Do the U.S. National Park visits intrigue you? Are you planning on adding a few of them to your bucket list travels this year? If so, you may want to consider a visit to the Smokies! The Great Smoky National Park is the most popular National park in America and is over 800 miles of wanderlust! I have visited this National Park many times and have yet to see everything there is to see. Also, after visiting there once there’s something that happens within your soul that will keep you longing to return..
I have enjoyed hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains during the spring, summer, and fall so there’s really never been a time I didn’t like or want to be there. I do try to avoid the holiday crowds because of the high number of tourists and traffic there but other than that, I doubt you can go wrong planning a trip anytime of the year. Nearly ten million visitors go there each year and that’s about twice the number of visits than any other national park in America. There are plenty of hotels, cabins and activities in the area but advanced reservations are definitely better to have.
There’s always plenty to do in the National Park and surrounding areas. My family and I like to hike all day and explore Gatlinburg in the evenings. We have stayed in cabins through hotels.com and planned the vacation to avoid downtown traffic during busy seasons by relaxing in a cabin. Other times we have reserved hotels downtown Gatlinburg so we can walk and enjoy city activities without driving. Both have many advantages and both are a lot of fun!
We try to start our hikes very early in the morning so we can find parking spots and be done with the hike by early afternoon. One of my favorite hikes is Rainbow Falls Trail. The trail head is off Cherokee Orchard Road and it’s a 5.5 mile hike with a 1653 elevation located on Mt. Le Conte and rated difficult because of the incline.
Gypsy Mama Bear Tip: Whenever I’m going on an adventure, I always try to pack some snacks. Check out this great protein bar special! Only 110 calories, low sugar and 15 grams of protein!
One of the reasons I like this Rainbow trail is because the entire trail is scenic with multiple waterfalls, and lovely wildflowers, plus you get a pretty good workout. I usually see a lot of wildlife each time I hike this “out and back” trail and you can hear the rapid river flowing during the hike. This waterfall also has a large enough rock ledge that you can walk underneath and enjoy the mist and falls while you are there. It makes great photo opportunities as well as a great way to cool down after the up-hill hike. My hair also loves the rainwater…. Enjoy the moment and be a nature-gypsy while you are here! .
Once you get to the falls you can continue on the trail to summit Mt. Le Conte, but it is rated difficult! The Rainbow Falls Trail is near Gatlinburg (about 6 miles) so you can have a picnic there and be back in town at a decent time for other activities and dinner
Gypsy Mama Bear tip: Wear hiking boots. The trail has many loose rocks and tennis shoes are not recommended. Take bug spray and have your cell phone close by for photos of wildlife..
For dinner in Gatlinburg we would recommend the Cherokee Grill and Steakhouse. There are plenty of yummy choices on the menu, even for the vegan.
Another fun evening activity is the Sugarlands Distilling Company! We had never tried Tennessee Moonshine and so when in Rome……you know the rest. We had a great time here sipping and sampling a few of the unique very flavorful moonshines. The bartender servers were great entertainers and the moonshine was pretty darn good as well!
If you want a real bang evening ending, hop on the gondola ride, chair lift, or tramway to the top of the mountain for a spectacular view of nature and Gatlinburg! Check the websites for hours and advance online ticket sales.
Another great hike is Laurel Falls Trail, a 2.4 easy out and back trail with lovely views. This is a nice short hike to do in the morning if you want to spend some time checking out Gatlinburg in the afternoon. We really enjoyed the breweries and sampled some seasonal favorites at the Gatlinburg Brewing Company and the Smoky Mountain Brewery.
Gypsy Mama Bear tip: If you have a furry friend, most of the Great Smoky National Park trails do not allow leashed pets on the trails. The only trails in the park that allow leashed pets are the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. We did not know this before we got to the park and unfortunately had to leave the dogs at the cabin for most of our hikes.
Nearby Gatlinburg, in Pigeon Forge, is Dollywood amusement park. I love to spend a midweek day at Dollywood, especially in the fall. The park is always decorated festive and the food, music, shows, and rides will keep you feeling young at heart. It spans over 150 acres and has more than 40 rides!
Dolly Parton opened this theme park over 35 years ago. She grew up near her theme park and she wanted to give back to the community by providing a lot of jobs in the area. If you grew up watching and loving Dolly Parton as much as I did and do, you will not want to miss her Chasing Rainbows museum in the park. She narrates her life’s journey through the Great Smoky Mountains.
If you are a thrill seeker make sure you ride the Wild Eagle. It is one of my favorite roller coasters of all time. You will feel like an eagle soaring through the air as the coaster free falls down the tracks.
In the summer, the park will host a new flower and food festival through that features spectacular displays of flowers and plants from horticulturists.
In the fall, Dollywood’s Harvest Festival showcases the Great Pumpkin LumiNights the last week of September and all of October. The park has fun lighted carved pumpkins and artistic sculptures on display. This is a real fall must-see-and-do treat that will definitely get you into the holiday spirit!
Dollywood is the most popular ticketed attraction in Tennessee. It is an amazing attraction that is unique and should not be missed.
Gypsy Mama Bear tip: Order tickets online and check dates and hours for the park.
For hotel accommodations, we love to use Hotels.com. It’s a great way to get free hotel stays. The rates are discounted and reasonable. Once you accumulate 10 stays, you will receive one free stay. Be sure to tap on our hotel affiliate photos and links for the special discounts!
We appreciate you reading our Great Smoky Mountain National Park blog. America has 62 lovely parks that are full of natural wonders just waiting for you to discover. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park should most definitely be on your bucket list!
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
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Thank you Brian!