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One of the best qualities about nature and a natural vacation setting such as in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is that a lot of what you can do is FREE! There are so many things to do and see in the Pigeon Forge area that are free or inexpensive. Here are nine of our favorites.

A woman counting American money
You can get to many of these with the fun and extremely inexpensive (free for children ages 3 and under) Pigeon Forge trolley.

One of the only public forms of transportation in the area, the Pigeon Forge trolley allows you to explore all of the free things to do in Pigeon Forge with kids at an incredibly low price. For $3, you can get an all-day pass that lets you ride the trolley an unlimited amount throughout the day! You can ride to popular stops like Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country, Wears Valley, and more.

1. Cades Cove Scenic Drive

Springtime Landscape at Cades Cove by Nancy J Olds

Take a picnic lunch with you – lots of places in town will make up something for you to pick up or head to a grocery store and put together your own fun lunch of cheeses, wine, fruit and snacks – making it in your full-equipped Smoky Mountain cabin kitchen.

Here are some suggestions for picking up lunch:
*Old Dad’s (ask for your sandwiches picnic style!)
*Parton’s Deli
*Mountain Edge Grill
*Mama’s Chicken Kitchen – a bucket of fried chicken and fixin’s – the perfect southern picnic food
*J.O.E. and Pop’s

Pigeon Forge:
*The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge
*Firehouse Subs
*McAlister’s Deli
*Jersey Mike’s
*Fudge at Pop Pop’s
*Boxed Lunches – Old Mill Pottery House

*Keto’s and Koffee – Sevierville – opens early at 7 a.m. so you can stop in on your way up the mountain

2. Hike the Smokies
hiking in the smoky mountains

Clingman’s Dome

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher.

“The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.

On clear days views expand more than 100 miles.

Mt. LeConte

A classic hike, often defined as the most beautiful in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LeConte total elevation gain 2,763 feet, highest elevation 6, 593 feet round trip hike – 11 miles. The Alum cave trail offers an unmatched combination of interesting geological features, history, adventure and stunning panoramic views. This is a strenuous trail so be prepared.

Alum Cave Bluff in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Directions to Trailhead:

This hike to Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains begins from the Alum Cave Trailhead. To reach the trailhead from the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 8.7 miles south along Newfound Gap Road. The parking area will be on your left. Due to the extreme popularity of the Alum Cave Trail, there are actually two parking lots for this trailhead. To ensure a spot you may want to arrive early during peak tourist season, or on any nice weekend throughout the year.

Check out our blog post on why you should plan a hike in the Smokies.

3. Riverwalk Greenway

The Pigeon Forge Greenway system includes 6 miles of trails along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, around Patriot Park (see No. 5 on our list), around the old City Park behind the Pigeon Forge Community Center and throughout Wear Farm Park.

Included in the Greenway system is the Riverwalk Greenway – more than 4 miles of trails taking  cyclists and walkers 1 mile around the old City Park loop behind the Pigeon Forge Community Center, along the river for 1 mile through the Island in Pigeon Forge, and then behind the LeConte Convention Center and along Butler St for 1.5 miles where it connects to the ½ mile trail at Patriot Park.

4. Meet the horses from Dolly Parton’s Stampede

You don’t have to be going to a show at the dinner theater to stop in and meet the horses.  Remember though- American Patriot Getaways has discount tickets!

5. Play at Patriot Park

This 16-acre park in the heart of Pigeon Forge is  tribute to wartime veterans. Like most parks, there’s a gazebo, plenty of open space and a walking trail.

The gazebo and pavilion require reservations with the city if you’d like to picnic or gather there. Along the trail, you’ll see flags from all 50 states, as well as several memorials to the veterans from Pigeon Forge.

6. Visit Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum

Founded in 1982, the non-profit corporation was created to preserve the heritage of the Little River Lumber Company and the Little River Railroad.

7747 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend TN
(865) 661-0170

The larger artifacts, including Shay 2147, a vintage caboose (L&N Class NE “Little Woody”), two vintage flatcars, a portable Frick steam engine, one of the original “setoff” houses (used for logging families in the mountains), a wooden water tank that was used in Walland and a log loader are displayed on the grounds. Our plans include construction of a replica of a passenger platform.

In 1983 the original Walland Depot building was moved to the site, and now contains the primary collection of photographs, papers, tools and other smaller artifacts. This building was renovated in 1995-96, and new exhibits were created to tell the Little River story. Alongside the depot platform, museum volunteers have constructed a replica of the Elkmont Post Office which houses our Gift Shop.

A one-time visit is free but you can also become a member with a tax deductible donation – a year or a lifetime.

7. Visit The Island in Pigeon Forge

With 23 acres of activities, attractions, shops and restaurants, The Island is quite the entertainment scene. It’s free to enter, sit by the fountains and watch the water/music show, window shop and people watch. Located on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, five miles north of the Great Smoky National Park.

The Island Fountain Show
The Island Show Fountain is a state-of-the-art, multi-tiered show fountain featuring a stunning presentation of water dance and light, all perfectly choreographed to 14 pieces of music. “More than 89 nozzles help to create the show’s performance. You’ll even get to see a nozzle located in the center of the fountain that projects water 60 feet into the air. Be sure to watch the show at night to see an array of color added to the presentation.

The show is free for all guests to enjoy so find a rocking chair or a bench and watch all day if you want.

The Great Smoky Mountain Water Wheel is the centerpiece of The Island, and at 200-feet, the Ferris Wheel is one of the tallest features in the entire Southeast. It features stunning bird-eye views of the Smoky Mountains.

Adult tickets run for $14.00 and children 3-11 years old get in for $9.

Visitors can get an unlimited ride pass for all The Island rides for 48 hours for $30 or add another $10 and include the Ropes Course – a three-story explorer ropes course complete with suspension bridges, zip lines, and a free-fall jump!

The course costs $15 on its own.

Check out our blog post on a perfect day at The Island.

8. See Goats on the Roof

This is just so fun! Real goats living, playing and eating on a roof.

You can watch them for free from the second-floor gift shop. You can pay a small fee and buy some food to feed the goats. In the gift shop, you’ll also find fresh-made fudge and ice cream.

Goats On The Roof Of The Smokies Mountains, 1341 Wears Valley Road, (865) 366-7139

9. Float, Cool off in Swimming Holes and Waterfalls

Go where the locals go and float down the river for free.River in Pigeon Forge

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its waterfalls and streams. In the summertime when air temperatures are in the high 80s and 90s with 90% humidity, the cool 65-degree mountain waters are a refreshing.

Some local spots, where you can take a float or an inner tube or just wade through the water: Midnight-Hole in Big Creek  and more.

Let American Patriot Getaways Help Plan Your Perfect Smokies Vacation


Ready to book your adventure in the Smoky Mountains? Give American Patriot Getaways a call at 800-204-5169. Let our experts help you find the right cabin and all the right fun, food and entertainment for a vacation that won’t break the bank.

Check out our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide for more adventures. We have discount tickets to many attractions in the area. You can also contact us online by searching our cabins in Gatlinburg and in Pigeon Forge.  Check out our Pinterest boards for 50% Off Cabins and budget-friendly vacation cabins.

If you need more help planning your Smoky Mountain Vacation, be sure to check out all our vacation guides, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!


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