Three Days in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is a town full of southern charm and bustling attractions. Immersed in the grand Smoky Mountains, the iconic Tennessee town is the perfect place to stop for a moonshine post-hike. Gatlinburg and the surrounding area is full of endless entertainment, the most picturesque mountains, and my favorite – free wine tours!

Airbnb experience

 

Smoky Mountains

 

Gatlinburg is packed with fancy hotels, lodges, and upscale Airbnbs. Staying in this area can be expensive, but if you’re able to stay right in Gatlinburg, don’t hold back! Staying close to town has its fantastic perks, especially if you’re within walking distance of main attractions. However, if you’re looking for a more country-style experience, try staying in one of the towns outside Gatlinburg. 

We stayed in Cosby, Tennessee at a rural cabin. This charming cabin was propped against a glistening pond, bordering forest, and miles of acerage. There were a couple of surprises, like no heat (we had to generate our own using a wood stove), a fuel-run camping stove, and cozy little loft. You could call in “glamping”, but the experience did involve splitting wood with a hatchet and using an outdoor bathroom. For the outdoor lovers, this was a great experience. There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and stepping outside to breathe in some crisp mountain air and take in the views. 

 

Jayell Ranch + Gatlinburg

 

white horse in woods

 

Our first day was spent at Jayell Ranch and downtown Gatlinburg. Jayell offers guests an array of unique experiences, like zip lining, ATV tours, and even mountain tubing. However, I was stuck on the idea on horseback riding, especially since Jayell is known for having one of the best deals in Gatlinburg. 

A one hour tour cost only $43, and despite the rain it was actually incredibly peaceful. Even if you’ve never been riding before, the guides provide you with concise and easy instructions. However, the horses are trained to know their terrain and typically just follow each other through the trails. Even though it was misting and cold, I found the experience to be extremely relaxing. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities for pictures as the guides take you through the forest, rolling hills, and peaceful meadows. I would recommend visiting Jayell during the autumn where you can see vivid fall colors, or the summer when verdant greenery starts to arise. 

After the excursion, you can grab a coffee or hot chocolate and visit Jayell’s local farm animals, such as baby goats, pigs, and sheep. 

Post-horseback riding adventure, we wandered into Gatlinburg which was lively with crowds on a mid-Saturday. Once you step foot in this vibrant town, you’ll see eccentric shops, one of the highest mountain trams, and distilleries placed on every corner.

 

Gatlinburg Experience – Places to shop, eat, and drink

 

 

 

Calling all moonshine fans! If you’ve never tried this Tennessee favorite, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to start. As a fellow moonshine lover, I was a fan of the numerous tastings and creative concoctions I found. Ole Smoky, Sugarlands, and Tennessee Shine Company are a must-visit!

 

Anakeesta, Gatlinburg

 

gatlinburg, Tennessee

 

Above the busy town of Gatlinburg, you’ll spot Anakeesta, a large outdoor adventure hub that hosts zip lining, gondola rides, a treetop area, and more If you want to get a travel guide then you can read here. A magical oasis above the charming southern town, Anakeesta provides an incredible panorama of the Smoky mountains. 

 

The Great Smokys

 

 

I’m a mountain lover at heart, and I always feel like there’s so much I haven’t seen yet. Having been to eastern Tennessee already a few times, I can attest that any visitor will be shocked by its breathtaking scenery. One fantastic thing about the Great Smoky range is that it’s easily accessible, more so than a lot of other parks in the US. There’s a sense of unique freedom that comes from hiking in the Great Smokys. It’s wildly independent, yet comfortable to navigate. You can trust your environment while practicing safety, and the scenery always includes pleasant surprises. The Great Smokys exhibit Tennessee wilderness at its finest. 

 

Sample Of the Best Great Smoky National Park Hikes

 

Beginner: Cucumber Gap Loop

 

A common place to spot horseback riders, Cucumber Gap Loop is a wonderful introduction to the park. Here, you’ll venture through the forest, rocky terrain, and a series of unique old chimneys. At the end of the trail, you can explore Daisy Town, a preserved unit of old homes that display eccentric architecture. 

 

Moderate: Rainbow Falls

 

Eventually leading to Mt. Leconte, Rainbow Falls travels through a series of switchbacks, including an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. Featuring narrow bridges, serene creeks, and gorgeous woodland views, Rainbow Falls is a must-see of the Smokys. 

 

Challenging: Alum Creek Trail to Mt. Leconte

 

For the avid explorer, this 11.0-mile out-and-back trail is an exceptional choice. A particularly challenging route that includes cables for assistance, you should have some prior hiking experience before attempting. Alum Creek to Mt. Leconte typically takes around 6 – 7 hours to complete. This is a popular route for hiking and backpacking, so you’ll likely run into other people on the trek.

 

Local experiences in Cosby and Newport, Tennessee

 

Gatlinburg may be a touristy town, but its surrounding areas are quite the opposite. There are some great local restaurants with the friendliest clientele, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting others who live and work in the area. When we weren’t in Gatlinburg, we stopped by the small-town hubs and watering holes, like Carver’s Orchard & Applehouse Restaurant, Southern Steel Bar, The Woodshed Restaurant, and Adventure Distilling Company. 

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