Great Smokey Mountains Trip

Old Feb 24th, 2022, 05:08 PM
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Great Smokey Mountains Trip

Hi everybody. Hoping you may help us plan a trip this summer to the Great Smokey Mtn's. Have never been. Most likely in July or August. We love National Parks and love mild to medium hiking. We are in our 60's and in decent shape. We plan on flying from Boston and renting a car. We are planning 7 nights. We would greatly appreciate advice on where to fly to/from, where to stay, where to go, and anything else. We don't mind driving and want to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway, if that is possible. We love to stay right in the parks if that is possible. We do not plan on camping; prefer hotels especially with a pool! Again, any advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm sure you may need ore information and please ask. I'm not sure what I should be providing for details. Have never been in this part of the country. Thanks, W
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Old Feb 24th, 2022, 06:05 PM
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This would be my favored route: Fly to Roanoke VA. Stay overnight depending on what time you arrive. Start in the morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the east side of town. Sunrise pic if you feel like getting up that early. Continue south on BRP past Fancy Gap into North Carolina. Spend a night in or near Asheville NC. Take US 441 through Great Smoky Mountains NP. The Appalachian Trail crosses 441 at the state line (NC/TN)
I don't know if you can find lodging in the NP. If you can't, you can stay in or near Dollywood or Sevierville TN.
From Sevierville, you head north on 66 to get on I-40 to I-81. I-81 takes you through Bristol TN and back to Roanoke. I-81 is beautiful through the Shenandoah Valley. If you have extra time you might want to go past Roanoke to visit Natural Bridge before returning to Roanoke VA.
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Old Feb 25th, 2022, 03:07 AM
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IMO that would be a LOT of BRP. You could fly to Charlotte and drive to Asheville for the night (2 hours). Spend some time in Asheville and be sure to visit the Southern Highlands Craft shop just outside of town--and on the Parkway.
Drive the Parkway to Cherokee, the home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokees.and right on the edge of the Park You can stay there--there is a good exhibit and also drama in summertime. There is also trout fishing on the reservation if that appeals to you.
From Cherokee you can enter the Park and do various drives or hikes.
https://www.blueridgeparkway.org/parkway-map/
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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 08:45 AM
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HI Tom. Thank you! I checked flights into Roanake. We are partial to Delta and Jet Blue in that order. Delta has no direct flights and JB doesn't fly there. Regardless, we will consider. If we were to follow those suggestions, I assume I night in Roanake, 1 night in or near Ashville, and then from there what would you recommend? Also, if we were to follow the routes provided would we see the most of the BRP? We are trying to find the balance of spending time driving vs relaxing and exploring the National Park. In an ideal world we would have minimum stops at hotels. Thanks again, W
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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 08:54 AM
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Hi Gretchen. I appreciate this feedback. As I mentioned to Tom, we are trying to find the right balance. Both Delta and JB fly direct into Charlotte so that is great news! Similarly, if you had seven nights and followed your recommendations how would you spread out your nights and would you take the return flight from Charlotte? The thought of visiting Charlotte and Asheville sound great. We love staying in areas that have great local restaurants to walk to if possible. We are not looking for fancy. Thanks, W
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Old Feb 26th, 2022, 06:08 PM
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If Charlotte has the airline you like, go from there to Asheville and follow the route I gave you into TN. Take I-81 up to Roanoke and then come south on BRP as far as Fancy Gap and then I-77 back to Charlotte.
You can decide for yourself if you want to visit Dollywood.
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Old Feb 27th, 2022, 03:26 AM
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Charltotte has some great dining of all kinds. It also has some great museums, particularly the Bechtler and the Mint. So 2 days here wouldn't be too much.
Drive to Asheville and spend 2 nights. See the Biltmore, Good restaurants here too.
Drive to Cherokee on the Parkway and visit GSMNP from there.
Return to Charlotte. There are your days.
I love the BRP but it is 45 MPH and that can get tiresome. The other thing that happens at higher elevations are the clouds that settle in the valleys so all you see is cloud below you.
If you want to see the Smokies, do something like this--Go to Virginia--a gorgeous state--another time.
If you really want more time on the Parkway, go to Charlotte. Take I77 north to I40. I40 west to Route 321. Take 321 to intersect with the Parkway and drive south to Asheville.
Or go on to Cherokee, visit GSMNP. Return to Charlotte via Asheville for a night. Asheville is an eeasy 2 hour drive to airport.

Last edited by Gretchen; Feb 27th, 2022 at 03:34 AM.
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 08:17 AM
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Hi again. Hoping you don't mind providing your thoughts on our plans. We have two choices in weeks over the summer.
1 is mid July and the other is end of August. Would you recommend one over the other? I'm leaning towards the end of August; rates our a little better.

We decided that we would prefer to fly into Asheville since we are able to take a non-stop flight from Boston which is our preference over a lay over.
Appreciating a better understanding of just how long the BRP is our plan is as follows:

Stay two nights in Asheville.'
Take a day trip to Blowing Rock and/or Boone to see that part of the BRP.

On day 3 drive to Gatlinburg stopping at Cheroke for just the day.

Spend 4 nights in Gatlinburg making this our home base.
Possibly a day trip to Pigeon Forge and/or Knoxville?

Spend the 7th and last night back in Asheville the night before the flight home.

Any suggestions on where to stay in Asheville? Gatlinburg? Our preference would be beautiful view of mountains, outdoor pool, and able to walk to restaurants.

Appreciate all feedback. Thanks!
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 08:26 AM
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A lot of people prefer to use Townsend as their base for staying in SMNP. Gatilinburg is kitsch central just ahead or behind Dollywood/Pigeon Forge.
As far as Asheville and environs is concerned, you might consider going north on the Parkway and visit Penland--a truly world class craft center. You dould do the Parkway one way and come back on regular roads.
https://www.romanticasheville.com/penland.htm

You should visit the Grove Park Inn--maybe have a meal there--or stay a night for a resort treatment.

Last edited by Gretchen; Mar 20th, 2022 at 08:32 AM.
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 09:03 AM
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Glad you came back. It is good that you found direct flights to Asheville. My choice for a place to stay in Asheville would be the Residences at Biltmore. (Never stayed there myself). Biltmore has been described as the Cradle of American Forestry. Also you should check out the botanical gardens in Asheville. The one night that I spent in eastern Tennessee I stayed in Sevierville which worked OK for me.
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Old Mar 20th, 2022, 12:32 PM
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I have driven the full length of the BRP plus Skyline Drive twice, plus some stretches (mostly around Peaks of Otter) multiple times, and have never found the speed limit to be a problem. For one thing, I am there to admire the scenery, for another some stretches I wouldn't feel safe going highway speed, even back in the day when I drove a sports coupe.

You couldn't pay me to stay in Gatlinburg, and I would probably pick Bryson City over Cherokee. I would certainly want at least one night at the Pisgah Inn - https://www.pisgahinn.com/

I would add the Folk Art Center to your list for Asheville.
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 01:57 AM
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Well, the real Cradle of Forestry is in the southern part of the Pisgah Forest near Brevard, which is another interesting place to consider for a night.
The Pisgah Inn is a nice hotel perched on the highest point of the BRP. However it is a "plain pipe rack" hotel and restaurant operated by the Park Service (or their delegate) and doesn't offer much in the way of amenities IMO (having stayed there).
Bryson City is an interesting suggestion. There is a historic inn there that is a treat, with an old style family style dining room. Fryemont Inn. There are other places there also including cabins on streams.
Four days in Gatlinburg will qualify you for the booby hatch!!
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 01:32 PM
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Hi. Okay, I see that Gatlinburg is not the choice here. Somebody had mentioned that it would be a good base. I am told that it is the gateway to the Smokies.

Does the idea of flying in and out of Asheville sound good in terms of a base for 2 nights to drive North for a day and then explore Asheville.

Are you all suggesting 4 nights in Townsend as opposed to Gatlinburg? Again, we have 7 nights in total and prefer as you have advised to set up minimal stops.

We'll get this!
Thanks, W
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Old Mar 21st, 2022, 03:55 PM
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We've enjoyed staying at the Hilton Doubletree in Asheville. It's within an easy walk to Biltmore Village (boutique shops & eateries) or a very short drive into the Grove Park Inn area, also with numerous shops/restaurants. In addition, it's very near the BR Parkway entrance, Folk Art Center AND Biltmore Estate, which is a must-see when visiting Asheville. Can't comment on the TN portion of your trip, but considering travel there in the future, too!
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 02:49 AM
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I think 4 days in the Smokies may be too much. I don't think Knoxville offers you much to see (and my mother was born there).
Asheville is fine to fly into . Can you get a direct flight to Charlotte? It could enable you to make a loop incorporating a nice part of the BRP .And needing to stay a couple of places rather than a base.
Off the top of my head, drive north from Charlotte to Boone/Blowing Rock area. See Penland. Drive south to Asheville. Spend some time there as planned. Go to Bryson City and explore the Park.staying in Bryson City or somewhere near there keeps you on the NC side of the Park and you will have less driving.
To give you an idea of time, Asheville is only2 hours from the Charlotte airport. And Boone Blowing Rock is also only 2 hours away.
Once again, getting a paper map out of the area and sticking pins in it to connect the dots is really a good planning tool.

Last edited by Gretchen; Mar 22nd, 2022 at 02:59 AM.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 07:39 AM
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Hi Gretchen. You and the others definitely have me thinking. I booked the Residences at Biltmore in Asheville based on Tom Fuller's recommendation. When I spoke to them they were extremely nice and recommended like others did to visit the Boone/Bowling Rock area. Since there are direct flights to Charlotte it may make more sense for us to fly into Charlotte then to Boone or Bowling Rock for a night and then travel the BRP as you suggested to Asheville for 2 nights, then to somewhere near the Smokies for 3 nights and then 1 night in Asheville to take the flight home. This way we are able to see the BRP from Boone to Asheville as opposed to back tracking as well as then be able to enjoy 2 full days and nights in Asheville. I'm still pretty torn in terms of where to stay the 3 nights near the Smokies but will look at all the towns mentioned. I realize it appears many in this forum are not Gatlinburg fans but it does look appealing to us. I'm getting the sense that many believe it is too touristy but they do have some nice hotels with outdoor pools by the river worth considering.
Thank you all for putting up with my indecisiveness. I sometimes try too hard to find the perfect solution when in truth there are many options especially when you are talking about such a beautiful landscape in that area. Thanks, Warren.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 11:48 AM
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Don’t let Gatlinburg scare you. Touristy – yes, but easy access to Cades Cove and the hikes/sights we wanted to see in the GSMP. We’ve been twice both times flying to Charlotte because of direct flights for us. Stayed at Hilton Garden Inn in fairly quiet area off the main drag, ask for river view room. Probably a dozen places to eat within walking distance, we liked the Park Grill for dinner and both times went once (that is enough) to Crockets Breakfast Camp for breakfast. Neither high end cuisine, but fine for us. Crockets while touristy fun and their skillet breakfasts enough to keep you going all day long.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2022, 01:03 PM
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I come at Gatlinbutg from a different point of view than probably ANYONE here. I went to summer camp near Gatlinburg when---wait for it--the Gatlinburg Inn was the only hotel!! Many many many decades ago!! I don't expect it to stay the same but it is hard to see what it has become.
But really, I mentioned Bryson City which is near a southern entrance to GSMNP--and an old style inn like the Fryemont.
Actually Cherokee is much less kitschy than Gatlinburg and is literally on the edge of the park. You can fly fish there on the Cherokee Reservation which is fun for a day. There is a casino and it has become much more touristy and with good hotels, etc. but at least not in the fake Indian, dancing bear days before the Native Americans were allowed to actually get something to support their tribal needs. It has become much more authentic in honoring it's trud native American heritage.
Creekside rooms are a nice idea anywhere you decide to stay--many many creeks.
There is a lot to do in the area and some lovely mountain towns, north and south of Asheville along the parkway.
A while back you suggested August would be a possibility. Might also be good from the crowds point of view since school may be back in session.
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Old Mar 31st, 2022, 09:51 AM
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Here is a definition of Gatlinburg that I have always enjoyed and found to be accurate...
A small city in eastern Tennessee that has become a tourist mecca. Every year, millions of stupid fat people from Ohio move to clog the streets of Gatlinburg, ambling down the main street to gorge themselves on fudge, funnel cakes, cotton candy, corn dogs, and make fun of the locals. They visit the local saltwater aquarium, which makes perfect sense because it's, you know, landlocked. They completely ignore the national park and instead buy cheap airbrushed T-shirts and get married in cheesy drive-through wedding chapels. At the height of tourist season Gatlinburg holds all the charm of Times Square the morning after New Year's Eve.
1) Gee, honey, I'm feeling my I.Q. creep up again. Better fix that. I think it's time for another family trip to Gatlinburg!
2) Look at this cheap, useless crap I bought in Gatlinburg!


One piece the description doesn't cover are the numerous mini golf courses and "moonshine" distilleries.

I'd stay in Bryson City when visiting the GSMNP and avoid Gatlinburg altogether.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 04:17 AM
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Well, that was quite a description. Thank you for sharing. After review and review and review we did finally get the hint of touristy. That is not what we wanted or expected on our travel to the Great Smokies. Everybody has been great with their replies and opinions. I have never read so many travel books and sought opinions that I have for this trip. So, my latest bookings (as you all must know by now subject to change!),
Fly into Charolotte
1 night in Blowing Rock - Made reservations at Holiday Inn but still trying to upgrade to something more quaint f they allow 1 night.
BRP to Asheville (2 nights) - The Residences at Biltmore
BRP to the Westgate Great Smokie Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg -(3 nights) - this seemed like the place that although expensive gave us some seclusion from the downtown tourist traps and within driving distance to downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for a walk through and maybe dinner. Also is in close proximity to the National Park.I wanted something that wasn't in the middle of arcadesville!
1 night back in Asheville before flying home.
Will let everybody know how things worked out! Thanks!
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