Great Smoky Mountains National Park is nestled on the Tennessee and North Carolina border. The lush Appalachians, gurgling rivers and exciting wildlife are all great reasons to visit. And millions of people travel to the Smokies every year. But where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the best experience?
Great options for where to stay when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains are Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Wears Valley, Townsend and Cherokee.
Where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains
Staying in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg, also known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, sits beautifully just outside the spectacular park. If you stay in Downtown Gatlinburg when visiting you only have 3 miles (5 km) from your accommodation to Sugarlands Visitor Center inside the park.
So Gatlinburg is perfect for the outdoor-lover who plans to spend the majority of the time inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Gatlinburg hotels sit so near the park border that you easily can go between your accommodation and the Smokies at no inconvenience.
But Gatlinburg does not only cater to the active nature-lovers. You must be impressed by how vibrant the small city is and how many attractions there are to explore if you have a day or two off the park.
Ripley’s Aquarium, Gatlinburg Space Needle and Hollywood Star Cars are three great Great Smoky Mountains attractions for rainy days. And of course you have a good selection of restaurants to choose from when you stay in Gatlinburg for the Great Smoky Mountains.
Gatlinburg is also a great choice for where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you like the idea of a small-town feel. Nestled in the middle of the surrounding Tennessee mountains most Gatlinburg things to do can rather easily be reached by foot from the city’s hotels near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
As the main gateaway to the Smokies that Gatlinburg is it’s the best town for where to stay near the Great Smoky Mountains if you want to be as near the park adventure as possible. In Gatlinburg you find hotels near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all the side attractions that the city offers is a great complement to the amazing nature in the park.
- Stay in Gatlinburg for: Best access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and great attractions.
Popular hotels in Gatlinburg
- Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg. This Gatlinburg resort provides luxury just steps away from the Gatlinburg attractions. The pools and hot tub are great after a long day exploring the Great Smoky Mountains.
- Marshall’s Creek Motel. A more simple yet satisfying option is Marshall’s Creek Motel in Gatlinburg. The rustic Gatlinburg motel sits in the heart of Gatlinburg so that you effortlessly can walk to the city’s restaurants and attractions.
Staying in Pigeon Forge
Central Pigeon Forge sits 8 miles (13 km) north of Downtown Gatlinburg. That means that you’re slightly further away from the park when you pick Pigeon Forge for where to stay when visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Pigeon Forge is not very compact compared to Gatlinburg. That makes Pigeon Forge a less walkable Smokies destination than its neighbour.
But just like Gatlinburg the town of Pigeon Forge offers a great selection of Great Smoky Mountains places to stay and a lot do to apart from visiting the park. Staying in Pigeon Forge has become a family favorite with attractions such as the theme park Dollywood and the Titanic Museum.
Pigeon Forge also offers the places to eat and stores you need to have the best Great Smoky Mountain vacation. In Pigeon Forge you are near the wilderness in the Smokies but still have all the comfort you crave.
In short, Pigeon Forge is a great choice for where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Pigeon Forge has good access to the Smokies and just like Gatlinburg the city has fun attractions for the days that you don’t spend in the park.
- Stay in Pigeon Forge for: Good access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and great attractions.
Popular hotels in Pigeon Forge
- Courtyard by Marriott Pigeon Forge. If you prefer to stay in Pigeon Forge it doesn’t get more comfortable than Courtyard by Marriott. The location near the main strip in Pigeon Forge is very convenient and of course the Pigeon Forge hotel has both pools and hot tub for maximum comfort and fun.
Staying in Sevierville
For access to the Great Smoky Mountains it’s less attractive to stay in Sevierville than in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. The distance to get from Sevierville to Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains is 17 miles (27 km). And the road goes through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which means slow and heavy traffic.
Neither Sevierville can match Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge when it comes to things to do. But from Sevierville you have great access to all the attractions in Pigeon Forge including Dollywood.
Sevierville is nestled in a beautiful lush surrounding with rolling hills. And further away from the Great Smoky Mountains means that you often can find cheaper hotel rates in Sevierville compared to in the other towns in the Smokies region.
To sum up, Sevierville has less good access to the Smokies than Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. However, Sevierville is a great option for where to stay when visiting Great Smoky Mountains if you don’t mind the extra miles and look for budget-friendliness.
- Stay in Sevierville for: Reasonable access to the Great Smoky Mountains and budget-friendliness.
Staying in Wears Valley
Wears Valley sits 11 miles (18 km) southwest of Pigeon Forge. The location means that you don’t need to go through Gatlinburg to access the Great Smoky Mountains. And Wears Valley has great park access with just a couple of miles from the Wears Valley lodging to all the fun in the Smokies.
A great thing with being further west than Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is that you are nearer one of the biggest highlights in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove. Cades Cove with its scenic valley, interesting history and amazing wildlife is a must on any Great Smoky Mountains itinerary.
The part of the Smokies that Wears Valley sits in is often referred to as the quiet or peaceful part. In this area you don’t find the loud attractions of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Instead you focus more on experiencing the natural beauty that the area offers.
Wears Valley is the best place for where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you look for great park access and a quiet time while still having reasonable driving time to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge.
- Stay in Wears Valley for: Great access to the Great Smoky Mountains and peacefulness.
Staying in Townsend
Townsend is an alternative to Wears Valley for where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains in the so called peaceful region. The town sits even further west than Wears Valley and has also great access to the Great Smokey Mountains.
Being situated further west means that Townsend is closer to Cades Cove but further away from the action in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. That can be both good or bad depending on what you’re after for your Great Smoky Mountains escape.
To sum up, it’s a great choice to stay in Townsend if you want to stay close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and look for a quiet time. The main difference compared to a Wears Valley stay is that you’re closer to Cades Cove but further away from the action in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
- Stay in Townsend for: Great access to the Great Smoky Mountains and peacefulness.
Staying in Cherokee
To stay on the Tennessee side is much more popular for exploring the Smokies than the North Carolina end. Accordingly all the options for where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains so far Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Wears Valley and Townsend sit on the Tennessee side.
But a good option for where to stay when visiting and exploring the Great Smoky Mountains from the North Carolina end is to stay in Cherokee. From Cherokee you only have a few miles to get into the southern part of Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
If you make Cherokee your base for where to stay when visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park you can effortlessly combine your exploration of the Smokies with a visit to Oconaluftee Indian Village. The impressive Oconaluftee Indian Village recreates life of an 18th century Cherokee village and makes it fun to learn more about the Cherokee culture.
And from Cherokee you can also enter Americas favorite drive, the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway. A popular trip is to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee up to Asheville and visit the famous Biltmore Estate.
Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains from the south side is not as popular as from the north. But Cherokee is a great place for where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you want to explore the southern part of the park and driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Stay in Cherokee for: Great access to the southern side of the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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Stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park FAQ
Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about where to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are great and hugely popular options for where to stay when visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They sit near the park border and offer a lot of activities for days off the park. Sevierville is located further away but is more budget-friendly. Wears Valley and Townsend are super options if you look for great access and peacefulness. Finally, Cherokee is a very good alternative if you want to explore the Great Smoky Mountains from the south.
Gatlinburg sits closer to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Therefore Gatlinburg is the better choice for where to stay if you want to maximize time in the Smokies. But they are not far from each other and both cities offer fun attractions for time not spent in the park.
The Great Smoky Mountains is a huge park that needs time to be explored. It’s recommended to plan at least 3 days for the park and to add more time for any side attractions such as Dollywood in Pigeon Forge.