road which follows the river and its tributaries into the upper Greenbrier area with wonderful opportunities for wildlife viewing and in the spring is renowned for its wildflowers. This run takes you up to the Ramsey Cascades trail-head. Ramsey Cascades are the tallest cascades in the Smokies and if you were so inclined you could challenge yourself by continuing up the 4 mile rugged trail to the cascades themselves. The Ramsey Cascades trail run is only recommended for strong and experienced runners.

New Found GapGatlinburg to Newfound Gap is a run only recommended for strong and experienced runners looking for the ultimate Smoky Mountain challenge. From the Sugarland Visitor Center, just outside of Gatlinburg, up to the North Carolina/Tennessee state line just past New Found Gap, round trip, is approximately 26.2 miles. The climb to the top features an average grade of 5.2%.  For those Tour De France and cycling fans that would be considered a Category 1 climb. If you do decide to take on this challenge it is best to start just before dawn to avoid the heavier traffic, especially during the summer months. Reflective running gear is highly recommended. Viewing the sunrise from New Found Gap is a site to behold, especially earning the rite to enjoy it by climbing up to 5,046 feet in elevation. If you are up for the challenge this is an amazing run that you will never forget. If you want to cut the run in half, have friends or family drive up and meet you at New Found Gap, they will enjoy the drive and be super impressed with your latest accomplishment. Make sure they bring your recovery drink, you will need it.

For information on local races and events visit the Knoxville Track Club website.

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