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6 Things to Do on Your Trip to the Smokies

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Every year, the Great Smoky Mountains attract millions of people from around the world. They take in the majestic beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, experience the history-enriched culture, and savor the local cuisine. 

With all the exciting attractions and stunning mountain views, the Great Smoky Mountains are a great place to spend your next vacation. The only challenge with having so many options is deciding what you want to see during your trip. For this reason, we have created the most comprehensive list of things to do on your trip to the Smokies.

1. Dolly Parton’s Stampede awaits

If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, visiting Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Pigeon Forge should be your top priority. Rightfully called the Smokies’ most fun place to eat, this dinner show attraction combines theatrics and entertainment with the most delectable Southern food. 

You can experience the extraordinary spectacle of Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Pigeon Forge, where you’ll be captivated by an immersive show filled with friendly competition, exhilarating horse riding stunts, breathtaking special effects, and sensational musical performances. Also, prepare to be amazed by an awe-inspiring aerial performance accompanied by an original song personally crafted and recorded by the legendary Dolly Parton herself.  

Dolly Parton’s Stampede features delicious food in addition to top-notch entertainment. The thoughtfully crafted, diverse Dolly Parton’s Stampede menu is bound to satisfy every palate. Every bite, from the succulent roasted chicken and flavorful pork loin to the delectable sides and mouthwatering desserts, is a testament to the culinary excellence and Southern hospitality the Great Smoky Mountains are known for.

2. Explore the Hiking Trails

Immerse yourself in the vastness of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where more than 800 miles of hiking trails await your exploration. There are 150 different trails to choose from, offering abundant outdoor adventures for you and your family.

From simple strolls to exhilarating challenges, these trails cater to hikers of all levels. Whether you’re a novice seeking a gentle introduction to the outdoors or an expert enthusiast craving an adrenaline-pumping expedition, rest assured that you’ll find a trail perfectly suited to your preferences and capabilities.

Some of the most popular destination hikes in the part include:

  • Rainbow Falls
  • Chimney Tops
  • Alum Cave Bluffs

3. Take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Wheel

Located at The Island in Pigeon Forge, this towering wheel is up to 200 feet high and offers a spectacular view of Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains. Considered one of the Southeast’s tallest attractions, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel commands attention as a captivating centerpiece of Pigeon Forge.

Enjoy the ride by boarding the glass gondola, which can hold up to eight people. Four times around, a full ride lasts eight to ten minutes. You can travel through all four seasons thanks to the climate-controlled gondolas. 

Enhance your visit with a truly unforgettable experience by taking a nighttime ride on the wheel. With over 1 million LED light bulbs adorning the ride’s frame, the spectacle is nothing short of dazzling. 

Let the enchanting display captivate your senses and create lasting memories of your time at the Great Smoky Mountains.

4. Memorable experience at Cades Coves

Cades Cove is undeniably one of the most beloved attractions in the Smokies, attracting over 2 million visitors each year. Cades Cove is a sprawling and lush valley surrounded by majestic mountains, making it a top destination in the Smokies. It’s known for its fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities, attracting nature enthusiasts from all around. 

You can often spot plenty of white-tailed deer roaming around, and if you’re lucky, you might even come across a black bear, coyote, groundhog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, or other fascinating animals. Cades Cove truly offers a chance to witness the wonders of nature up close in this picturesque valley embraced by the Great Smoky Mountains.

Additionally, from May 3 to September 27, Cades Cove offers car-free Wednesdays providing the perfect opportunity to bike or hike without any concerns about noise or traffic. 

5. Try your hand at Whitewater rafting

A whitewater rafting adventure in the Smokies is a must-try experience if you are an adventure seeker. As you board an inflatable raft with a knowledgeable guide and navigate the raging river, prepare for a day full of thrilling experiences. Along with experiencing a rush of adrenaline, you’ll also get to see the Great Smoky Mountains’ breathtaking beauty from a different angle. 

You’ll experience calm periods while navigating the rapids, where you can relax and take in the serene views of the Smokies. Anyone looking for an exciting day in the great outdoors will love this unforgettable adventure because it combines excitement and scenic beauty. 

6. Take a scenic drive

Cruise along scenic drives like the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or Newfound Gap Road to marvel at the majestic mountain vistas, vibrant foliage (in the fall), and charming roadside attractions.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5-mile (9 km) one-way loop road that is a great way to experience the Smokies. The road winds through a scenic valley along Roaring Fork Creek, a tributary of the Little Pigeon River. The trail also offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Newfound Gap Road is another popular drive within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This scenic road takes you from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina, passing through the heart of the park. Along the way, you’ll encounter breathtaking vistas, cascading streams, and dense forests. Make sure to stop at Newfound Gap, which sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Final thoughts

Whether you’ve been to the Smoky Mountains before or this is your first time, the above activities are fantastic additions to your list of things to do. By engaging in these activities, you’ll make the most of your trip and create priceless memories that make you want to return for more. 

Every experience, whether it be a dinner show, an exhilarating adventure, a peaceful hike, or a breathtaking view, will be remembered.


Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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