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 once quaint mountain town into a popular tourist destination.
Home to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s 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.
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. The town 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. Thanks to the National Park, this town also fosters an small 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
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. It is often referred to as “The Quiet Side of the Smokies.”
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. Cosby, Tennessee
Where: Cosby is nestled right up against the northern side of the Smoky Mountains.
Why: Once touted as the Moonshine Capital of the World, this unincorportated town now tops out at just about 5,000 people.
Cosby is just down Highway 321. It’s exactly where you’ll want to be to enjoy some solitude in the splendor of the Smoky Mountains’ beauty.
Hit the less-traveled Foothills Parkway for breathtaking views of the Appalachian Trail, which traverses the state lines of Tennessee and neighboring North Carolina.
Because of its easy access to the Smokies, visitors to Cosby can enjoy quick day trips for casual hiking. Use the Cosby Campground 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, Cosby 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.
Wears Valley is brimming with scenic drives, tranquil views, and the kind of friendly faces that make this town so special. You just won’t find these attractions in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg!
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
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.
Rich in Native American culture, you can see a variety of traditional crafts and reenactments. The Cherokee were the original settlers of this beautiful area, and a visit to this town won’t disappoint.
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. 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.
This town also has a claim to fame – it’s the final resting place of Horace Kephart. He’s revered by many to be the father of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad through the gorgeous and varied North Carolina Countryside.
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
Why: While Elkmont is no longer inhabited, this fascinating ghost town still warrants a visit if you’re taking a trip to the Smokies. A stroll through this town’s abandoned buildings is sure to be a thrill for ghost hunters and thrill-seekers alike!
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. See two still-standing graveyards, abandoned cottages and chalets, and buildings that are starting to be reclaimed by nature. Always follow National Park Service rules and DO NOT TRESPASS. These buildings are rotting fast and can be hazardous if you venture inside.
If you’re in the Smoky Mountains area, a quick trip to historic Elkmont is worth the visit.
10. Maryville, Tennessee
Where: Maryville is a peaceful college 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 less touristy than some of the more popular Smoky Mountains towns, the area has a perfect blend of mountain town 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. It’s visible from nearly anywhere in town. This proud mountain vista is just one of many things that add to Maryville’s charm.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out all of our local vacation guides. We share our favorite places, tips for packing, and even fun vacation ideas for your Smoky Mountain getaway. Follow American Patriot Getaways on Facebook and Instagram so you don’t miss a thing!