Sometimes we just want to avoid crowds in Gatlinburg and get away from everyone except our loved ones when we vacation. The Great Smoky Mountains is perfect for doing just that. The Smokies are the place to enjoy the quiet of the mountains, a secluded cabin, walks in the woods, wildlife, fishing, or a peaceful kayak/canoe trip. This is where you can take a hike, find mountain streams, waterfalls, and amazing views. You can take a scenic drive and stay in the car, with the windows down, smelling the wonderful mountain air.
Here are our favorite ways to avoid crowds in the Smokies.
1.Take a Scenic Drive
Driving in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful way to stay close with family and friends while taking in the stunning natural beauty, the flowing waterfalls, the incredible wildflowers, and the wild animals. The park was created in 1934 with auto touring in mind.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is 5.5 miles long and a one-way looped, narrowing road. You’ll drive past well-preserved vintage cabins and grist mills. They’re quiet snippets of history. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is open April through November.
To get there, take the main Gatlinburg Parkway (Hwy 441), make a turn at stoplight #8. You will follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You will come upon signs to follow for the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The motor trail makes a loop and ends in Gatlinburg. At the stop light, turn left onto Hwy 321 and you will return to the Gatlinburg Parkway.
You’ll see a lot of wildlife:
For motorists, there is an 11-mile loop road that circles the Cove. The loop is a great feature that offers tourists the opportunity to sight-see at their own pace and to avoid crowds in the Smokies. Always remember to pull off to the side of the road and let other motorists pass if you’d like to stop and taken in the views.
Read more about Cades Cove in this blog post.
Rich Mountain Road offers another fantastic route to view Cades Cove. This route is an 8-mile one-way road that ditches pavement for gravel, really bringing you closer to nature. Take it easy on this path and really soak in Cades Cove as you head up the mountains and back to Townsend. Check out our guide to Townsend and The Foothills Parkway.
This road leads you away from Cades Cove. You cannot go back into the park without driving back to the main entrance of the loop road. The road is winding and steep; a 4-wheel drive vehicle is recommended by the National Park Service for this route.
Upper Tremont is a hidden gem. It is the road away from it all, offering you a peaceful drive. You’ll know from the gravel path that it’s the road less taken by tourists. Upper Tremont Road can be found near Wears Valley, on your way to Cades Cove. It’s another scenic drive that allows you to really enjoy the wonders of mother nature and avoid crowds in the Smokies. This is especially true during the fall season. If you want to get out and experience the area, that option is available, too. Be sure to pick up the self-guided auto tour booklet from the start of the road. Stop at all the waypoints and learn the rich and varied history of Tremont.
On the Upper Tremont Road, you will find several hiking trails to choose from: waterfalls, rivers, and tree-shaded parking areas. For more scenic drives, check out our blog post.
2.Take a Hike
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has more than 150 trails to choose from with over 800 total miles of hiking trails. Likely the more difficult trails will be the least crowded.
Check current weather conditions.
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, 2 miles south of Gatlinburg, drive 8.6 miles east on Newfound Gap Road. There you will find two parking areas, where a gravel path leads to The Grassy Patch and the beginning of a 2.3 mile hike to Alum Cave Bluff. This moderately difficult hike is 4.6 miles round-trip or 5.1 miles on to LeConte Lodge. The round-trip to the cave bluff takes about 2 and 1/2 hours, but allow about 3 and 1/2 hours to LeConte Lodge. The Alum Cave Trail is the most popular and well-known route to Mount Le Conte. Features include Arch Rock, 1993 summer storm damage, Inspiration Point, Alum Cave Bluff.
The Rainbow Falls Trail is fairly challenging if completed all the way to Mt LeConte. Allow an hour and a half to Rainbow Falls and four hours to Mt LeConte. Hikers will gain nearly 4,000 feet in elevation by the time they get to Mt. LeConte. The point of departure is at Cherokee Orchard Road – Turn at light #8 in Gatlinburg and follow the Airport Road 1 mile out of Gatlinburg into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The name will change from Airport Road to Cherokee Orchard Road.
About 2.5 miles after entering the Park, Cherokee Orchard Road approaches the Rainbow Falls parking area. You will find the trail head at one edge of the parking area. Features of interest include the 2.8 mile point when you arrive at Rainbow Falls. At the 6.6 mile point you will come upon an Alum Cave Trail junction which leads left 0.1 mile to the LeConte Lodge. You can hike from Cades Cove too.
Cades Cove hiking trails include: Abrams Falls, Ace Gap, Anthony Creek Trail, Beard Cane, Bote Mountain, Cades Cove Nature Trail, Cane Creek, Cooper Road, Crib Gap Trail, Gregory Bald Hiking Trail, Gregory Ridge Hiking Trail, Hannah Mountain, Hatcher Mountain, Indian Grave Gap, Little Bottoms, Rabbit Creek Hiking Trail, Rich Mountain Loop Trail, Rich Mountain Trail, Russell Field, Scott Mountain, and Wet Bottom horse trail. Read about more hiking trails and advice here.
Year-round fly fishing is permitted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can start fishing thirty minutes before official sunrise but must finish up no later than thirty minutes after official sunset, either way, it’s a sure way to avoid crowds in the Smokies. Here are a few other fishing facts worth knowing:
Fishing is allowed in all streams in the Tennessee section of the Park, except for Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong. Detailed information, including a complete list of regulations and a map of fishable park waters, is also available at any visitor center or ranger station.
You will need a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina to fish in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. No trout stamp is required. While licenses and permits are not available for purchase in the Park, they can be obtained in many nearby towns or online. Special permits are required for fishing in Gatlinburg and Cherokee.
Douglas Lake is a beautiful, 30,400-foot lake with a maximum depth of 140 feet. The fishing is grand here – just ask my nephew Alex and my brother-in-law Matt. There’s room to play, boat, swim. The lake extends 43.1 miles upstream from Douglas Dam and only has about 17% of the shoreline developed. Rolling hills of farmland and residential areas surround the lake.
4. Kayak or Canoe
The Great Smoky Mountains includes many rivers and what better way to enjoy them than in a kayak or a canoe. Here are some of our favorite spots for creeking and tracking or just floating (you will have to paddle at some point unless you are sittin’ pretty in the middle seat). You can rent a kayak or canoe or bring your own.
Check out our guide to kayaking and canoeing in the Smokies.
If you’ve got a peak season trip planned to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, you know that traffic can sometimes be a real pain. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to stay out of much of the traffic and continue to enjoy your trip to the Smoky Mountains.
Visit During the Week
There are more than 100 stops throughout the Gatlinburg area, making riding the trolley convenient and easy. You can even use the trolley to visit the Great Smoky Mountains! Take the tan line to the popular Sugarlands Visitor Center, Laurel Falls Trail, and historic Elkmont. It also goes to the historic Arts & Crafts Community known as The Glades.
If you’re not looking to get right into the middle of town, taking Veterans Boulevard can help you avoid traffic in Pigeon Forge. If you’re coming in town from Highway 66 at exit 407 or off Highway 411 from exit 432, Veterans Boulevard may be your best option. Veterans Boulevard parallels the Pigeon Forge Parkway and can take you in to town at stoplight #8. By utilizing Veterans Boulevard, you can still access Dollywood and Splash Country. Why not rent a cabin near Dollywood and not only avoid that Pigeon Forge traffic, but maybe even catch a fireworks show from your very own porch every night!
If you need to travel through Pigeon Forge to reach your destination, you’ve got an alternative to the main Parkway.
Running from stoplight #2 all the way to Veterans Boulevard, you can take Teaster Lane and get in to Pigeon Forge at stoplights #2, #2A, #3, and #4. It also may be the easiest way for you to access The Island during times of high traffic.
In 2019, new development is underway on Teaster Lane as well. The Mountain Mile and Tower Shops began construction with a drive-in style movie theater called August Moon in the works. Check out all the new attractions you can visit in 2019 and 2020 over on our travel guide.
Stay in Wears Valley Cabins
Want to avoid the traffic and stay in the mountains? Book a Wears Valley Cabin with American Patriot Getaways! By booking a cabin in Wears Valley, you’ll stay on the quiet side of the Smoky Mountains, but still be just a few miles from Pigeon Forge.
5. Play and Relax in a Secluded Cabin
Whether that’s visiting another attraction, going out to dinner or heading back to the hot tub in your American Patriot Getaways cabin, you’ll be able to avoid crowds in the Smokies. Check out our blog on favorite lunch spots and romantic dinner locations in the area.
Whether you want a cabin without mountain roads or something fully ensconced in the beauty of the mountains, a cozy bungalow or treehouse or a cabin with all the entertainment – movie theater, pool, big kitchen, games and lots of space, American Patriot Getaways has a cabin for you. https://patriotgetaways.com/pigeon-forge-secluded-cabins
Give American Patriot Getaways a call at (800) 204-5169, and let our experts help you find the right cabin. The perfect cabin in addition to all the right fun, food and entertainment for an adult vacation will have you wanting to come back as soon as possible!
American Patriot Getaways offers over 400 amazing Pigeon Forge cabin rentals.