by | Feb 14, 2023 | RV Travel Destination

U.S. RV Adventure! A trip to Pigeon Forge and Smoky Mountain National Park in January is quite an RV adventure.  Our family is spread out (California, Nevada and Tennessee) and this year we chose January to get together and explore the areas around Chattanooga, Pigeon Forge and Smoky Mountain National Park.  Steven moved to Chattanooga in 2021 and this was our first trip together and we were excited to explore his new town and take a few days to visit Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains.

We wanted to explore a scenic route to Pigeon Forge rather than take the Interstates.  We knew the scenic route would take longer but seeing the countryside as we drove through small towns was really worth the time it took. We were able to come into Pigeon Forge from the south via Townsend and avoided a lot of the traffic on Parkway.

Be sure to take time to plan your U.S. RV adventure in advance to avoid any disappointments that the sights you wanted to visit are closed for the season.  Luckily, we did take the time to check websites for a couple of “must see’s” we wanted to visit while in Pigeon Forge.  Unfortunately, Dollywood and Dolly Parton’s Stampede (dinner show) were closed during the week of our visit.  We did, however, keep our eye out in the hopes of spotting Dolly but it looks like we will have to plan a return trip.

As we researched sights to visit during our trip, we were excited to see that Pigeon Forge was still decorated with Christmas lights!  Pigeon Forge Winterfest goes from November through mid-February.  The City is draped in millions of holiday lights not only at the LeConte Center but throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  We parked at the LeConte Center and walked the Wonders of Light Walking Trail. The Trail is about a mile one-way along the Little Pigeon River; so many lights you walk under and around, the beauty of it all is…amazing


We then wandered the shops at The Island.  Rides for kids, snowmen and festival lights lined the walkways and lots of holiday lights.  Additionally, we checked out Margaritaville, Paula Dean’s restaurant, candy shops, the live music and of course we had to stop at Cinnabon.

It is important to note that there are a few Starbucks in Pigeon Forge.  Where Tamara and I live there is practically a Starbucks on every corner, so imagine our surprise when we actually had to google a Starbucks location.

Attractions along Parkway:

WonderWorks is an amusement park for the mind with more than 100 hands-on exhibits bringing the world of science, space, exploration of extreme weather and the only boundary is your mind. The building is truly unique, and it was built as if the building were upside down! 

Beyond the Lens is just a block or so from Wonderworks and explores pop culture with interactive games. You can jump into an adult sized bubble pit and pose like you are in a police line-up.

You won’t run out of choices on Parkway from go-kart tracks, mini golf courses, indoor skydiving, Titanic Museum, dinner theaters, Alcatraz East Crime Museum and more as you drive along Parkway.


A note RVs – the road through Gatlinburg is narrow and crowded and there is no parking for RVs.  We stopped at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center (1011 Banner Road). The staff were very helpful providing us with maps and brochures.  They also told us there is RV parking just above their building and will accommodate large RVs.  There is a free shuttle that goes to Gatlinburg!  We recommend utilizing the Shuttle or renting a car to explore Gatlinburg.  It is a town worth visiting,

From the Welcome Center, we drove to Gatlinburg.  We went at night and took a ride on the Ober Gondola.  The top of the mountain is an amusement park.  We were hoping for an observation platform to look at the city below to look at all the holiday lights, however, the focus is really on the mountain activities.  During our visit activities offered included playing in the snow, indoor ice skating, indoor ice bumper cars, snow tubing, skiing, snowboarding – plan ahead and purchase tickets or you may find that there is no availability. 

Cades Cove Scenic LoopWhen in the Smoky Mountains on a U.S. RV Adventure, , you really have to drive the scenic loop through Cades Cove.  It is windy and slow going but it is beautiful at any time of the year.  We started the route from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. We followed the sign for Cades Cove for about 17 miles which ran alongside the Little River and determined this portion of the route is fine in an RV.  There are several pull outs and parking areas to stop and see some of the waterfalls. 

The Loop really starts from the Cades Cove Visitor Center near Townsend.  If you don’t want to drive from Sugarlands Visitor Center, you can enter the Park at the Townsend Entrance Road and turn right towards Cades Cove and drive about 13 miles to the visitor center.

We did re-confirm that no RVs are allowed on the Road past the visitor center. You should plan 2-4 hours to do the 11-mile one-way route.  Expect narrow roads with few if any pull outs so if you are not driving a Class B or small Class C, we would recommend taking your tow vehicle, rent a car, or take a tour.  We didn’t drive the loop this time, but we’ve included a picture from a previous trip. 

Campgrounds – there are many campgrounds in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Townsend and even Dandridge.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Open All Year

  • Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA – this campground is fairly new, well laid out campsites, walking distance to Parkway (main road through Pigeon Forge) with shops, restaurants and activities and only 3 miles from Dollywood.  Lots of amenities and very clean.  The staff were very nice and helpful during our visit and we will definitely be back.  The campground backs up to the West Prong Little Pigeon River.
  • Riveredge RV Park – this campground is located at the south end of Pigeon Forge.  We stopped at the main office and introduced ourselves. They were kind enough to allow us to walk through the campground.  It is definitely a nice campground and one we would stay at if the KOA were full.  It is located right on Parkway.  This campground also backs up to the West Prong Little Pigeon River.
  • Pine Mountain RV Park – This is a highly rated campground for those looking for a place to park the RV and are planning to be out sightseeing most of the time, or want to be in a campground that doesn’t cater to kids, then this is a good place to consider.  It is a half-mile off Parkway.
  • Anchor Down RV Resort – While this campground is about 30 minutes north of Pigeon Forge in Dandridge, Tennessee, it is an amazing campground.  Located on Douglas Lake with most sites having a view of the lake.  You can choose a standard campground to a signature site. The buddy sites are set up so your doors face each other.  The signature sites include a large outdoor fireplace and picnic table.  All other sites include a fire pit.  This campground takes your breath away.
  • Little Arrow Outdoor Resort – this campground is located in Townsend, just off the Cades Cove route.  You really feel a part of the Smoky Mountains at this campground.  The sites are well laid out, full hook-ups and fire pits.  The staff are super friendly and we enjoyed our tour of this campground. 
  • Ripplin Waters RV Park – Located 11 miles north of Pigeon Forge in Sevierville.  This has always been Norm’s “go to” campground when visiting this area.  The campground was closed during our visit but is normally open all year.  It accepts very large rigs with sites 100 feet long.  The campground is located on the banks of the Little Pigeon River.

We had a great time on our latest U.S. RV Adventure, and wish our time here could have been longer.  We hope we have perked your interest in planning your next RV adventure to Pigeon Forge/Smoky Mountain National Park?  RV Adventure-USA is ready to help – just reach out and let’s talk!