Great Smokey Mountains Trip

Old Apr 1st, 2022, 06:08 AM
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I will tell you that even staying in Cherokee is less touristy than Gatlinburg and has good access to the Park.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 06:59 AM
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Well, we tried. I will be interested in the trip report.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 07:15 AM
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Though we only lived in Knoxville from 2019-2021 we spent nearly every day of every weekend exploring, and so with that caveat I'll share some thoughts and recommendations.

Skip Gatlinburg. Really. Parking and traffic are dispiriting; the "downtown" is small and always crowded with people; and the shops are average at best. Pigeon Forge is "arcadesville." The Old Mill area is probably the nicest part for walking about; within the area is the Old Forge Distillery (moonshine tasting) and a terrible winery along with a couple of pottery shops. The Old Mill Restaurant does not accept reservations, if you don’t like to queue for your food.

I'm torn on Dollywood. We are two 50-something empty nesters and bought a 2021 season-pass for the park, when attendance was strictly limited owing to the pandemic. We went for the crafts and the scenery, not so much the rides; and the capacity reduction made the park enjoyable. The capacity restrictions have been lifted, so your experience may be different.

Consider time for the Cades Cove Driving Loop. Two things to keep in mind if you do go, though:

1. Go EARLY. As in, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before it opens as the loop will close when vehicle capacity is reached. There is a lot of history to see and explore, along with wandering and hiking trails; and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Black Bears.

2. Pack a lunch/snacks. There is no food offering in the park, and there is a Visitors Center at the half-way with restrooms. At the end of the loop (it’s one-way) there is a picnic area along Anthony Creek that is nice.


Not too far from your resort is Local Goat, one of the few restaurants in the area that accepts reservations for lunch and dinner. Everything at Local Goat is delicious.

In Townsend, make time to explore the tiny railroad museum that tells the logging history of the area. A casual place to eat is The Abbey, that sits along the Little River; even more casual is the Riverstone Family Restaurant. I’ve only had the Fried Bologna sandwich and the Fried Pickles (on separate occasions), just to give you an idea of the menu. Upscale dining (reservations essential) would be at Dancing Bear.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is well done; nearby is a little roadside diner, BJ's, with burgers, onion rings and all sorts of heart-stopping goodies.

Hope this is helpful.
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Old Apr 1st, 2022, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by WarrenWST View Post
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.
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!
Maybe Gatlinburg will work out for you, though I think you're in for a rude awakening.
You state that a touristy area is "not what we wanted or expected", yet that is exactly what you will get.
With the trip taking place in July/August (peak tourist season), the hoards of people there will ensure traffic gridlock between Pigeon Forge and the park entrance.
I think you'll regret wasting 3 days there unless you really enjoy Disney-like crowds while exploring hundreds of T-shirt shops and dumb attractions.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2022, 03:30 PM
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Hi again! I think we are all going to be happy once we make our final plans, go, and give you the feedback upon return. This is the good thing about reservations that allow cancellations since as we hear the feedback we rethink our choices. We are good and comfortable with our flight decisions and stays in Blowing Rock and Asheville. Our main purpose of coming is to enjoy the BRP and the Great Smokies. We love to hike and do our best to visit at least one National Park each year. We'll check out places to stay in Cherokee, Bryson City, and Townsend. I just thought it may be nice to stay in Tennessee. I thought we nailed it with the Westgate Resort since it gave us what we wanted, i.e., some seclusion from being on a main drag and an outdoor pool. May still be the right place to stay for the 3 nights since it is close to the park. I'll keep looking just in case.
Thank you all so much. W
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Old Apr 3rd, 2022, 01:46 AM
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At the risk of beating the dead haorse I'll offer you this map which shows how the part of the park with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is filled iwth ziplines itc. Cherokee is literally ON th border of the Park in the southern part with access to trailheads and Mt. Leconte, etc. Bryson City is the same.
When I have driven on I40 past the road that accesses the Park and Pigeon Forge the traffic is often backed up on the shoulder of the interstate.

Cherokee is a casino town now--but still very small. But that has brought good hotels. Bryson City also sits on the very edge of the Park. These are not great distances and the road traffic from south to north into the Park is not as congested as from the north to the south. Nantahala is also accessible from this side and the wild river.
You also mentioned price of the resort you chose.
So I honestly hope you have a wonderful time in a wonderful park and I will be quiet. Look closely at the map for trailheads (certainly not all of them) and the other "attractions (water park, zip line, fudge factory) not necessarily the hotels.

https://www.momondo.com/horizon/sem/...app=true&kw=-1
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 04:11 AM
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Thank you Gretchen! I'll be sure to send out the report after the wonderful vacation!
W
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 11:02 AM
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With the exception of a certain comment or two, what everyone is telling you, from their experience, is that Gatlinburg is NOT where you want to stay given your preferred activities. DH and I hike nearly every weekend and we would never choose Gatlinburg as a central location for the GSMNP. Choose Bryson City on the NC side, or Townsend on the TN side, but just don't choose Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge. Especially in the summer.
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