Nationaal Park Great Smoky MountainsIt is the most visited national park in the United States and there is heavy traffic in the access cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge,Tennessee, especially on summer and fall weekends when the leaves change color in the Smoky Mountains.
Travelers driving to and from the park will drive through downtown Gatlinburg on Parkway/US 441, which runs 7 miles north to Pigeon Forge, home ofdoll wood.Gatlinburg is easy to explore on foot, but Pigeon Forge is not. Depending on your destination, transfers can be an inexpensive, if not always quick, way to explore the top attractions in both cities. Download the Gatlinburg app for streetcar maps and real-time parking availability information at city lots.
explore on foot
Downtown Gatlinburg is compact and walkable, but be aware that the sidewalks can get uncomfortably crowded.
The main road is Parkway/US 441, which runs south through Gatlinburg into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (US 441 becomes Newfound Gap Rd after entering North Carolina.)
The busiest section of the Parkway in Gatlinburg runs uphill from Stoplight 3, which faces the Parkway and East Parkway/US 321 interchange, to the park entrance. This busy mile-long stretch to the park entrance is lined with pancake houses, gift shops, Ripley's Believe It or Not museums, and moonshine stills. Traffic is also usually heavy.
For a more leisurely stroll downtown, follow River Rd south from the Parkway at Stoplight 5. This route bypasses the main attractions, but runs along the Little Pigeon River. The 2-mile Gatlinburg Trail connects the southern edge of downtown to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the national park. There is currently no public transport to the park or within the park.
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For the most part, Pigeon Forge is not pedestrian-friendly. The attractions are spread over an 5-mile stretch of the Parkway, which is full of traffic most of the day and mostly in the evening. There are sidewalks, but crossing can be difficult: the road is six lanes wide and the traffic lights are widely spaced. There is also no shade and the distances between the attractions are long.
A pedestrian-friendly option is the Riverwalk Greenway, a 6-mile shaded multi-use greenway along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. It starts at Butler St near Patriot Park (Old Mill Ave) and connects tothe islandentertainment district and the Pigeon Forge Community Center. La Isla, stretching along a wide square anchored by theWheel of the Great Smoky Mountain, it is also pedestrian friendly.
Take a trolley or shuttle
Freeauto'stravel on three routes in and around Gatlinburg. All three stop at the Gatlinburg Mass Transit Center next door.Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, where there is a visitor center.
The Purple Route runs through the center of the Parkway and River Rd, passing many of the area's top attractions. It also connects to the Park & Ride at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Information Center, all located on the Parkway about 2 miles north of downtown.
Drivers arriving in Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge can park for free at Park & Ride and then hop on the Purple Route Trolley, avoiding parking fees and hassles in Gatlinburg. The opening hours of the Purple Route are from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. M. at midnight from May to October, with shorter hours the rest of the year.
The seasonal yellow route stops along the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, an art trail lined with galleries, studios, and shops. The blue route goes to the convention center, city hall, Rocky Top Sports World and the community center.
Pigeon Forge operates six of themfun time carRoutes Five of them run year-round and there is a seasonal route in the summer to Dollywood's Splash Country. All streetcars stop at Patriot Park (186 Old Mill Ave), where parking is free.
Fares vary by route and you pay per ride unless you have purchased a day pass. Working hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. M. at midnight from March to October, with shorter hours the rest of the year. An all-day pass costs $3. Passes can be purchased at the public transit office in Patriot Park.
Trolleys run north-south along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge, while the Dollywood Trolley runs between Patriot Park and Dollywood ($2.50). The Gatlinburg Welcome Center Trolley ($1) travels nonstop from Patriot Park to the aforementioned Gatlinburg Welcome Center, which is located 2 miles north of Gatlinburg. Transfer to the Gatlinburg Purple Route for a trolley ride to downtown Gatlinburg.
Guests at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort can take a free shuttle service to Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country. Guests who prefer to come by their own car can park for free in one of the two parks.
Keep in mind that traveling on the trams in both cities can take a long time, especially if there are a lot of people.
move by car
You won't need a car to explore downtown Gatlinburg and its attractions, most of which are within a mile of the Parkway. Traffic is quite busy during the summer and weekends, and driving can be slow. However, if you want to explore the adjacent national park extensively, you will need a car.
The Parkway is the main road that runs through the center of town and leads directly to the park. It also links to Pigeon Forge. Directions are often given by the number of the traffic light along the Parkway.
The city operates two large downtown garages, each with approximately 365 spaces. One is located at Ripley's Aquarium (161 Greystone Heights Rd) and the other is the McMahan Parking Garage (520 Parkway) at stoplight #3. Each is $10 per day. There are free park-and-ride areas at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center and another on Highway 321 at the City Hall complex. After parking, hop on a shuttle to downtown. Rates on private lots can range from $15-$20 per day.
Better advice:If you're very lucky, or very early, you might find a free spot on River Road.
Most travelers will need a car in Pigeon Forge, which stretches 5 miles along the Parkway. Parkway is six lanes wide in places and is full of rides and shops. Although streetcars serve more than 200 stops in Pigeon Forge, it may be easier to drive your own car.
However, you may not want to drive to Dollywood or Dollywood's Splash Country - parking at each park costs $25 per day. A cheaper option is to park in the free lot at Patriot Park and then take a shuttle. The trolley fare is $2.50 each way or $3 for a day pass. If there is a stop near your hotel, you can take a trolley to Patriot Park and not ride at all. Keep the exact fare at hand, as change is not given.
There are eight car rental companies at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville. The airport is the best place to rent a car if you plan to explore the gateway towns and national park. The airport is located 35 miles from Pigeon Forge and about 45 miles from Gatlinburg. There is an Enterprise Rental Car in Sevierville and several agencies rent jeeps and adventure vehicles in and around Gatlinburg.
Charging stations for electric cars
There are 11 free places to charge your vehicle in Pigeon Forge, including stations in the city-run Mountain Lot (2989 Teaster Lane), the Island, and theTitanic-museum.
Taxi and shared rides
Taxis are available in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, as well as Uber and Lyft. Taxi services to Pigeon Forge can cost between $60 and $70, while trips to Gatlinburg cost between $80 and $100. Rideshare prices vary.
You will most likely need to book a taxi in advance as it can be difficult to hail a cab on the street in Gatlinburg and especially in Pigeon Forge.
See the sights by bike
Biking on the Parkway in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge is not recommended due to heavy traffic.
Paths and greenways
You can bike to the national park in the two miles from the southern edge of GatlinburgGatlinburg-pad. The trail ends at the Sugarlands Visitor Centre. The Townsend Bike Trail in Townsend is a paved trail that runs along US 321 for about 5 miles, with sections overlooking the beautiful Little River.
In Pigeon Forge, you can hop on the Riverwalk Greenway, which runs about 4 miles through town. You can pick it up on Butler St near Patriot Park or on Island.
Within the national park, the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Rd is closed to motorized vehicles on Wednesdays from early May through September. Biking past wildlife and historic structures, free from bumper-to-bumper cars, is an exciting and stress-free way to explore.
Driving tours and jeep adventures
Several companies organize adventure tours through the mountains. These tours are not designed for point-to-point travel, but can be a fun and informative introduction to the national park and the Smoky Mountains.
Roze Jeep van de Great Smoky MountainsGuided tours lead to scenic areas of the park and guides discuss local history, flora and fauna. At the end of the tour there is 4x4 off road fun. For more options, check out the Pigeon Forge Chamber of Commercelistof regionally oriented companies.
The national park sells inexpensive brochures to guide self-guided drives to different areas of the park. The booklets contain information about history, wildfires, and plants, and these details correspond to numbered posts and landmarks. Destinations include Cades Cove Loop Rd, Newfound Gap Rd and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Purchase a brochure at one of the park's visitor centers or online.
Affordable travel in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
All public transit cars in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are equipped with wheelchair lifts and other mobility aids. The lifts are accessible from any designated tram stop.
The ADA paratransit service may be available for departure-to-destination services in Gatlinburg for those whose disability or health condition prevents them from using fixed-route service, but riders must apply and be approved. Those unable to get to a Pigeon Forge streetcar stop can request a paratransit van for the next day by calling 865-453-6444. Paratransit's fare is $1 per person each way.
Sidewalks can be steep and busy in Gatlinburg, making them not ideal for wheelchairs and strollers. You can escape the crowds and get a panoramic view of the city center with wheelchair access.Ober Gatlinburg-tram, with a rear ramp and priority boarding. Please note that not all attractions and activities at the top are suitable for wheelchairs.
Located in secondary forest on US 441 south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Sugarlands Valley paved nature trail, half a mile long, is an accessible trail along a stream. Interpretive exhibits share details about the surrounding natural features.
Lonely planet online free downloadguideto make travel resources accessible online.
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All in all, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are both incredible spots to visit. If you're looking to experience the true tourist experience of the Smoky Mountains, you'll want to visit Gatlinburg. If you're looking for an equally thrilling experience, but a little away from the crowds, Pigeon Forge is your answer.Is it better to be in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? ›
All in all, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are both incredible spots to visit. If you're looking to experience the true tourist experience of the Smoky Mountains, you'll want to visit Gatlinburg. If you're looking for an equally thrilling experience, but a little away from the crowds, Pigeon Forge is your answer.How many days do you need in Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge? ›
You'll need at least three days to explore all the Pigeon Forge has to offer. There's a variety of family-friendly activities, including amusement parks, theaters and live music venues. You can also hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or visit Dollywood, the area's most popular attraction. What is this?What is the best way to get around Gatlinburg? ›
The best way to get around Gatlinburg is on foot and by trolley. The city of Gatlinburg is easily walkable and the inexpensive trolley that operates 365 days a year offers service to nearby attractions.Is there a trolley that goes from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg? ›
The Gatlinburg trolley runs daily year-round. The Pigeon Forge trolley also runs daily but only for most of the year — it stops during the winter months of January and February.What is the best month to visit Gatlinburg Tennessee? ›
The best time to visit Gatlinburg is during the fall – specifically in September and October. During these months, beautiful fall foliage takes the stage, and temperatures are mild(highs between 65 and 80) which attracts travelers from all over.Which is more walkable Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? ›
Gatlinburg is easy to explore on foot, but Pigeon Forge is not. Depending on your destination, shuttles can be an inexpensive – if not always quick – way to explore top attractions in both cities. Download the Gatlinburg app for trolley maps and real-time information about parking availability in city lots.What month is best for Pigeon Forge? ›
The magical sweet spot to visit Pigeon Forge is from the last week of April through the end of May. The reason for this is that school spring breaks last from March until around mid-April. There is also the opening of Dollywood in March and the massive Spring Rod Run in mid-April.Which is cheaper Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge? ›
So, when it comes down to it, Pigeon Forge is generally the cheaper option when comparing lodging, activities, and restaurants. However, there are exceptions to every rule.What time of year is Gatlinburg cheapest? ›
If you're looking to save on your next vacation, consider visiting Gatlinburg in January, February or May. These months are typically the least expensive times to travel, due to lower demand.
While a hotel might be great for a trip to New York City, if you're vacationing in Gatlinburg, TN, a cabin rental is far and away the best place to stay. A cabin provides an authentic Smoky Mountain experience that you simply can't find with any other type of lodging.Do you pay to ride the trolley in Gatlinburg? ›
There are no fares or fees to ride the Gatlinburg Trolleys.
Gatlinburg Trolleys operate on a daily basis, serving visitors and residents 365 days a year, providing an easy, free way to get around Gatlinburg. Visitors in the area can board a Trolley at any stop in the City and be off to their destination.
SkyBridge Gatlinburg Prices
The cost for a SkyLift Park ticket is: $32 for ages 12-64. $25 for ages 65+ $19 for ages 4-11.
A round-trip fare costs $12 for adults and $9.50 for children ages 5 to 11. The tram runs from 9:30 a.m. to 6:40 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:40 p.m. To learn more about the aerial tram and all of its attractions, visit its website.How much does it cost to ride the trolley in Pigeon Forge to Dollywood? ›
|Dolly's Splash Country||$2.50|
|All Day Pass (Colored wristband)||$3.00|
Departing regularly from downtown Gatlinburg, this cable car will take you on a breathtaking 2.1-mile ride up to our Adventure Park & Ski Area.How many days is enough for Gatlinburg? ›
If you're going to Gatlinburg, plan for at least three days. You can do it in two, but you'll feel a little rushed. Anything past three days and you're going to want to reach out to Pigeon Forge and explore what's happening over there.What month is best to see bears in Gatlinburg? ›
Late spring and early fall are particularly good times to visit if you're looking for bears.What do I need to know before going to Gatlinburg? ›
- Choose the right cabin. ...
- Bring your walking shoes. ...
- Spend time on the Parkway. ...
- Bring a cooler for the car. ...
- Visit during the off-season. ...
- Ride the Gatlinburg Trolley. ...
- Ride the tramway to Ober Gatlinburg. ...
- Keep up with local events on our blog.
Pigeon Forge is best known for Dollywood and Gatlinburg for being the gateway town to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but visitors to this area shouldn't discount Sevierville. Sevierville is a beautiful East Tennessee town that is located just north of Pigeon Forge and boasts a myriad of its own attractions.
How Far Apart are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? As a bird flies, the distance between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is about five miles total. The roadways between the cities take you on many twists and turns, however.How do people spend 3 days in Gatlinburg TN? ›
Day 1: Clingman's Dome, Laurel Falls, Trolley, Scavenger Hunt, Dinner Theater. Day 2: Aerial Tramway, Gatlinburg Trail, Ghost Tour. Day 3: Pancake Pantry, Moonshine Distillery, Zipline Canopy Tour, Pigeon Forge.What is the cheapest month to go to Pigeon Forge? ›
The absolute cheapest time to take a vacation in Pigeon Forge is usually early to mid September.How do I spend a day in Pigeon Forge? ›
- Start your day with pancakes. Yes, pancakes! ...
- Head to Dollywood (Splash Country) ...
- Visit the Titanic Museum. ...
- Spend some time on The Island. ...
- Have fun at WonderWorks. ...
- End your day with a show! ...
- Nashville. ...
- Smoky Mountains.
- Drive in the Morning, Late Night. One of the best things to do in Pigeon Forge to avoid traffic is to choose the right time of day for driving. ...
- Avoid Popular Hiking Trails. ...
- Plan a Cabin Cookout.
The best time to visit Gatlinburg is between September and October. The two peak seasons in Gatlinburg are summer (June, July and August) and the month of October, when the fall foliage is at its zenith. July is the busiest month of the summer season, while weekends in October draw the largest crowds in the fall.What is the most scenic drive to Pigeon Forge? ›
Wears Valley Road to Townsend from Pigeon Forge provides 15-miles of the most Instagrammable views of mountain life. The valley boasts beautiful pastures, artisan and craft shops and quaint restaurants, and Friendly Falls in Cove Creek is the perfect place to stretch your legs and take in the mountain air.Why is Gatlinburg so popular? ›
Gatlinburg became a tourist attraction because it's easy to get to, offers endless opportunities for recreation, and its own unique Appalachian culture. Gatlinburg is home to a wide variety of unique things to do.Where does Gatlinburg rank for vacation? ›
Gatlinburg was ranked fifth on the Trending Destinations of the World list, among places like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.What month does the leaves change in Gatlinburg? ›
The fall color display usually reaches peak at mid and lower elevations between mid-October and early November. This is the park's most spectacular display as it includes such colorful trees as sugar maple, scarlet oak, sweetgum, red maple, and the hickories.
- Gatlinburg is a very casual place, so jeans and a T-shirt are appropriate for most attractions and restaurants.
- If you're planning on eating at an upscale restaurant, you may want to pack one nice outfit.
The average cost for a cabin rental in Gatlinburg is $308.How much does it cost to stay in a cabin in Pigeon Forge Tennessee? ›
What is the price range for Pigeon Forge cabin rentals? Cabins in Pigeon Forge cost from just $48 a night to $259 a night for that something truly special. Prices and availability are subject to change. Additional terms may apply.Do you have to pay to walk the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg? ›
The only way to access the top of the mountain (where the Gatlinburg SkyBridge is located) is to buy an admission ticket at the SkyLift Park ticket window and then ride the yellow SkyLift chair to the top of the mountain.How much does it cost to ride the chairlift in Gatlinburg? ›
- March - April: 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
- May - October: 8:30 a.m. - 12 midnight.
- November - February: Sunday - Thursday 10:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
I think, unquestionably, SkyLift Park is worth it. Anytime you can enjoy a Gatlinburg landmark, I think it's worth it. Plus, they've added a lot of value to the price of your admission.What is the best time of day to visit the Gatlinburg SkyBridge? ›
For example, the best times to walk across the bridge are in the morning and at night: The crowds are smaller and the view during each of those crossings will be very different. SkyLift Park opens at 9 a.m. all yearlong, with the exception of maintenance weeks.How much does is cost to go to the upside down house in Gatlinburg? ›
Located on the Pigeon Forge Parkway, Wonderworks is open every day at 9 a.m. Tickets for adults cost $22.99 while children ages 4-12 cost $14.99.How long do people spend at SkyBridge Gatlinburg? ›
Making plans to visit? The SkyBridge is located at 765 Parkway. Most people will spend 1-2 hours at the attraction.
The Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is not just a convenient way to access Ober Gatlinburg, but a scenic attraction that carries more than 3,000 guests daily! The cable car departs regularly at 20-minute intervals from downtown Gatlinburg at Parkway and LeConte Street.How much does it cost to go tubing in Gatlinburg? ›
205 Wears Valley Rd. The online pricing for the tubing excursion with Smoky Mountain River Rat is $13 for adults (13 years and up), $10 for kids (ages 6 to 12), and free for kids ages two to five. These prices, which include two river sections, are valid for an unlimited day of tubing.Is there a shuttle between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? ›
The Gatlinburg trolley runs daily year-round. The Pigeon Forge trolley also runs daily but only for most of the year — it stops during the winter months of January and February.What is the entry fee to Dollywood? ›
Regular Dollywood Prices
As of November 2022, Dollywood prices are $89 for a standard one day adult pass, $109 for two days, and $119 for three days. Dollywood discount tickets apply to seniors 62+ and children ages 4-9.
The best way to get around Gatlinburg is on foot and by trolley. The city of Gatlinburg is easily walkable and the inexpensive trolley that operates 365 days a year offers service to nearby attractions.What is the 5 mile loop in Gatlinburg? ›
The 5.5-mile-long, one-way, loop road is a favorite side trip for many people who frequently visit the Smokies. It offers rushing mountain streams, glimpses of old-growth forest, and a number of well-preserved log cabins, gristmills, and other historic buildings. Please note that the road is closed in winter.Are there train rides in Gatlinburg Tennessee? ›
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
And depart on a beautiful train adventure with breathtaking vistas boasting water scenes, foraging wildlife, and rolling hills. Choose a classic ride by steam in an updated historic train (engine built in 1942) or a modern excursion on one of 5 diesel trains.
The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, which is located at the Island in Pigeon Forge, is a staggering 200 feet tall and capable of providing over 1,500 rides per hour! Each ride, which lasts eight to ten minutes, is made up of four complete revolutions of the wheel.Which is less crowded Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? ›
Pigeon Forge is known for its exciting attractions such as Dollywood, The Island, and Wonderworks. There's also an abundance of scenic overlooks and hiking trails nearby. Plus, since it's less crowded than Gatlinburg, fewer crowds are competing for space at popular attractions.Is Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge cheaper to stay? ›
If you're looking for a budget-friendly option with plenty of kid-friendly attractions, then Pigeon Forge may be the better choice.
So, when it comes down to it, Pigeon Forge is generally the cheaper option when comparing lodging, activities, and restaurants. However, there are exceptions to every rule.Is it worth going to Pigeon Forge? ›
Yes, as a kid we went several times just for the day. There are plenty of fun things to do in less than an hour or two and the list below will help you discover what is right for you. Of course, if you can stay a few days you can experience more and even visit the neighboring towns of Gatlinburg and Sevierville.What is the slowest time of the year for Gatlinburg Tennessee? ›
Though Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains are truly a year-round destination, the off-season in Gatlinburg is during January, February, and March. However, these months still see lots of visitors, this "off-season" is simply less busy than other times of the year.What are the cons of Gatlinburg? ›
Crime is a problem
The crime rate in Gatlinburg is something to worry about. The city's violent crime is 46.9, higher than the US average of 22.7. Property crime is 95.0, way higher than the US average of 35.4.
How Far Apart are Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? As a bird flies, the distance between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is about five miles total. The roadways between the cities take you on many twists and turns, however.Is Pigeon Forge a tourist trap? ›
The many Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg restaurants, accommodations, and entertainment venues, which are by definition tourist trap establishments, have all helped to attract people to this unique part of the country and meet their needs while they are here.What is better Branson or Pigeon Forge? ›
They both have a lot in common, with their many theme park attractions, all-American shows, and the famous Dolly Parton Stampede. While Pigeon Forge is the gateway to the stunning Great Smoky Mountains, Branson is the gateway to the majestic Ozark Mountains. Both are family-friendly destinations.How likely is it to see a bear in Pigeon Forge? ›
Even if you don't see a bear on the trail, it's extremely likely that you will see one while you're driving around the area, especially if you take a drive along any of the motor nature trails or Newfound Gap Road. Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots to see black bears in the Smoky Mountains.