Your U.S. RV adventure would not be complete without a stop at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, one of the top 10 National Parks to visit. Best part – visiting this park has always been absolutely free! No entrance fee is charged. In March 2023, the Park will begin a “Park It Forward” program charging vehicles a minimal fee. The fees will stay in this National Park and go directly to preserving the Park and visitor experience. Park It Forward is not a lottery, is not a timed entry system, it does not limit the number of visitors to the Park, nor does it limit where you can go in the Park. You can buy a daily tag ($5), 7-day tag ($15), or an Annual tag ($40) upon arrival at the Park or you can purchase one online.
Did you know that this National Park sits on 522,427 acres (816 square miles) and is the largest National Park on the East Coast? Smoky Mountain National Park welcomes twice as many visitors each year than any other park in the system. The cascading 100- foot Ramsey Cascades waterfall,
Cataloochee Valley to view wildlife, and over 100,000 types of flowers and plants draw more than 12 million visitors every year. Be sure to add this Park into your National Park Trip Planner.
The Park’s distinctive beauty is its greatest attraction. The Park is called the “smokies” as ridge after ridge fade into the horizon with a smokey haze from the dense flora. The Park is also:
- Home to the large diversity of plants and animals
- No entrance fee
- Most visited National Park
- Salamander Capitol of the World
- Home to some of the oldest mountains
- More than 800 miles of hiking trails
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the ideal U.S. RV adventure location for hikers and bikers. With over 800 miles of trails, you’ll have a hard time choosing which trails to take. Don’t leave the kids behind as this park has hiking programs specifically for kids. One of the most popular hikes Trillium Gap Trail, will take you behind the cascading water of Grotto Falls.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park also holds one of the best collections of log buildings in Eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures have been preserved in the Park including houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools and grist mills.
Pets – National Parks are not known for being pet friendly and this is due to the wildlife population. Your dog can be the friendliest dog ever but there is always a chance your pet can be injured by the Park’s wildlife. No one wants to go home without their best friend. Smoky Mountain National Park allows pets to go with you on the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. There are several National Forests nearby where you can take your pet with you but always keep them close by you, so your furry friends can enjoy your U.S. RV adventure with you!
Scenic drives in your RV
- Newfound Gap Road is 32-miles long and is considered to be one of the most scenic areas in the Park, you will pass through a variety of ecosystems and the views are stunning.
- Clingmans Dome is in the heart of the Park. The observation tower offers 360 degree views of the Smokies and beyond. Located in the heart of the Park, Clingmans Dome observation tower is the highest point in Tennessee. From this viewpoint, it’s easy to see why this is America’s favorite National Park.
- Cades Cove Loop – is an 11-mile one-way loop that circles the cove with opportunities to walk trails, see wildlife and waterfalls.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – RVs are not allowed on this trail but if you are towing or have rented a car, be sure to include the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in your RV planner for at least one of the days you are here. This is a 6-mile narrow winding one-way scenic loop that provides views of mountains, streams, mills, and other historic buildings.
Bicycles can travel on most roads within the Park. However, due to steep terrain, narrow road surfaces, and heavy automobile traffic, many park roads are not well suited for safe and enjoyable bicycle riding. Cades Cove Loop Road is an exception. The 11-mile one way road is a popular bicycling area. It provides bicyclists with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and touring 19th century homesites. The Loop is closed on Wednesdays to vehicle traffic which makes biking this Loop a real treat.
Activities abound in this Park as well. Guided tours include day hikes, multi-day hiking, ATV, fishing, jeep rides, white water rafting, waterfalls, horseback riding and more! Prefer not to take guided tours? Start at the visitor center, check out the Ranger Programs, Junior Ranger program, hike, bring your bikes or rent bikes, tour the scenic drives, take a picnic with you as you tour the Park, explore the historic structures, hike to Abrams Falls. No matter how you spend your time in the Park, you will be amazed at all there is to see.
While visiting the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on your U.S. RV adventure, add stops in the surrounding areas to your RV trip planner.
Pigeon Forge is a famous site from the Civil War, and now is popular U.S. RV adventure destination for families to enjoy a wide variety of activities including the Titanic museum, Police museum, Old Mill restaurant, and multiple dinner theatre options. Wonderworks Museum is a building that looks like it was built upside down, and inside you will find 100+ hands-on science exhibits plus laser tag, a ropes course & a 6D motion ride.
Famous Dollywood is nearby, this amusement park was built by country music superstar Dolly Parton. Dollywood offers 40 world class rides, high-energy entertainment, award-winning dining and the friendliest park atmosphere in the world! If visiting during the summer, don’t forget Dolly’s waterpark – Splash Country.
Pigeon Forge also offers the Mass Transit Trolley that runs March through October. You can catch the trolley anywhere in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and some locations in Sevierville. There are over 100 stops on this route.
Gatlinburg – Downtown Gatlinburg is designed for pedestrians with a parkway that runs from end-to-end and a charming River Walk along the Little Pigeon River. This town offers restaurants, quaint local shops and galleries. We enjoyed the riverwalk that runs along the Little Pigeon River, wineries, arts & crafts community, and the Aerial Tramway that departs from downtown Gatlinburg to Ober Gatlinburg, the views of the Great Smoky Mountains were breathtaking from the Tram.
Townsend lies on the side of the Great Smoky Mountains and is known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies”. It is renown for its diversity of plant and animal life as well as preservation of Southern Appalachian culture. Some of the key sites we enjoyed during our U.S. RV adventure were the Townsend River Walk & Arboretum which has a great nature trail, the Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum which has vintage steam locomotives and you can learn how the Native Americans and pioneers depended on the Little River to survive. There’s a small swinging bridge that our kids have always enjoyed as they tried to make it sway and bounce.
Campgrounds – There are many great campgrounds in the Pigeon Forge, Townsend and Gatlinburg Area. They offer stunning backdrops of the Smokies and make the best of the natural features surround the campground. This is an area that caters to RVers and the towns continue to meet the rising demand for RV campgrounds from luxury-style with all the amenities to rustic-style that have some amenities and primitive camping facilities. There are also campgrounds that can accommodate the larger RVs.
Uber/Lyfts/Taxi Services/Car Rentals – If you are do not want to take your RV to see the sites, prefer not to take the Trolley, there are alternatives such as Uber/Lyft/Taxi and car rentals in the area. This area of the country has something for everyone and is not to be missed if you are planning a US RV adventure. If you would like help planning your next RV trip, just reach out to RV Adventure-USA. We are an experienced RV trip planning service and can help you plan your next U.S. RV adventure to the Great Smoky Mountains or anywhere in the U.S.