Spring is Packed With Things To Do in Gatlinburg!

With temperatures steadily rising, the views getting greener around town, flowers in bloom, it’s no wonder Gatlinburg is a popular place during the Spring. The town is trying to capitalize on its natural beauty this year with a bevy of events geared toward getting people out and about, enjoying the old town.

Things have already gotten kicked off with a number of new guided hikes and downtown Gatlinburg tours. Take a wildflowers tour or go bird watching on a hike in Smokies. Hikes take place Tuesday and Thursday. All tours are free to the public, but guests are asked to sign-up by calling Jennie (865) 436-0505 or reserve here.

Always a favorite, Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales cast includes bluegrass bands, strolling folk singers and storytellers who play to the delight of anyone passing along the Parkway during the evening. Tunes and Tales begin weekend performances on Friday and Saturday in April until mid-June when performers are out nightly on the streets of Gatlinburg through August.

Around here, Earth Week is celebrated to its fullest! It’s a family event. Gatlinburg’s Earth Week Celebration takes place from April 21-28 throughout town. You want to learn about easy green practices, enjoy some great live music, participate in green-related activities and games, crafts, food and more? Come to Gatlinburg’s Earth Week in late April. There will be a Disc Golf Tournament, you can attend a Go Green Seminar, or you can help in the Spur Clean-up, participate in the Earth Day Festival or run in the Earth Day 5K. During Earth Week in Gatlinburg, there is something for everyone who is interested in improving our natural environment.

Again, Earth Week kicks off with the Go Green Disc Golf Tournament at Mills Park on Sunday April 21, from 12:30pm – 4:00pm.  The 9-hole recreational course will feature tips on how to “go green” provided by Keep Sevier Beautiful. On site registration begins at 12:30pm and there is a small fee. Participants get an Earth Week t-shirt.

The Spur Clean Up takes place on Tuesday, April 23. Come join in as we pick up trash along a stretch of the National Park between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, known as The Spur. To participate, bring a pair of gloves and meet at Gatlinburg’s Spur Welcome Center at 9 am.

One of the more popular ways to get out and enjoy the Smokies is taking part in the 63rd Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage, April 23-27. Every year this program gets bigger and bigger due to ever-growing response. Over 150 programs make up the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage which includes instructional walks and tours, demonstrations, and guest lectures. Download the 2013 activity brochure and register online at www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org.

The Second Annual Earth Day 5K Run/Walk in downtown Gatlinburg will take place on Friday, April 26 at 10 pm. All age groups are welcome and encouraged to participate in this USA Track & Field-sanctioned event. Early registration is encouraged to guarantee your shirt size! Race day registration begins at 9 pm at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

One other brand new event that will be taking place this year is the Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Winefest. For all you wine lovers out there, stop by Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies on Saturday, April 27 anytime from 1-6 pm. You’ll  sample wines from more than a dozen Tennessee Wineries and small dish fare from the best restaurants in the Smoky Mountains.  Wine talks and food pairing demonstrations will also presented in the Jules Verne Room. Participants must be at least 21- years old and pay a $20 admission fee.

Spring Means Plenty of Guided Hiking Tours Around Gatlinburg!

FREE hikes in the Smokies and tours of Gatlinburg are just a part of the town’s efforts to get visitors and locals alike out and about, and enjoying Spring in the Smokies.

Take a Guided Hike
Locate some of the most beautiful spring wildflowers or take an afternoon and do some bird watching. These are just a few of the things you can do on a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. For the first 3 weeks of April, Gatlinburg is offering people the chance to go out with their very own hiking guide on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Jennie Burke will lead a “Walk with a Naturalist” on Thursdays at 2 pm at the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail in the Chimneys Picnic area.  Former Park Ranger, Ray Sellers will lead 2 walks: Old Sugarlands Trail and Trillium Gap Trail at 2 pm on the first and third Tuesdays (April 2 & 16). Former National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, Keith Watson will lead a bird walk at 9 am on the second Tuesday (April 9) on Rainbow Falls Trail. These hikes are FREE to anyone who wants to get out into nature, but guests are asked to sign-up ahead by calling Jennie (865) 436-0505. Space is limited! For a list of the hikes, click here.

Go on a Guided Tour of Gatlinburg
Go in depth about Gatlinburg’s past and present during the guided downtown Gatlinburg tours on Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. for the first 3 weeks of April. Tours are FREE to the public, but guests are asked to sign-up ahead by calling Jennie (865) 436-0505. Space is limited!

Sign up for one of these hikes or tours here or call (865) 436-0505.

BEST Hiking Trails in the Smokies

In no way is this a scientific study, it’s just our opinion of the hiking trails found in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s actually a list of our favorites in no certain order. Following years and many miles of trail study, we’ve put together a short list of BEST hikes found in the park and within close proximity to Gatlinburg.

Alum Cave Trail

A moderately difficult hike, the trail to Alum Cave Bluffs is 4.4 miles round-trip as you make your way to the 80 foot tall, 500 foot long bluff. Prior to reaching the cave, look east toward the Eye of the Needle and see peregrine falcons nesting on the outcroppings. The views from the cave also attract many a weekend photographer. Locals and manufacturing companies once mined Epsom salts from Alum Cave.

Forney Ridge Trail

This is a fairly easy hiking trail in the Smokies that begins at the Clingmans Dome parking lot and travels 1.7 miles to the top of Andrews Bald. The elevation does gradually climb over 900 feet on this trail despite it easy nature. Those of you who do decide to take the Forney Ridge Trail must be aware of the rocky path as loose rocks can appear in all shapes and sizes. Once you’ve reached Andrews Bald you realize how it got its name. It’s an open, grassy area that people flock to for pictures and various outdoor activities year round. Also, the views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Bald are unbelievable.

Mt. Cammerer

This 12 mile round-trip hike is not for the weak at heart or the novice hiker. Over the course of the trip, the trail climbs 2,500 feet from its beginnings at the Low Gap Trailhead in Cosby to its finale at the summit of Mt. Cammerer. The views here will simply take your breath away. If you feel up to, climb the stone fire tower that provides a full 360 degree view of the area.

Porters Creek

The Porters Creek hike is a pretty easy 4 mile round-trip jaunt beginning in the Greenbrier area of the park. This is a great hike for viewing old Smoky Mountain homesteads, and you might catch a waterfall too. Wildflowers are prevalent here during the spring. The old John Messer farm is located about a mile from the trailhead down a side path. The old homestead features a cabin and a cantilevered barn.

Rocky Top

Another rather strenuous trail that remains pretty famous in these parts due to its name, the Rocky Top Trail is 12.5 miles of Smoky Mountain hiking from the Anthony Creek trailhead, located in the Cades Cove picnic area. Hikers will cross Spence Field as they make their way along the trail. This is an area that is a must stop for photogs on sunny days. During the spring, this area turns into a pink and white blanket of laurel flowers.

The Jump-Off

Starting at the Newfound Gap parking lot, this trail is 6.5 miles round-trip and travels 2.7 miles down the Appalachian Trail before turning onto the Jump-Off path. The Jump-Off features a 1,000 foot cliff, which represents the northeastern flank of Mt. Kephart.

Motion Ride Movie Theater

Next time you get a hankerin’ to go see a movie, you might just want to venture down into Gatlinburg and experience the Motion Ride Movie Theater. This isn’t your regular flat-screened cinema that you’ll find at any local multiplex.

Once you leave a movie at the Motion Ride Movie Theater in Gatlinburg, you’ll have been tossed over a cliff, experienced the g-forces of soaring close to space, been turned around, twisted and thrown for a loop – all while sitting back in your seat. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget and will make other films seem like a walk in the park.

The Motion Ride Movie Theater has six adventures movie-goers may pick from. That’s quite a lot compared to other similar theaters found mostly at large theme parks. The movie Smash Factory takes you through underground tunnels at some of the highest speeds you’ll not really experience, get it? Glacier Run takes you through a winter time paradise. Astro Canyon Coaster is great for the kids who want to explore different landscapes they may not be familiar with. Slot Car Boogie is another high speed driving movie that will leave you wind blown and on the edge of your seat. Or if you are from the mountains of West Virginia and your grand pappy was a coal miner, choose a movie to honor his memory, The Volcano Mine Ride.

What makes this simulator experience different than other simulators you may have tried before is that your seat will not be the only thing moving. The movie screen actually moves with the seats creating a much more realistic experience.

The Motion Ride Movie Theater opens at 10am every day except Christmas. It costs $10.99 for one movie or $13.99 for two movies, but the real bargain is to be had when you purchase a ticket to watch them ALL for only $15.99. If you are in the military, be sure and let the vendor know so that you can receive your discount.

This exciting Gatlinburg attraction is located at the Reagan Terrace Mall on the Parkway between lights #6 and #7.

Ripley’s Penguins

There’s only one place you can catch the rare, African Penguin in this part of the country and that’s at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN.

Since 2010, these little penguins have become one of the highlights of the Ripley’s Aquarium experience. The aquarium has even initiated a couple different events that celebrate the loveable little critters. During the summer, kids can take part in camps and sleepovers at Ripley’s that allow them to get inside the lives of the penguins. It’s a great way to spend part of your summer vacation while learning more about these exciting creatures.

In all, the Penguin Experience is a 3-hour event that delves deep into the lives of the African Penguins, or Black-footed Penguin, and is presented by the aquarium’s expert staff. You can even get as up close and personal with the penguins as you want. That’s right, you can pet them and walk around in their habitat at the aquarium. Go face-to-face with these magical black and white, flightless birds. You can even get your photo taken with them so that you’ll remember the occasion for years to come.

Penguins are just a part of the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies experience. Though they are a fairly large and important part. Make sure that when you come plan on attending one of the Penguin Painting Experience days. African Penguins are artists in their own right and they love to paint. Each painting is done to the Penguin’s own unique, creative style. It’s a footprint work of art you might say, and you can take it home with you as well.

Both of these events are featured during the months of July and August, so head over to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to catch these exotic birds at work, and at play. Take advantage of the aquarium’s Penguin Playhouse exhibit. There you can crawl through the underwater tube and watch the penguins swim and play. It’s like you’re actually swimming with the penguins underwater!

Indian Flats Falls

Looking for a beautiful trek to a Smoky Mountain waterfall near Gatlinburg? Check out Indian Flats Falls, which is located 3.8 miles from the Tremont Trailhead, just south of Townsend, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Via a spur off the Middle Prong Trail, Indian Flats Falls features 4 medium-size cascades. This is a great area for a summer dip in the Smokies as the falls each tumble to an enclosed pool ideal for swimming and wading.

Smoky Mountain visitors will find the trail to Indian Flats Falls especially appealing during the spring and summer months as it doesn’t see many people, is an easy hike, and provides for some wonderful fishing opportunities along the way.

You’ll find that once you reach the area of the falls, they are partially hidden by forest growth. There is also easy access to many smaller but equally scenic cascades leading to and past this point.

The trail continues up the wide south bank of Lynn Camp Prong in a mixed hardwood forest to the Panther Creek Trail split. Note that you’ll seamlessly branch off along Indian Flats Prong shortly beyond this point.

The trail moves steadily under a vine-draped canopy and rhododendron understory to a bridge; once over it climbs away from the creek and winds into a thick forest.

Though water is no longer visible, Indian Flats Falls will be audible as you near the unmarked spur, located behind a large boulder on a sharp, steep bend in the trail.

Note that if you reach the Lynn Camp Prong Trail split, you’ve gone too far.

The unmarked spur undulates ruggedly to the top tier of Indian Flats Falls. The first fall offers the largest viewing area, and a precarious look down upon the second.

To reach the lower falls you must backtrack on the spur and improvise a few steps off trail – never climb or descend rocks adjacent to flowing water. Be mindful of timber rattlesnakes and copperheads as you negotiate the busy forest to the lower falls.

Golf Digest Rates Gatlinburg Course #1 Municipal Course in Tennessee

The title of Best Municipal Golf Course in the State of Tennessee was recently awarded to the Gatlinburg Golf Course, as published in Golf Digest magazine this past August.

The magazine concluded that the Gatlinburg Course was best by using a combination of star ratings from Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play” rankings and the magazine’s “Best In State” ratings. This was done by a panel of editors and contributors to the magazine.

“Muny” course was defined as a course owned by a city, town, county or state. Gatlinburg Golf Course received a rating of 4 and one-half stars out of 5 in the magazine, rating among the nation’s top courses, with a listed green fee of $60. Only one municipal golf course, Bethpage State Park (Black) in Farmingdale, N.Y., which in recent years has held such prestigious tournaments as the U.S. Open, received a rating of 5 stars.

A year-round golf course with modern facilities, the Gatlinburg Course features a newly designed, fully equipped pro shop. It’s been a staple in the area since 1955 and is located off Dollywood Lane near Dollywood theme park and Dollywood’s Splash Country. Esteemed golf course architect William Langford designed the 18-hole course before undergoing major renovations in 1993 and again in 2007.

The Course has always been public and has had only two PGA Professionals – Harry “Cotton” Berrier, a Hall of Fame inductee who retired in 1998, and Tucker, the current director of the Golf Course, which is a Department of the City of Gatlinburg.

In addition to a $500,000 hole renovation project, a new $1.24 million clubhouse opened in 2007, featuring a full-service pro shop and patio deck overlooking several holes. All of the clubhouse’s utilities have been placed underground at the 7,500 square foot facility, which includes modern locker rooms and restroom facilities and is fully handicap accessible.

Acclaimed as one of the most picturesque courses in America with breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains, the course includes the legendary #12, affectionately known as “Sky Hi.” The hole is 194 yards in length and drops 200 feet, tee to green, making it one of the most dramatic holes in the country.

Things to Do in Downtown Gatlinburg

While there seems to be endless things to do in Gatlinburg, there are still folk who come in to town wondering what Gatlinburg actually has to offer. Well, with that in mind, here’s a little taste of what you can look forward to if you decide to take in downtown one day.

From Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to the Hard Rock Cafe to Ripley’s Believe It or Not to the Village Shops, there are a number of stores and attractions that will leave a schedule packed and asking, “What’s there not to do in Gatlinburg?”

For all the outdoor opportunities in the Smoky Mountains, you might think that there just wouldn’t be that many unique shopping opportunities. Totally the opposite. Along the Parkway and in the scenic Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Loop, you’ll find some of the most unique stores anywhere selling things that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Many modern galleries have set up shop on the brick streets, as well as quaint little boutique shops. It also doesn’t hurt that Gatlinburg is close to the Five Oaks Tanger Outlet in Sevierville, which lures shoppers to the area from around the country to browse and buy at all the name-brand stores.

When you shop in Gatlinburg you know it’s going to be a unique experience. You can gaze on in awe as craftsmen fire ceramics and spin pottery, then take a few steps to a store full of over 100,000 magnets, or 1,000 different hot sauces. Grab some homemade jams and jellies and bring a taste of the Smokies to the breakfast table back home.

Hit the malls or one of the specialty stores and studios. Gatlinburg shops are filled with handmade Gatlinburg arts and crafts, unique clothing, jewelry, accessories and souvenirs.

Whether you’re looking for bargains at one of the top outlet malls in Tennessee or you want a unique gift from a local artisan, the Gatlinburg shopping scene has it all. Browse a list of shops, stores and malls below.

Need a copy of the Shops to take with you? The Gatlinburg Shopping Guide is here as a downloadable PDF.

Hannah Mountain Trail

If you’re one of those hikers who loves a good challenge, then look no further than the Hannah Mountain Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is a meandering 9.5 miles from Parson Branch Road to its junction with the Hatcher Mountain Trail at Abrams Creek.

You’ll trek across a number of Smoky Mountain ridges along the way after starting out on Parson Branch Road. To get there, turn off the Cades Cove Loop Road in Townsend just past the Cable Mill. Then follow the signs to Parson Branch Road.

Over the years, this trail has become known for its great hiking opportunities. And by that, meaning it’s a very even trail and smooth thanks to pine needles that fall along it. You’ll come to a massive tuliptree 1.9 miles on the trail – the first major natural marker. Accordingly, another natural marker found on Hannah Mountain is Mount Lanier, the mountain’s highest peak. You’ll descend its flank above Bell Cove and hike into a mixed hardwood forest.

Hikers will circle the north end of Hannah Mountain as they move further along the trail before coming to backcountry campsite No. 14. From there, hikers will follow the trail around the north end of Deadrick Ridge. You’ll climb Polecat Ridge after passing an old home site. This occurs before descending Scott Gap 7.6 miles in. Scott Gap is named in honor of George Scott who lived in the area that backcountry campsite No. 16 now occupies.

The Hannah Mountain Trail reaches its steepest point during the final 100 yards as it approaches Abrams Creek. You must wade the creek in order to cross it which can be hazardous after a rainstorm. Happy hiking!

Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops is one of the most visited places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its access point is found just a hop, skip, and a jump from downtown Gatlinburg. Well, a little more than a hop, skip, and a jump, but you get the picture. For a relatively short hike in the park near Gatlinburg, seek out Chimney Tops and you can thank us later.

As mentioned, it’s a two-mile trek from Newfound Gap Road to Chimney Tops and the trailhead can be accessed 6.7 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center traveling south on Newfound Gap Road. There is also a large parking area found there.

Not only does Chimney Tops offer spectacular mountain views, the short two-mile hike is most appealing to visitors. Just watch out as you get closer to the top, the trail gets pretty steep and can be fairly slippery when it rains.

As you start out, you’ll come to a bridge that crosses the Walter Camp Prong of the Little Pigeon River. This is a great place to view and take pictures of spring wildflowers. At 0.9 miles in you’ll have crossed your fourth bridge along the trail to Chimney Tops and you’re at the point in the trail where the Road Prong Trail junction appears. You’ll go on from that point to the right and hike a switchback.

chimneymapThis creek valley you’re now on will literally lead you up to the stars. It’s a steep trail and you’re likely to hear the sound of water rippling down the mountainside to your as you ascend Chimney Tops. Another switchback and you find yourself trekking across Sugarland Mountain. If you look through openings along the trail you’re sure to catch a glimpse of Mount LeConte in the distance.

Following a quick descent, you come to a sloping pinnacle and signs warning hikers not to travel beyond Chimney Tops’ two peaks.

Two paths can be taken to the top but hikers should be wary of the rocks leading up opposite of the rock face. Some are as old as 600 million years and shine from the thousands of hand that have touched them over the years on their way to Chimney Tops. You’ve made it! Turn around and marvel at Mt. LeConte and Newfound Gap Road, it’s been a great hike and one you’ll always remember.