Hi Guys! So today is usually the day in my travel series where I wrap up my thoughts and share all the photos that we snapped with our iPhones. However, so many people I know have said to me over the last couple weeks “Hey! I’ve been loving your posts on the Smoky Mountains. Can you give me an idea of an itinerary?!”
And oh my gosh. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that before! All of my travel posts should include a couple of itineraries that fit each and every lifestyle/traveler. So today, I’m bringing you the first three (of six) amazing itineraries to help guide your way through your next Smoky Mountain vacation.
Each of these itineraries are meant to make planning your trip a little bit easier. Feel free to mix and match them, or supplement any activities with other great ones that can be found on my previous posts from this series! Find them here, here, here, and here.
The Fast and The Furious
First up, The Fast and The Furious Itinerary. This one is for all of you that have to see the most they can, in the shortest amount of time. I highly recommend at the very least 3 days (2 nights) in The Smoky Mountains. I don’t think that you can truly experience the area in any less than that. In fact, I recommend at least 4 days to be sure you see everything you want! However, if you’re really pressed for time, here are the absolute, can’t miss, must sees of The Smoky Mountains.
Day 1. Welcome to The Smoky Mountains! Start your adventure by heading straight into the National Park. Stop by the Sugarland’s Visitors Center to grab some maps, info, and souvenirs. Once your ready, head up Newfound Gap Road to Clingman’s Dome. Here, you can take a small hike up to the observation tower and see the very best views in the Smoky Mountains for the littlest effort. After snapping some pictures and enjoying some time outdoors, head back to your hotel to check in and freshen up for dinner. Spend your first evening in town catching a Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge.
Day 2. Set your alarm and wake up early! Head to Cades Cove and spend the entire day exploring. If your up for a challenge, rent a bike to take around the Cove. Or, if you’d rather, drive around and stop often to explore the many wonder’s you’ll find throughout it. Take a picnic, enjoy your time, and don’t rush through. When you’re done exploring Cades Cove, make your way back to your hotel and get yourselves ready for dinner. Head towards downtown Gatlinburg and take a quick side trip on The Roaring Fork Motor trail. Finish the night with dinner at Smoky Mountain Brewery, and drinking the champagne of the South at Ole Smoky Moonshine.
Day 3. If you only have three days in the mountains, you have to make the most of them! Start your last day by packing up and checking out of your hotel bright and early. Trev and I have always found that the best way to cure “end of vacation sadness” is by waking up early and getting a hike in before we have a looooong trip back home. I challenge you to get a quick hike in while you’re visiting, because I really believe that there is no better way to see the Smoky Mountains than by being surrounded by them. You can find my favorite hikes here.
After your hike, you can leave town knowing you’ve seen the best of the best in the Smoky Mountains, and made the most of your short visit.
For me, the PERFECT vacation in the Smoky Mountains would last anywhere from 5-7 days long. That being said, the rest of these itineraries will be for 5 days (4 nights). Like I mentioned above, if you’re staying longer, mix and match these awesome itineraries to make your most perfect week in the Smokies!
Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere
My favorite thing about the Smoky Mountains is the sheer amount of space that you’ll find there. In some places, for as far as you can possibly imagine, all you can see are rolling, green mountains. You’ll find yourself feeling so small, and so in awe. Which is why, this one is fondly named after one of my favorite lyrics from Beauty and the Beast. (Crap. Now I’m watching the trailer for the new Beauty and the Beast. I’m so excited!!) Any way… moving on!
The most perfect adventure in the Smoky Mountains is the one where you can find adventure in these great wide spaces. So if you’re looking for adventure, this one is for you!
Day 1. Adventure is awaiting you in the Smoky Mountains! Are you ready for it? Begin your adventure by taking a trip into the National Park. Get a taste for what you’re about to experience this week by driving up Newfound Gap Road to Clingman’s Dome. (Honestly, I recommend this to be the first thing any travelers do to The Smokies!) Take the short hike to the top, and take in the uber famous views. Head back down the mountain and check into your hotel. Spend your first night in the area grabbing dinner in Downtown Gatlinburg.
Day 2. Rise and shine, sunshine! It’s the perfect day for a hike. Choose a longer, more difficult hike to kick off your vacation. I highly recommend Charlie’s Bunion! Take your time wandering the trail, and be sure to take a camera. The photo opps on this hike are endless. And the view at the top is absolutely stunning! After your hike, head back to your hotel and cool off with a swim. (If your visiting in the summer, you’ll find out pretty quickly just how hot it gets in Tennessee! A swim after a hike is the most refreshing thing EVER.) Head to a dinner show in Pigeon Forge to finish your evening off right.
Day 3. One of the easiest ways to get an adrenaline rush is zip lining. Seriously. You get to zoom around in the air without actually putting yourself in any danger. Spend this morning zipping through the trees, and enjoying some seriously stellar views. When you’re finished, take on the ultimate thrill by boarding the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. After an entire day of thrills, take the evening to relax. Pack a picnic and spend the evening exploring the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.
Day 4. For your last full day in The Smoky Mountains, take on the ultimate in thrill seeking… Whitewater Rafting. You can read about my experience rafting in Jackson Hole here. You guys, I had the best time out on those rapids, and I know you will too! Now I’ve never been rafting in the Smokies, but I’m sure it’s fun no matter where you do it! Check out the trips here and find the one that works best for you. For your very last night in town, head to Gatlinburg and grab dinner, souvenirs and moonshine!
Day 5. As I always recommend, on your last day in town, check out early and head out on one last, quick adventure. I highly recommend a quick hike in Cades Cove (like Abram’s Falls).
Grab some lunch on your way out of town, while you remember all your amazing adventures through the Smoky Mountains.
Family Vacations don’t have to Suck
Like the name of this one? HAHA I feel like family vacations get a really bad rep. Everyone knows someone that swears that family vacays are the worst. And I honestly don’t get it! Every family vacation I’ve ever been has been incredible and one to remember. (In fact, I literally can’t wait until we go on another!) So, I’m here to make sure that your family vacation through the Smokies doesn’t stink.
Day 1. First things first. You can’t start out your family vacation on a sour note. So, grab your family, and head up to Clingman’s Dome. This is the best starting point because it will allow your littlest members to get out and stretch their legs, AND it will give you a chance to see some amazing views. After some time at The Dome, go check into your hotel. Grab a quick and easy dinner, and spend the evening swimming in the pool. (I know kids ALWAYS want to swim in the pool. And after a day of traveling, they’ll be more than happy practice their cannon balls.
Day 2. Up and at ’em folks! It’s Dollywood Day!! Spend the entire day at the South’s greatest theme park.
Day 3. A new day means a new adventure at Dollywood. But this time, head to Dollywood’s Splash Country. Spend the day swimming, water sliding, and splashing. When you’re finished at the water park, head into downtown Pigeon Forge to catch a dinner show.
Day 4. Spend your last full day exploring the national park. There are SO MANY OPTIONS. You can hike, or do something else. Check out my past posts, here and here. You’ll have to decide what works best for your family. However, I would recommend keeping it short and sweet. When you’re done with your hike (or whatever it is you choose) head into Gatlinburg and enjoy all that they have to offer. Think tourist traps, shopping, and of course, the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. Your family will have a great time spending the afternoon and evening here, and I promise they will not get bored! Choose a fun place to eat dinner while you’re at it. There are lots of chain restaurants on the main street, and local places too.
Day 5. Again, wake up early and check out of your hotel. Spend the rest of your time in The Smoky Mountains doing one thing that everyone can enjoy… eating breakfast. Grab a big breakfast at the Log Cabin Pancake House, and then take a quick trip up The Gatlinburg Space Needle before heading out of town.
Everyone will leave smiling, and it will be a family vacation for the books.
Next week, I’m back with three more itineraries that I think you’re going to love!
I hope you’re all enjoying this lovely Travel Tuesday! It was a bit rainy here today, but now the sun is out, and it looks like we’re in for a pretty beautiful sunset! I’m off to cook some dinner and snuggle up with my kitty cat!