Category Archives: Vacation Tips

Tips to make your vacation much more enjoyable in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Great Smoky Mountains

When Do the Leaves Change Color in the Fall in Gatlinburg?

Fall is an incredible season to visit the Great Smoky Mountains with the beautiful Gatlinburg fall colors, crisp air, crafts, harvest festivals and more. If you have never visited Gatlinburg TN in October or early November, then you are missing out on an amazing experience.

Figuring out when the Gatlinburg fall colors will peak can be very tricky, and requires predicting the weather a little bit, too. A good rule of thumb that defines a brilliant fall is dry weather with cool (not freezing) temperatures in October. There are obviously other factors, but the cool temperatures will make the fall even more stunning in the Smokies. Colors usually peak around the last half of October with the higher elevations changing color first and the colors trickling down into the valley.

So, how can you figure out if the Gatlinburg fall colors are peaking just in time for your visit? And when is the best time to visit in the fall? We can help!

  1. Gatlinburg WebcamsFall in the Smoky Mountains

There are two great webcams in Gatlinburg that can show you exactly what the leaves look like! You can keep an eye on these webcams, and when the leaves begin to change, you can start making your plans! Once you start noticing the majority of the leaves changing color, then most of the valley and surrounding mountains should be lit up with color within approximately 2 weeks.

  1. The National Park Service

The National Park Service keeps the most up-to-date information about all of the Gatlinburg fall colors throughout the season. They offer:

  • Gatlinburg fall colors facts
  • Information on why and how the leaves change colors
  • Updates about the best times to visit the area for the fall color changes
  • Helpful information for planning your visit to the Smoky Mountains

You can visit their website by clicking HERE.

  1. Road winding through the Smoky MounatinsInside Tips for Planning Your Visit to See Gatlinburg Fall Colors

  • Prepare for lots of colors! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be changing colors, but there are other places to see the fall colors, too, like the Dollywood Harvest Festival.
  • Check out the views from more than just the national park hiking trails, too. You can see the Gatlinburg fall colors from all over the area. Try visiting the Gatlinburg Space Needle or riding on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway for the best views of the colors!
  • Keep in mind that it’s going to be busy! If you visit Gatlinburg TN on the weekend, you’re likely to encounter many more people visiting the area. If you want to visit during a time when there are not as many people in the area, try planning to visit on a weekday!

Ready to start planning your Gatlinburg vacation? Make sure to check out all of the best places to stay in Gatlinburg TN, so you can get the best view of the Gatlinburg fall colors every time you step outside!

Free Trolley Rides Along the Parkway from June 14 – Aug. 17

For anyone wanting to come take a tour of downtown Gatlinburg, now would be as good of a time as any to do it. Right now, the city of Gatlinburg is offering free trolley rides to summer visitors along the length of the Parkway running from June 14 until August 17.

The free Parkway Trolley has been a program that has garnered huge returns in years past. Basically anyone who wants can catch a ride on one of three specially designated trolleys at numerous stops along the Parkway for FREE. The shuttle service route extends from Traffic Light No. 1 at the north end of town to Light No. 10 at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“We are pleased to once again offer this free trolley service during our peak season,” said Cindy Cameron Ogle, city manager. “It will provide our visitors, residents and business community more accessibility to sections of our downtown business district.”

Nearly 1,300 patrons took advantage of the service during its trial run two years ago.

The free open-air shuttles is operating from 10 am to 10 pm daily through August 17. All Gatlinburg trolleys are handicap accessible. Extra stops have been established along the special route to bring the number to 40 along Parkway.

As a part of the Gatlinburg Mass Transit System, the system provides service for 50 cents or $1 per rider along a half-dozen routes. Approximately 800,000 patrons use Gatlinburg’s trolleys annually, making it the fifth-largest mass transit system in the state of Tennessee. Started in 1980 with only six trolleys, Gatlinburg’s fleet has grown to 20-plus trolleys servicing approximately 50 miles of trolley routes.

Gatlinburg Trolleys run all day long throughout the year for just $2 a day with unlimited access to the Red, Blue, Purple, Yellow and Green Trolley routes. The $2 Pass is sold at Gatlinburg welcome centers as well as at Gatlinburg City Hall and the mass transit center, plus at numerous Gatlinburg hotels and other local attractions .

For more information, visit any Gatlinburg City Welcome Center or call (865) 436-0535.

A Gatlinburg Weekend

Need someone to plan a weekend for you since you’re going to be in Gatlinburg on an upcoming trip? Let us take care of the heavy lifting then. Her at Inside Gatlinburg, we’ve got your Smoky Mountain weekend planned out and broken down in sections. Now, let’s begin with a Saturday morning breakfast.

Saturday Breakfast: Pull up to a table at the Log Cabin Pancake House. There’s no better place for breakfast in the Smokies. You can get enough stacks of pancakes there to get you up Mount LeConte and back down before lunch.

9 am: What isn’t there to do at Dollywood? As far as theme parks go, it’s one of the fasting growing in the country with new rides and attractions opening on a yearly basis. Experience the new Wild Eagle winged coaster, or cool off at Dolly’s Splash Country water park right next door.

Lunch: If you don’t want to stick around Dollywood, historic Old Mill Square is located close by in Pigeon Forge. Their Pottery House Cafe and Grille offer some wonderful and delicious lunch options. From their fried green tomato BLT to their freshly made pies or cakes, there’s something tasty for everyone at the Old Mill.

1 pm: Stick around and look through the Old Mill, purchase some freshly ground cornmeal, or some of the many other mill-produced wares. Next door at the Pigeon River Pottery you can even watch the potters make the plates you just ate your lunch off of.

3 pm: One of the best ways to take in the magnificent views of the Smokies is by one of its newest attractions – Wonders of Flight at WonderWorks. It’s a tethered hot-air balloon that rises 400 feet in the air over Pigeon Forge at Wonders of Flight. Afterward, if you’re looking for a back way into the park, take Wears Valley Road (traffic light No. 3) in Pigeon Forge, make a left at Lyon Springs Road, and follow it into the park to the Cades Cove loop.

Dinner: Ya gotta make a stop at the Hard Rock Cafe while you’re in town.

Nighttime: Take a right out of the door of the Hard Rock and enjoy the parkway in Gatlinburg. Numerous, shops, restaurants, and other attractions stay open late so there’s a lot to choose from. Make a night out of it!

Sunday Breakfast: The Donut Friar located in the Village Shops is up and at ’em at 5 am Sunday morning with some of the finest baked treasures in the Smokies. It’s a “MUST STOP” in Gatlinburg.

8 am: Get into the Smoky Mountains at Sugarlands Visitor Center and take the Sugarlands Nature Trail nearby. There’s also the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Loop (www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/roaringfork.htm), complete with historic cabins, wildlife, and waterfalls, which is definitely worth a look into.

Lunch: Try Smoky Mountain Brewery on the Parkway and take your pick of burgers, steaks and some of the best micro-brewed beers at Smoky Mountain Brewery.

2 pm: Stop by the Nantahala Outdoor Center (www.noc.com), it’s an outdoorsmen’s paradise. You can find almost anything you’re looking for when it comes to getting into the great outdoors at this massive outfitter. The NOC has all the gear you need, provides guided trips, and all the information on products and services you could possibly need or ever want.

Dinner: Celebrating 75 years in 2013, Buckhorn Inn is a Gatlinburg classic (built without electricity!). The four-course, prix-fixe dinner menu changes nightly. Thankfully, the sunset view of Mount LeConte does not.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/04/09/3970792/weekend-in-gatlinburg.html#storylink=cpy

Planning A Reunion? There’s No Place Like Gatlinburg.

Planning a family reunion in the Smokies and have a large group coming along? Gatlinburg is the perfect place for that large family gathering.

For most people planning a large group gathering in the Smokies, you’re looking for a place with space enough for mingling as well as relaxing, to go along with local activities like golfing, fishing, outlet shopping, and hiking in the national park. Every accommodation that you’ll find in Gatlinburg has a person on staff to address whatever your question may be, and make your reunion in the Smokies that much easier.

If you’re asking whether there really is THAT much to do in Gatlinburg, the answer is “Yes”. You can go back all the way to the founding of this country tracing the history of Gatlinburg. However, the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934 was the real turning point for the town. During those years, Gatlinburg began receiving notoriety for its surrounding natural beauty. Even to this day, Gatlinburg plays host to the Park’s nine million-plus annual visitors. And many of them come in large groups searching for that perfect reunion place.

An almost endless array of lodging options for gatherings small and large can be found in town as well as along the hills and mountains surrounding Gatlinburg. Whereas there are plenty of hotels and motels scattered along the Parkway, the mountainsides and backroads are home to a great number of Gatlinburg cabins, condos, and chalets. Many of these cabins and chalets come complete with 8-10 bedrooms. Take a look for yourself, these large group cabins and chalets can be found on sites like GatlinburgCabinsOnline.com as well as BigCabins.com.

Little River Road

Little River Road just outside of Gatlinburg offers some of the area’s best natural attractions. If you’re going to be in the Smoky Mountains, or if you’ve lived here your entire life, Little River Road offers people a way to really immerse themselves in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers a glimpse at why millions flock to the area every year.

Here are just a few of the more popular destinations located along Little River Road. Take a day and pull the car over, explore the area. This is the Smokies at its best.

Laurel Falls
The moderate 2.6 mile trail to Laurel Falls is one of the Park’s most traveled. The trail divides the waterfall in two. At the top, Laurel Branch bursts from a grove of rhododendron, or “laurel” as it was called by early settlers, and falls nearly 50 feet to collect in a pool perfect for soaking tired feet. The falls continues on from that pool for about 35 feet before reaching the bottom.

Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area
Once a family farm, Metcalf Bottoms is now a large picnic area with plenty of space along the river. As Little River Road was being built, the Metcalf family often brought fresh spring water to the many workers. The National Park Service remembered the favor by naming the picnic area for them.

Little Greenbrier School
Just a mile through the forest from Metcalf Bottoms lies the Little Greenbrier School. This charming 19th Century schoolhouse evokes the simpler education of years gone by. Built from logs split up to two feet wide, the school also served as a church from 1882 until the Park’s creation. The original benches and desks still line the room, along with a lectern and a painted blackboard.

The Sinks
Located just 1.5 miles east of Metcalf Bottoms picnic area, The Sinks are a combination of hydraulic rapids and deep pools. Folklore tells of how a logging train once derailed and plunged into the Little River at this spot. It was never found as the bottom could not be reached. Thereafter, this spot was always referred to as “The Sinks.”

Townsend “Wye”
A local favorite for years, the Townsend “Wye” is the meeting point of the middle and west prongs of the Little Pigeon River. This broad, peaceful curve is ideal for swimming and the smooth, grassy banks are a perfect spot for spreading a blanket. Over the years, this has become a popular site due to its accessibility — one mile south of Townsend and seven miles east of Cades Cove.

Tremont
Once known as Tarpaper Camp (for the covering used on buildings), Tremont was one of three towns built by the Little River Lumber Company. Tremont became a logging boom town in the Southern Appalachians during the 1920s. The company town once consisted of a store, post office, hotel, doctor’s office and a church/school/theater building. Today, the area is primarily used for ranger facilities and educational research.

Preparing for Wintery Weather

It’s no secret that anyone coming to the Smoky Mountains during the winter months usually keeps a close eye on the forecast leading up to their stay. Gatlinburg Cabin Rental companies are no different. Companies like Gatlinburg Cabins Online are always working to stay a step ahead of any issues that may come about because of the weather.

As a priority, Gatlinburg Cabins Online attempts to keep all their guests abreast of the chance for wintery weather before they arrive and during their stay.

Just a few short years ago, one neighboring company experienced one of the worst case scenarios: hundreds of visitors stuck in their cabins just outside Pigeon Forge, some for 3-4 days before they were reached. It’s a situation Gatlinburg Cabins Online and other Gatlinburg Cabin rental companies want never to happen again.

And while this is usually the slow time of the year for cabin rentals, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t guests still checking in. Some prefer the quieter, slower months in order to enjoy the Smokies.

Many cabins found at Gatlinburg Cabins Online are located in the hills surrounding Gatlinburg, some within even a stone’s throw from Ober Gatlinburg ski resort. No matter what the weather report says, during the winter months be prepared for anything. Power can go out with the first icicle and pipes can freeze up within minutes.

Many companies even ask their guests pack an extra supply of food and blankets if the power goes out. Some people even bring their own firewood if they know they’re renting a cabin with a fireplace.

If bad weather does hit, most companies including Gatlinburg Cabins Online ask that their guests stay in their cabins until local road crews can get snow or ice cleared. Around here, road crews are ready at a moments notice for the onset of a snowy or icy forecast.

However, it is encouraged if you do own a four-wheel drive vehicle, or have chains to put on your vehicle, to drive it here for your stay.

At Gatlinburg Cabins Online, guests are going to be aware of the possibility of winter weather. And if there is a possibility, guests can be moved to cabins in lower elevations if need be.

Cabins at Gatlinburg Cabins Online have already been pretreated for wintery conditions with salt available should the need arise in the future.

Parking in Gatlinburg

One of the biggest issues on any trip to Gatlinburg is where to park. Although Gatlinburg is a small town, it must accommodate the needs of thousands of businesses and their employees during the week. To say that parking is at a premium would be putting it lightly. The city has plenty of parking lots and garages but you do have to pay to park. FREE parking can be found along River Road in Gatlinburg, but you have to get there early to get a spot, or just be lucky. There is also the mass transit option. While parking remains an issue in Gatlinburg, the city has provided several options.

Parking lots in Gatlinburg can be found quite easily. There are some lots that are run by the businesses next to them or run as businesses themselves, and some that are owned by the city. The city-owned lots are larger and the prices are the same from lot to lot. There are also two parking garages in Gatlinburg, one beside Ripley’s Aquarium and one located at traffic light No. 3. These two garages provide a lot more parking space compared to how much space they actually take up. On River Road there are several privately owned parking lots. Unlike the public lots, which are based on one flat rate, the privately owned lots sometimes have deals depending on how long you are in the lot. If you are just staying for a little while or visiting just one location you may want to check the private lots out.

River Road is the land of free parking. From the traffic light beside Ripley’s Aquarium you can turn down River Road. The parking is along the right hand side and runs almost all the way down the road with very few exceptions. To get parking along River Road you need to get there early or be lucky. Most locals that work in Gatlinburg and arrive early, park on River Road. If you are headed to Gatlinburg for breakfast it might be worth a trip down River Road to see if there is a space open. If you come in late there is still a chance as people come and go all day long in Gatlinburg.

Another option is mass transit. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge both have an amazing trolley system. When you are headed into Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge, you will pass the Gatlinburg welcome center. Next to the Welcome Center, you will find one of the free parking lots that is a stop for the trolleys. Park your car at the trolley station and then ride the trolley for $0.50 per person per ride, or $2 for an all day pass. All the trolleys stop at the Aquarium and there are trolley stops throughout Gatlinburg. Free parking and a 50-cent ride on a trolley is a great deal.

When you are heading to Gatlinburg keep your parking options in mind. Find a lot to park in, take your chances of finding a free space on River Road or simply park and ride the trolley. The city has given you several options and you will find the best part about Gatlinburg is that it is small enough to walk end to end easily; and being able to wander the streets is part of the magic.

Gatlinburg to the National Park

Though it’s not as prevalent as it was 20 or so years ago, Gatlinburg is still thought by many as the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And although it’s not, it’s actually just outside the entrance, it’s a metaphorical gateway nonetheless.

Still, if you’re wanting to get from downtown to the actual park headquarters, it’s a short 2.9 miles from the center of town just to be exact, down the parkway (U.S. 441), before making a right on Park Headquarters Road and reaching 107 Park Headquarters Rd. It’s almost as simple as going from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge.

Is there a better time to visit Gatlinburg and the national park? Nope, each season carries its own special flavor depending on your seasonal preference. Right now, ask anyone and it’s fall as they look off at the bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Spring the bright greens and wildflowers, rushing waterfalls, and wildlife emerging from their various winter dens. Black bears and whitetail deer are seen abundance in places like Cades Cove. Meanwhile, Gatlinburg is preparing for the first rush of vacationers arriving in time for the spring season.

The vacationers ramp it up even more during the summer as the flora and fauna are at their peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mountain temperatures are a bit cooler during the summer in case you didn’t know. Spring and summer are also peak wedding seasons in the Smoky Mountains. There are over 30 wedding chapels in the Gatlinburg area alone and they all book up fast during the spring and summer months.

Right now, fall’s burst of color attracts visitors the world over during the current season. You can search it your heart’s content, but you won’t find anything that compares with the fall season in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Now, let’s not sell winter short. Winter is also a great time to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains. If you prefer things a bit quieter and more peaceful, you’ll love this time of year. Mountain vistas are improved because the foliage is off the trees; the air is both crisp and clean, and the smell of woodsmoke carries you back to a time when mountain settlers roamed the hills looking for a permanent homestead.


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Gatlinburg Fall Foliage Report – Mid-October

Right now, if you’re traveling to Gatlinburg you’re likely spending a bit of time twisting your neck trying to catch the fall colors on your way through the Smokies. What you’re probably seeing are hints of the Gatlinburg fall foliage combined with late season greens with color appearing more frequent the higher up you travel.

The Gatlinburg Fall Foliage Experience

In other words, you might be able to tell that the Gatlinburg fall foliage is coming when the fall season starts kicking off. If you’re a weather buff, you’re watching for more sunny days and cooler nights. This is when the leaves really start changing. Much of the region is still overcoming a dryer-than-normal summer which affects fall foliage as far as when it begins and how long it lasts. Peak color in the Smokies’ lower elevations is still over a week away. Some reds have been seen in the valleys and golds appear in such species as the black walnut, birch, beech, and hickory trees. Maples and oaks are also beginning to show color in the lower elevations.

We also suggest taking to one of the many Smoky Mountain trails in order to get a better glimpse of the splendors of autumn. With so many people pouring into the Smokies this time of year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park becomes one of the more solitary places for people wanting to get away from town and view the fall colors alone in nature.

A few easy to moderate Smokies hikes include the Lower Mount Cammerer hike, Baskins Creek Falls, the Little River, the Old Settlers trail and Porters Creeks. Those of you looking for a more challenging hike, try these next few which lead to a number of scenic overlooks – Sugarlands Mountain, the Appalachian Trail, Mt. Sterling, the Goshen Prong trail. the Foothills Parkway, Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441), the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Balsam Mountain Road and Cove Creek Road are just a few of the more scenic roadways for anyone who might want to see the Gatlinburg fall foliage but can’t or prefer not to leave their car.

Peak color season in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can occur throughout the month of October in more than one location. Places may peak earlier than others and vice versa. The marvelous colors of autumn actually light up the Smokies for seven weeks or more as the peak elevations move down the mountainsides from the highest elevations to the foothills. On average, fall color usually reaches peak at middle and lower elevations between mid-October and early November. Trees such as the sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple and hickories really stand out during this time. Additional Gatlinburg fall foliage information can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm.

The BEST Way to get to Gatlinburg

You’ve probably been asked it a thousand times if you’ve lived in the Smoky Mountains, or if you spend a lot of time in the area: “What’s the best way to get to Gatlinburg?” For us locals, it seems like a fairly easy answer – “Just take 40 to the exit for the Smoky Mountains and go south till you get to Gatlinburg.” Although, while that seems like the easy answer, when you actually sit back and think about it, there are a few different ways you could get to Gatlinburg.

As mentioned, we’ll start with the one route most people use who would be coming from Nashville, Knoxville, Lexington, Asheville, and the tri-cities of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City, as well as Virginia – Interstate 40 traveling either east or west. You’ll take exit 407 in Kodak which notes Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Traveling south down Winfield Dunn Pkwy./Hwy. 66 into Sevierville and continuing onto Pigeon Forge as the road turns into U.S. 441 Scenic Parkway, you’ll reach Gatlinburg by this route. It’s also the most popular due to the straight shot from the interstate as well as the number of two-lane roads.

Another popular route is the one leading north to Gatlinburg from Cherokee, Waynesville, or Asheville, NC via Newfound Gap Road. It’s popular because it leads the driver straight through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a number of picturesque landscapes on their way to Gatlinburg.  From Cherokee, it’s U.S. 441/Hwy. 71 north through the park until you reach downtown Gatlinburg.

A scenic route that many talk about but fewer travel starts in Newport, TN. You might try this route if you’re ever coming or going to Bristol, Johnson City, or Kingsport, TN or the Virginias. Traveling south on Interstate 81, take Interstate 40 east to Asheville when it splits. Once you reach Newport, TN, you’ll take exit 435 south – Cosby Hwy/Hwy. 32. Continue on this route as it turns into U.S. 321/Hwy. 73 East Parkway which will take you west into downtown Gatlinburg.

There a number of other ways to reach Gatlinburg, but these three should have you there in the most timely manner. If you’re traveling to Pigeon Forge, you can just as easily get to Gatlinburg whatever way you reach Pigeon Forge by just continuing south on the Parkway.


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