9 Free Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains
The possibilities for entertainment during your visit to the Smoky Mountains are endless. While a majority of these activities will cost you a pretty penny, there are plenty of things to do that won’t cost you anything! From taking in the breathtaking mountain scenery to exploring downtown Gatlinburg, there are plenty of opportunities for free activities and fun that you might not know about. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 9 free things to do in the Smokies when you stay at our cabin rentals. Keep reading to learn all about these exciting opportunities!
1. Stroll Along the Pigeon River
Take a moment to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the Little Pigeon River with a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk in downtown Gatlinburg. Just one block off the downtown parkway, you can take some time to feed the ducks, relax on the riverbank and find the perfect spot for a riverside photo op. You can also walk alongside this same river in Pigeon Forge at Patriot Park and along the Greenways in Sevierville.
2. Picnic in the National Park
Whether you prepare a picnic feast fit for a king or stick with PB&Js, stuff your basket with your favorite eats, head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and enjoy a day of relaxation in the refreshing Smoky Mountain air. There may even be a swing set or two to take advantage of. Want to know where else you can enjoy a picnic? We’ve listed a couple popular picnic spots for your reference below:
- Mynatt Park – Known as one of the most popular and scenic parks in Gatlinburg, Mynatt Park offers several recreational facilities, including picnic tables with outdoor grills, a children’s fishing stream and playground, a basketball court, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and a baseball field.
- Mills Park – Mills Park also offers great recreational opportunities and picnic scenery. You can find a pavilion with barbecue pit, picnic tables, playground, softball field, horseshoe pits, jogging trail, playground, tennis courts, football field, basketball court, and 400-meter track.
- North Gatlinburg Park – This park’s facilities include a children’s trout fishing area, handicapped fishing area, horseshoe pits, walking trails, and a playground.
3. Drive the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Named for the exuberant mountain stream that runs around the trail, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5-mile-long, one-way, loop road that is a popular side trip for vacationers looking to observe mountain streams, old-growth forest and several well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic structures.
4. Take a Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains
You’re in the Great Smoky Mountains for goodness sake! And whether you’re looking for a trail with historic sights, a glimpse of the Smoky Mountain wildflowers, or the cool mist of a waterfall, hiking is one of the best free things to do in the Smokies. Not sure where to start? Try these trails below:
- Gatlinburg Trail (easy) – 1.9 miles – As the only pet-friendly trail in the area, Gatlinburg Trail is perfect for the whole family, including Fido. This easy, relatively flat trail runs alongside the Little Pigeon River.
- Little River Trail (moderate) – 4.9 miles – This trail features wildflowers and a cascading stream as it climbs a gentle grade along an old railroad bed.
- Middle Prong Trail (strenuous) – 8.3 miles – Flowers as well as waterfalls are featured on this trail. In the first two miles, you may see foamflower, toothwort, violets, wood sorrel and trilliums.
- Ramsey Cascades (strenuous) – 8 miles – Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and one of the most impressive. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and ends in a small pool.
5. Visit The Sugarlands Visitor Center and Nature Trail
Located at the national park’s main northern entrance two miles south of Gatlinburg, the Sugarlands Visitor Center is definitely not to be missed. The center offers a free 20-minute video that provides a snapshot of the natural setting of the Smokies and the significant plant and animal diversity in the park. Several natural history exhibits showcase mounted specimens of park animals in recreations of their habitats and journals kept by the first park naturalists. Ranger talks and slide shows are presented daily from spring to fall. The Sugarlands Nature Trail is located right behind the visitor’s center. This easy, 1-mile trail provides gorgeous scenery that includes wildlife and the Little Pigeon River.
6. Visit Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts
With an annual enrollment of more than 2,000 students from the United States and abroad,Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts features galleries and exhibits from some of the most talented artists around. The school is a leader in arts and crafts education and features art galleries, woodturning gallery, the resource center, and the book and supply store.
7. Visit Cades Cove
Settled in 1821, Cades Cove is a western valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and boasts some of the best wildlife viewing around without even having to leave your vehicle. The 11-mile trip takes you along the history of the area and can even be enjoyed by bicycle or on horseback. We recommend visiting early for the best opportunity to catch a glimpse of deer, bears, turkeys, owls, and foxes.
8. Walk the Downtown Gatlinburg Parkway
While the walk and the sights are free, there is plenty of retail therapy and delicious eats to enjoy along the Gatlinburg Parkway. With over 200 unique shops, plenty of local eateries and attractions for all interests and ages, the parkway will keep you and your family busy exploring for hours. As you stroll, keep your eyes peeled for hand-pulled mountain taffy, fresh-dipped caramel apples and delectable homemade fudge. Play mini golf, experience the world’s largest underwater aquarium tunnel, ride the country’s largest aerial tram and take a turn on live-action rides. It’s all within the 2-mile Parkway.
9. Enjoy the Smokies from Your Gatlinburg Cabin
Nothing tops off the Smoky Mountain experience like a stay in a log cabin tucked into the beauty of the mountains. Our cabins feature amenities that help you take advantage of the area, including hot tubs on private decks, fire pits and outdoor grills, and, depending on the location you choose, our cabins in the Smoky Mountains also offer great views of the mountains.
We’re certain you’ll love your visit, especially with so many free things to do in the Smokies! For more ways to save during your Smoky Mountain visit, find out how our Smoky Mountain cabins can actually save you money!