One of the oldest in the world, the sight of the Smoky Mountain Range is breathtaking, and the wildlife there is abundant. So, whether you’re traveling alone for some tranquility or want to enjoy the outdoors with your mates, the Great Smoky Mountains experience is not something you’ll soon forget.
However, without a plan, you’ll miss out on some of the best bits of this popular travel destination. So, here are some tips to help you plan your Smoky Mountains stay:
- Afternoons are the Busiest
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is what everyone has come to visit. So naturally, afternoons are often crowded with cars and tour buses. If possible, try to stick to mornings and late afternoons. It’s quieter, then. Also, the beauty of the early morning and evening light makes these times even more rewarding.
You’ll have more chances to capture stunning pictures without the crowds. Not to mention, it’ll be easier to find parking.
- Choose to Stay in the Cabins
The lodging options in the Great Smoky Mountains are pretty varied. But to enjoy the true essence of the Smokys, you should stay in one of the rustic cabins. These are tucked away in the woods, usually on private property. They offer seclusion from the outside world and provide a cozy atmosphere for your stay. Plus, you can enjoy the sights of nature from your porch.
Moreover, the Smoky mountain cabins offer all the amenities a traveler might need. You’ll find Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and even hot tubs in some of them.
- Explore the Diverse Wildlife
Bears and deer are some of the more common animals in the Smokys, but they’re by no means all that’s there. There are also river otters, wild turkeys, elk, and many more. Take advantage of the wildlife by taking a guided tour with a park ranger. They can show you the best places for spotting animals.
If you’re traveling with your pet, keep them leashed. It’s for their safety. And be sure to bring your binoculars and a camera. The best season for wildlife watching is spring and summer.
- Pick Your Hiking Trail
You do plan on going hiking, right? After all, this is what the Smokys are known for! Trails are abundant, from the quiet and accessible to the challenging and adventurous. So, pick one that’s right for you. If you’re a beginner, start with an easier trail and work your way up. It will help you get used to the terrain and avoid getting lost or overexerting yourself.
Some of the most stunning trails are the ones through Cades Cove, Newfound Gap, or Alum Cave. You can’t go wrong with those. However, stick to the lower-elevation trails if you’re traveling with young children. The Andrews Bald trail is a good choice.
READ MORE HIKING GUIDES FROM WANDERLUSTERS
- Savor the Local Cuisine
The perfect way to experience the culture of the Smokys is by tasting the local cuisine. Traditional mountain dishes like fried green tomatoes, boiled peanuts, and country-fried steak are some of the must-try dishes. You shouldn’t miss out on delicious desserts like banana pudding and blackberry cobbler. Oh, and the bacon-wrapped Oreos are to die for.
You can ask the locals for recommendations or check out the famous restaurants in Gatlinburg. Remember to bring home some of the local jams and jellies, too.
- Moonshine Tasting is a Must
You can’t leave the Smokys without trying a sample of their famous moonshine. It’s an essential part of mountain culture and has been around for centuries. You can head to the wineries and distilleries in Gatlinburg if you want a taste. Among the favorite local brands are Ole Smoky and Sugarlands. Be warned, though; moonshine packs a punch. So, sip it slowly and responsibly.
While everyone has their preference, the Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine is an excellent place to start. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and tart. You can take some back home with you, too! They make an excellent housewarming gift.
- Experience the Music
The Smokys has hosted some of country music’s biggest stars, from Dolly Parton to Alan Jackson and more. And you can experience music at many of the local haunts. So whether you’re at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distilleries or the Ole Red Gatlinburg, you’ll find live music playing all night.
There are several musical dinner shows in Pigeon Forge, too. These feature bands playing country hits while you enjoy a meal and drinks with your family or friends.
- Take the Byways
The byways of the Great Smoky Mountains are some of the most scenic roads in America. From Gatlinburg to Cherokee, they offer stunning views that make the drive worth it. The Clingmans Dome Road and the Foothills Parkway are two of the most popular routes.
If you want a truly unique experience, try driving through Cades Cove. The wildlife is abundant, and the views are breathtaking. But be aware that it can get crowded. So, plan and arrive early to avoid the traffic.
- Save Money Where You Can
Traveling can be expensive, especially if you’re on a budget. Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy the Smokys without breaking the bank. From free camping to discounted shows, there are plenty of ways to have a great time without spending too much.
For instance, you can save money on transportation by taking the trolley buses in Gatlinburg. You can eat at the local restaurants for lower prices, too. And if you’re looking for things to do during the day, there are plenty of free attractions like the National Park Visitor Centers and the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.
So why should you visit the Great Smoky Mountains?
The Great Smoky Mountains are jam-packed with amazing things to do, see, and eat. Whether you’re looking for an adventurous getaway or a leisurely experience, there’s something for everyone. We hope you know you’ll have to pack layers as the weather can get unpredictable. You must also make all your reservations ahead of time to avoid disappointment. And if you’re looking for recommendations on the best season to visit, April and May are great times to go.