PassPorter Online
Award-winning travel guidebooks
Home Florida - Walt Disney World Caribbean - Disney Cruise Line California - Disneyland Resort Anywhere and Everywhere! Travelers Store Message Boards PassPorter's Club Help!
  About Us  |  Customs Office   |   Register Your Book   |   Book Updates   |  Newsletter  |  Articles  |  Photos  |   Follow Us on
Articles Menu
PassPorter Articles
Disney Dreaming
What Keeps Us Coming Back
Disney for Veteran Visitors
Rumor Round-Up
Finding Answers
Best Disney Trip Advice
Getting Your Disney Fix
How Young Is Too Young?
Top Ten Disney Questions
Tipping (Gratuities)
Timeshare Vacation Offers
Disney World on a Budget
Credit Cards 101
Money-Saving Strategies
Preparing Kids For Disney
Taking Toddlers to Disney
Planning Trips for Others
Convincing Others To Go
Importance of Being Lazy

Preparing For Your Disney Cruise
Ten "Must Pack" Items
Touring With A Group
Chaperoning A Group Trip
Ten Travel Tips
Luggage Tips
iPhone, I Travel
Driving to Disney
Driving With Kids
Child Safety Seats
CARES Harness Review
Rental Cars
Amtrak Auto Train
Airline Security
Flying With Kids
Surviving Long Flights
Surviving Bumpy Flights
Surviving Bad Vacations
Surviving Long Airport Waits
Staying Healthy
First Aid on Vacation
Solo Travel
Pregnant at Disney
Dress For Travel
Traveling With Pets
International Travel
Taking A 'Greener' Trip to WDW

Orlando Sanford Airport
Choosing a Resort
On-Site Lodging vs. Off-Site Lodging
Disney Resort Primer
Reserving a Room
Key to the World Card
Fun at Resort Hotels
Disney Vacation Club
All-Star Movies
All-Star Music
All-Star Sports
All-Star Vacation Homes
Animal Kingdom Lodge: Perfect for Teens
Villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Beach Club
BoardWalk Inn & Villas
Contemporary Resort
Ft. Wilderness Camping
Old Key West
Wilderness Lodge
Home Sweet Home
Grand Californian #1
Grand Californian #2
Grosvenor Resort
Hilton Resort
Orlando Airport Marriott
Radisson Resort Parkway
Shades of Green
Westin Century Plaza
Making The Most of Bell Services at Disney's Deluxe Resorts
DVC's Old Key West Resort
Preparing For Your Disney Cruise
New Ships!
Cruise Security
International Port Security
Convincing a Husband to Cruise
Palo Dinner Review
Vow Renewals Onboard
Cruising With Special Diets
Cruising St. Martin
One in a Million Cruise
Zip-A-Dee-Zip-Line: A Canopy Adventure
A 'Magic' Time In The Mediterranean
A Wrap-Up From DCL's Inaugural Mediterranean Cruise
DCL: Not Just for Kids!
Spa Villas Review
Laugh Floor Comedy Club
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Fantasyland For Adults
Mission: SPACE
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
Star Wars Weekends
Animal Kingdom
Expedition EVEREST
Surviving the Parks as First Time Parents
Surviving the Holidays
Overcoming Kids Fears
Planning Park Days
Four Parks in One Day
Touring with Toddlers
A Kid's Perspective
A Teen's Take
Educational Epcot
Flower & Garden Festival
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
Scary Places (Halloween)
Playing "Millionaire"
Winning "Millionaire"
A Day With Allie
Past Attractions at Magic Kingdom
Meeting Mickey
Disneyland at 50
Future of Disneyland
Beyond the Disney Parks
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Monorail System
California Adventure
Expanding Disney's California Adventure
10 Reasons to Love Disneyland
A WDW Veteran's First Trip to Disneyland
A Disneyland Veteran's First Trip to Walt Disney World
Disneyland Homecoming
Walt Disney World With Pre-Teen Boys
Keys To The Kingdom Backstage Tour
Pirates & Princess Party
WDW with Teens? Absolutely!
Disney Dining Plan
More Dining Plan Tips
Dining Plan Revisited
Dining Plan Answers
Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) Strategies
Artist Point Review
California Grill Review
Nine Dragons Review
Spoodles Review
The Turf Club Review
Crystal Palace Review
Yak & Yeti Review
Tutto Italia Review
Character Dinners
Dine With A Disney Imagineer
Eating Healthy at Disney
Food Allergies
White Water Snacks
MurderWatch Mystery Theatre
Disneyland Dining: Yamabuki
Disneyland Area Dining: Pirate's Dinner Adventure
Party For The Senses
Artist Point
1900 Park Fare Dinner Review
Making Magic
Romance At Disney World
Beating The Post Trip Blues
Discovering the Magic
Magic of Slowing Down
Unexpected Treasures
Wishes Fireworks Cruise
Backstage Tours
Epcot's Segway Tour
Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival
Taking Great Photos
Taking Great Fireworks Photos
Digital Photo Q & A
Souvenirs on a Budget
Pal Mickey
Birthdays at Disney
Reunions and Gatherings
Holidays (Christmas)
More Holidays
Disney Intimate Weddings
Disney Vow Renewals
Custom Events
Preserving Memories
Scrapbooking Supplies
Finding Scrapbook Supplies at WDW
Memories and Milestones
Scavenger Hunts
Hidden Mickeys
Hidden Mickeys Book Review
Richard Petty Experience
More Richard Petty Rides
Ft. Wilderness Trail Ride
Disney Podcasts
MouseFest 2006
Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba
Making of PassPorter
Rest of the World
United States:
Big Apple Greeter
City Pass Cards
Hilton Head Island #1
Hilton Head Island #2
Celebration, Florida
Key Largo & Islamorada
Miami, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida
Space Coast, Florida
Tampa-St. Petersburg
WonderWorks (Orlando)
Knoebels, Pennsylvania
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco
Anza-Borrego Desert
Grand Canyon
The Poconos
New York City
New York Splash Tours
New York City Dining
New York: Antiques
New England
New Orleans
Nashville, Tennessee
Adventures by Disney: Wyoming
Fort Sumter, South Carolina
Zoos of the World
Universal Studios Orlando
New Attractions at Universal Orlando
Seuss Trolley Train Ride at Universal Orlando
Sanibel & Captiva Islands
Universal: For Non-Thrill Seekers?
Madison County, Iowa
The Great Smoky Mountains
Discovery Cove (Orlando)
Busch Gardens Africa: SheiKra Coaster Review
NASCAR AllState 400
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Niagara Falls, New York
Blue Horizons at SeaWorld Orlando
International Travel:
London Museums
London's Globe Theatre
Kent, England
Bath, England
Great Britain via Harry Potter
Stockholm, Sweden
Helsinki, Finland
Quebec City, Canada
Prince Edward Island
South Africa
Leeds Castle
Windsor Castle
Dover Castle
Niagara Falls, Ontario

The Great Smoky Mountains

by Michelle Clark, PassPorter Guest Columnist

Looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life? A great destination for a weekend getaway or a family vacation is the Great Smoky Mountains. Situated at the North Carolina/Tennessee border, the Great Smoky Mountains or the “Smokies” are part of the Appalachian Mountains and are home to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some 521,000 acres were set aside as a National Park in 1934. With over 9 million visitors to the park each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the country. This is largely due to the fact that over half of the U.S. population is located within a day’s drive of the park. U.S. Highway 441 travels through the park and is the most utilized route to enter the Great Smoky Mountains.


The Smokies are a true nature preserve, with forest comprising nearly 95 percent of the national park. Approximately 1,600 black bear make their home in the park, and whitetail deer are plentiful. Bird watchers will delight in the 200 species of birds native to the park. Recently the National Park Service reintroduced elk and river otters into the park. There are over 1,600 different wildflowers native to the Smokies, more than any other national park.

As you travel on U.S. Highway 441 you will encounter many beautiful scenic views of the Smokies. Newfound Gap (elevation 5,048 feet) is the lowest drivable “gap” or pass in the park. There is plenty of parking at Newfound Gap, so be sure to stop and check the view. Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the highest point in Tennessee. You can take the half-mile hike up to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome. On a clear day you can see seven states from the tower! The hike is steep but paved and pretty easy to maneuver. Bring a jacket along, even in the warmer months it can be a bit chilly at the top. 

The park itself provides a variety of activities for day trips or vacations. There are over 800 miles of hiking trails inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These trails range from short nature trails to longer backwoods hikes. If you desire something in between, there are several 1.5 to 2 mile hikes that will reward you with fabulous scenic views of the mountains or waterfalls. Horseback riding is another popular activity in the park. There are several riding stables in the area that offer guided riding tours in the mountains.

The Oconaluftee River at the southern end of the park near Cherokee and the Little Pigeon River near Gatlinburg are popular with trout fishermen. Open season for trout fishing runs April 1 through November 30, and a license and permit are required to fish. These can be obtained at the Park Welcome Center for fishing in Tennessee. If you plan to fish the Oconaluftee in the Cherokee Indian Reservation you will need to purchase a separate North Carolina license, available at a number of stores and locations in Cherokee.

Picnic and camping facilities are available inside the park. Need to cool off? White water rafting on the Pigeon River is another popular activity in the area. You can make reservations for your rafting trip with several area outfitters. The dense foliage of the forests in the Smokies provides spectacular colors in the fall, drawing large numbers of leaf watchers. The roadways in the park can be packed on autumn weekends with cars lining up to view the changing leaves.

One of the most popular destinations inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a valley tucked deep inside the Smokies that was originally inhabited by a group of pioneer settlers. Many of the original log homes and other buildings dating back to the 1800s have been preserved and can be toured today. Cades Cove is accessible by an 11-mile one-way loop road. There are three churches still standing in Cades Cove that can be reserved for church services. Our local congregation has visited Cades Cove and held a service in one of the old church buildings. Sitting on backless pine benches is quite different than the padded pews we have today! The biggest draw of Cades Cove is not the old settlement buildings but rather, the plentiful wildlife. One trip around the loop road can easily reward visitors with glimpses of dozens of whitetail deer and possibly even a bear. Approximately halfway around the loop is a visitor center with restrooms. There is a large meadow next to the visitor center that is perfect for picnics. Since Cades Cove is extremely popular and has only a one-way road, traffic can back up during the busier seasons. Biking and horseback riding is also allowed on the loop road.

New visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park will benefit from a stop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center located on U.S. 441south of Gatlinburg. Nearby is Little River Road, which leads to Cades Cove. Here you will find information on all the park has to offer. The center has plenty of maps and brochures. You can also view a short film about the park and view a preserved animal exhibit in the nature museum. There is a bookstore and gift shop inside the visitor’s center along with restrooms and vending machines.

Most hotels and restaurants in the Great Smoky Mountains area have brochure stands with literature on a variety of attractions in the area.  There are an abundance of coupon books for some of the area attractions as well.

No trip to the Smokies is complete without a visit to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is currently celebrating its Bicentennial, although much has changed in this small town since its inception in 1807. Located at the northern entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on U.S. 441, Gatlinburg is jam packed with attractions, shopping, dining, and lodging options. The heart of Gatlinburg is a one mile strip of Highway 441, also known as the Parkway.

There are plenty of lodging options in Gatlinburg ranging from hotels/motels, condos, bed & breakfasts, and cabins and chalets. Many of the hotels and motels in downtown Gatlinburg are established, family owned facilities but most of the well known chains have properties in town. We prefer the Hampton Inn as it is located near many attractions, shopping, and dining. Most of the hotels in the area offer some type of deluxe continental breakfast which can save money on food. There are many time shares in the Gatlinburg area, so if you own a time share you may have Gatlinburg properties in your network. If you are traveling with a larger party you may be more comfortable renting a cabin. Location should be the major factor in choosing your lodging. The easiest way to get to the various attractions in Gatlinburg is walking, so you location is key.

So, what’s there to do in Gatlinburg? What’s not offered may be a better question! Gatlinburg offers a wide variety of attractions ranging from mini golf to haunted houses to a world class aquarium. Ripley’s, best known for their “Believe It or Not” Museums, operates six attractions in Gatlinburg: Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Moving Theater, Davy Crockett Mini Golf, and Guinness World Records Museum. But Ripley’s doesn’t have a monopoly on fun in Gatlinburg. You can also find black light golf, indoor go-karts, laser tag, ghost houses, car museums, and other similar attractions. Each of these attractions has separate admission that will range in price from $8 up to $18.00 plus tax. Ripley’s offers a combo ticket which will save you money if you plan to do several of the Ripley’s attractions. Parking is hard to come by in Gatlinburg and will cost you at least $6.00 per day.

Besides the usual “tourist traps”, Gatlinburg has several unique, established attractions. Ober Gatlinburg, located above the town, is a ski resort and amusement park. You can ride the sky lift or aerial tramway to access Ober Gatlinburg. Non skiers can skate in its large indoor rink or enjoy go-karts, mini golf, or shopping. But the crown jewel of Gatlinburg attractions has to be the Aquarium of the Smokies. This 1.4 million gallon aquarium features over 10,000 difference sea creatures in a variety of settings including a tropical rainforest, ocean realm, and coral reef. The shark lagoon is enclosed in an underwater tunnel with a slow moving sidewalk so you can ride while you take in the 4 different species of sharks in the lagoon. If you plan a morning trip to the aquarium you can watch a diver clean the lagoon by hand while two other divers ward off the curious sharks! The coral reef tank has daily dive shows where you can watch divers interact with over 1,000 fish. You can get “up close and personal” with stingray and horseshoe crabs at Toucharay Bay.

If your favorite activity involves a Visa card, don’t worry–there’s plenty of shopping available in Gatlinburg. Over 450 shops located along the Parkway in roadside stores and malls offer every kind of souvenir imaginable, from Dixie Outfitter T-shirts to grandfather clocks to Crocs. 

All this activity will surely build up an appetite, and Gatlinburg offers a variety of dining options. Pancakes are a local favorite, so you will find a number of pancake houses that serve all day. The Peddler is a locally owned steak house with a unique twist: the “peddler” will push a meat cart to your table so you can choose your specific cut of meat. The restaurant was built around the original cabin of one of Gatlinburg’s first settlers and is located on the river. Get there early and request a table next to the river for enchanting views.

Familiar chain restaurants in Gatlinburg include the Hard Rock Café, Texas Roadhouse, TGIFriday’s, and fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, and Burger King. Just want a snack? You’ve come to the right place. Walk along the parkway (or “the strip” as it is often referred to) and you can find fudge, funnel cakes, ice cream, frozen lemonade, and many other treats that will ruin your diet! We like to visit Fanny Farkle’s for an original Ogle Dog (a hand dipped corn dog) or grilled sausage dogs. Visit the Old Smoky Mountain Candy Kitchen and watch them make taffy at the front window. 

Most travelers combine their Gatlinburg vacation with a visit to Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is located about 6 miles north of the Gatlinburg strip. Like Gatlinburg, the major attractions, dining, shopping, and lodging are all located on or just off Highway 441 or the Parkway. Pigeon Forge is probably best known as the home of Dolly Parton and Dollywood, but there’s much more to do here than visit Dolly’s theme park. The attractions in Pigeon Forge are similar to what you find in neighboring Gatlinburg. The difference is that Pigeon Forge is much more spread out–you don’t walk to attractions in Pigeon Forge, and there is plenty of parking.

The majority of the attractions at Pigeon Forge are larger and outdoors, so there are more go-kart and mini-golf type attractions. You will find a wider variety of hotels/motels at Pigeon Forge, and generally the rates are cheaper here than at Gatlinburg. Common amenities at Pigeon Forge motels include free breakfast and high speed internet. Many properties have outdoor pools with slides. The newer lodging facilities are located north on Highway 441 towards Sevierville.

 Pigeon Forge is a shopper’s dream! Besides the standard souvenir shops, Pigeon Forge is home to several large outlet malls including Belz and Pigeon Forge Factory Outlets. Neighboring Sevierville has the Tanger Outlets. It’s so close to Pigeon Forge that you won’t realize you left one town and entered another. The Christmas Place is a unique shop which consists of 30,000 square feet of Christmas merchandise.

 Dinner shows are popular with Pigeon Forge visitors. Dolly started it all with the Dixie Stampede, a Southern style meal with North versus South entertainment. There are approximately 20 different dinner theaters in Pigeon Forge. In fact the section of Highway 441 where most of the theaters are located is commonly referred to as “music row”. Most dinner shows require advance reservations.

A few local favorites include The Old Mill Restaurant and the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. The Old Mill is located at a historic 1800's gristmill with a large water wheel on the Little Pigeon River. The restaurant serves classic southern cooking such as country fried steak or chicken and dumplings. Homemade pies and desserts complete the experience. You can purchase cornmeal, grits, or pancake mixes ground onsite as well as homemade jams and jellies in the Old Mill General Store. The Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant is located at The Apple Barn, which has sold apples, cider, apple butter, and many other products for over 20 years. If its apple related, chances are they have it at The Apple Barn. The Apple Barn has expanded to include a Christmas shop, a winery, and a candy factory. Home made ice cream is available at the creamery where you’ll find some of the most delicious and unique flavors of ice cream (yes they give out free samples!). The restaurant also serves southern cuisine but is most famous for their delicious apple fritters. Be sure to get a sackful to take home with you after your visit to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area!

The Smokies offer a variety of activities for visitors from all walks of life, any time of the year.  There is sure to be something to please everyone!

Here are some helpful sites when planning a trip the Smokies:

National Park Service (

Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce

Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism (

Related Links: Adventures by Disney: Wyoming

Return to | Ask a Question on the PassPorter Message Boards

Updated 04/06/07 

Read additional articles from

Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, PassPorter News, published for more than 58,000 opt-in subscribers worldwide. As an added bonus for subscribing, you will receive a 20% discount coupon for the PassPorter Store -- no catch!

E-mail Address:

First Name:

E-mail Format:
-Text/Don't Know  



We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result in more spam! We guarantee it.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Copyright 1999-2015
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.

Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks

PassPorter's Walt Disney World guidebook

PassPorter's Sidekick for the Walt Disney World Guidebook e-book

PassPorter's Disney Vacation Club Guide

PassPorter's Disney 500: Fast Tips for Walt Disney World Trips e-book

PassPorter's Disney Speed Planner: The Easy Ten Step Program to a Perfect Walt Disney World Vacation e-book

PassPorter's Disney Weddings & Honeymoons

PassPorter's Festivals and Celebrations at Walt Disney World e-book

PassPorter's Treasure Hunts at Walt Disney World

PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line guidebook

PassPorter's Disney Cruise Clues: First-Class Tips for Disney Cruise Trips

PassPorter Disneyland Resort and Southern California Attractions guidebook

PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line guidebook