These are the best Great Smoky Mountains things to do for the ultimate weekend trip to the most popular national park in the US! This is a beautiful national park and a perfect vacation for a family, couple, or group of friends.
If you are planning on heading to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a weekend trip, you are likely trying to find the best things to do! I am always searching for the best options to make the most of our trip without it feeling too rushed or busy. These seven things are what we did over our weekend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
These are 7 incredible Great Smoky Mountains things to do, non touristy things to do in the Smoky Mountains, things not to miss in the Smoky Mountains, and more!
This post is all about the best Great Smoky Mountains things to do.
Great Smoky Mountains Things to Do:
1. Take in the view from Clingman’s Dome
This is the number one suggested attraction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and it looks so epic! The views are absolutely insane because it is not only the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but the highest point in all of Tennessee. It’s a short half-mile paved trail and it gets chilly, so wear layers! Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited, so you’ll have to let us know how epic it really is.
2. See Wild Elk
This might not be something you can plan but this is definitely a bucket list experience. We just happened to be driving down the main road in the park and saw a huge herd of elk in an open field! We turned around and parked quickly so we could see them and they were so majestic! Such a beautiful and unexpected experience. There are tons of other animals in the park, like the American Black Bear, white-tailed deer, groundhogs, chipmunks, and bats, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!
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3. See Sunrise at Newfound Gap
We have traveled all over the world and this sunrise was one of the most mind-blowing sunrises we have ever seen. We started the morning with high clouds and slowly as the sun was coming up the fog rolled in and changed the scene of the sunrise so many times. It was like watching 10 different sunrises in one morning! This is a great place to watch the sunrise because you can just drive up and pull right up to the viewpoint. I honestly barely got out of the car because it was freezing out but still could see everything! Plus the viewpoint straddles the North Carolina – Tennesse border so a good opportunity to knock another state off your bucket list!
4. Hike to Laurel Falls
You cannot visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park and not go on at least one hike. We opted for this moderate hike of 2.6 paved miles up to Laurel Falls. It had some spectacular views over the valley. The best part was, of course, the beautiful Laurel Falls. I am a sucker for any waterfalls and this one was just stunning with crystal clear water and a great spot for photos. Even with a light sprinkle of rain, the trail was safe and not too crowded.
5. Moonshine Tasting in Gatlinburg
You will likely be staying in or around Gatlinburg, as most people do but if not, be sure to make a trip over to the lively town! There are so many museums, parks, rides, restaurants, and moonshine! It’s the perfect stop in the middle of the day to grab some lunch and see the sights. We loved walking through town and stopping for moonshine tasting at Ole Smoky Distillery. It’s only $5 (free if you buy something) and you get to try 6 different shots of their flavored moonshine. They are absolutely wild what they come up with and how friken good it all is!
6. Walk the Road to Nowhere
The Road to Nowhere is located in Bryson City, North Carolina, one of the gateway cities to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After a nice meal in Bryson City, we recommend taking a hike on the Road to Nowhere. It has the coolest name but actually stems from the very real history of the road. It was meant to connect Bryson City to Fontana, a city no longer accessible to most, some 30 miles away. Unfortunately, the project was never finished and this road is now closed to cars. At the end of the road, you’ll find a tunnel and the start of multiple hiking trails leading to some gorgeous vistas.
7. River Arts District in Asheville
Asheville is a good hour plus from the Great Smoky Mountains but is worth the drive. And it makes a great stop if you are already driving through! We headed here for lunch at Tupelo Honey and had the most amazing fried chicken with a great spot on the patio. A cute town to walk around in but especially fun to do the walk in the River Arts District. They have some unique art installations, fine art galleries, and some delicious food. We loved stopping off at the Stay True Silo (pictured above) and even met some wonderful people along the way!
Where to Stay
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is huge so there are plenty of towns around the park for you to stay! These are some of the best options around and perfect for your weekend getaway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park!
Stay Near Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg
This is the hub for anyone visiting Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You will find plenty of hotels, restaurants, and shopping in Gatlinburg. It is the perfect place to lay your head after a long day of exploring the Smoky Mountains!
- New 2 Bedroom Cabin on a Creek
- Cute & Cozy Room at The Appy Lodge
- The Ultimate Glamping Experience with Under Canvas
Stay Near Great Smoky Mountains in Bryson City
Bryson City screams mountain cabins and this where we stayed with friends when we visited. These are our favorite three cabins on VRBO that we fell in love with!
- Deep Creek Overlook Cabin Featured HGTV Log Cabin Living
- 2 Bedroom Log Cabin with Fireplace and Dramatic Mountain Views
- 3 Bedroom Modern Farmhouse with Fireplace & Gorgeous Views