Where should we go in Eastern Tennessee?
May 16, 2008 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me find little-known destinations in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area, please!

My husband and I will be staying in Townsend, Tennessee for a week in mid-June. I have googled and brochured my heart out, but what I'm looking for are smaller, less touristy wonders. They have to be out there, it's a gorgeous area. So, what I'm asking is; Does anybody know of any lesser-known must-sees in the area? Maybe the most beautiful waterfall that isn't listed in the Smoky Mountains waterfall brochure? We plan to stick to nature as much as possible, and we already have Cades Cove, Tuckaleechee Caverns etc. in our list of destinations. We will be avoiding the tourist traps in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge as much as possible.

And before you jump all over me, I've already read This, This, and This.

Thanks for your help!
posted by TrinaSelwyn to Travel & Transportation around Tennessee (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In terms of scenic drives, I highly recommend checking out the Blue Ridge Parkway -- it dead-ends at Smoky Mt. National Park, but just northeast there are beautiful (and likely more secluded) hikes.

You might also want to explore on the eastern side of the park - it will be a bit cooler being at high elevation, and a nice escape from Cades Cove (which I hear is usually pretty swamped this time of year). Balsam Mountain is quite beautiful, there's a one-way dirt road that cuts through the forest from the top of the mountain, which might be fun if a bit nervewracking. Also, don't miss Chimney Tops! Pretty strenuous, but worth the trouble once you get to the top.
posted by puckish at 6:43 AM on May 16, 2008

As you leave Gatlinburg going towards Pigeon Forge, there's a road called Roaring Fork Road that makes a loop back into the park and is a beautiful drive.

Clingman's Dome is a neat spot.

And you might want to drive through the back side of the Smokies to Cherokee, NC, which is much less touristy than Gat and PG.

Cades Cove is one of my favorite places on earth. Go early in the morning or at dusk to see the most wildlife. Yes, it's a pity about the crowds, but it's still worth it. I went with my mom and sister Dec 23 of this year, and it was stunning and nearly empty.
posted by kimdog at 7:06 AM on May 16, 2008

There's a pretty bad winery (with very nice people) in Pigeon Forge, if I remember. There's also tons of mini golf.
posted by j1950 at 7:23 AM on May 16, 2008

re: Dec 23 of this year. You see, my family this a time machine...
posted by kimdog at 7:33 AM on May 16, 2008

I live one town over from Townsend.

You don't say what dates you'll be here, but my favorite band is playing in Maryville on June 6. If you'd rather hear local music, try The Back Hills Cafe for bluegrass and roots music.

For outdoors stuff, Fall Creek Falls is beautiful. Bald River Falls is lovely and viewable from the road, which is easily accessible from the Cherohala Skyway.

Food... well, there's lots of chain restaurants in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, so you know what you're getting there. Good independent dining is available in Maryville (Aubrey's, The Tomato Head). Mom & pop restaurants are very hit & miss... the closer you go to PF & Gatlinburg, the spottier they are.

Feel free to MeMail me if you like.
posted by workerant at 8:59 AM on May 16, 2008

If you are looking at hikes in Cades Cove, I would recommend the hike to Gregory Bald. It is a very unique location.
posted by daser at 10:39 AM on May 16, 2008

Sevierville, Tennessee (pronuounced severe-ville). Dolly Parton's hometown. If you be wanting to see some rednecks "har tis."
posted by three blind mice at 12:33 PM on May 16, 2008

I have to make the obligatory Dollywood mention. Surprised nobody else said it. Not really lesser known, or nature-riffic but supposed to be kinda fun and is the only real tourist "destination" in the area.
posted by fructose at 8:13 PM on May 16, 2008

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