Exploring the Gateway Towns Around Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, fascinating wildlife, and rich Appalachian history. Each year, millions of visitors are drawn to the park’s mist-covered peaks and scenic trails. While there are no hotels or restaurants within the park itself, the surrounding gateway towns provide ample accommodations and culinary delights for travelers.
Gatlinburg is arguably the most well-known gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. This bustling mountain town offers a wide range of hotels, from cozy cabins and chalets to luxury resorts. One of the main streets in Gatlinburg is lined with restaurants, shops, and attractions, making it a convenient base for exploring the park.
When dining in Gatlinburg, be sure to try some local specialties, such as trout, which is often freshly caught from the park’s streams. Southern comfort foods like biscuits and gravy, country ham, and moonshine-based dishes are also popular. The Old Mill Pottery House Café & Grille is a must-visit for traditional Southern cooking, while those looking for a unique experience might enjoy dining at The Peddler Steakhouse.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Just a short drive north of Gatlinburg lies Pigeon Forge, known for its family-friendly attractions, including Dollywood, the famous Appalachian-themed amusement park owned by Dolly Parton. Pigeon Forge offers a variety of accommodations, ranging from hotel rooms to large family lodges.
Culinary adventurers should not miss out on trying some Tennessee barbecue. Places like Corky's Ribs & BBQ and Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Que serve up smoky, tender meats that are a true taste of the South. The Apple Barn and Cider Mill is another favorite, offering fresh apple pies and home-cooked dishes in a rustic setting.
Often referred to as the "Peaceful Side of the Smokies," Townsend is located on the western edge of the park and offers a quieter alternative to the more bustling towns. This small community has a variety of lodging options, including bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, and riverside motels.
Townsend visitors should try local mountain recipes, like stack cakes or fried apple pies, which reflect the area's Scots-Irish heritage. The Trailhead Steakhouse provides hearty meals for hungry hikers, and the Apple Valley Café is known for its delectable desserts and laid-back atmosphere.
Cherokee, North Carolina
On the park's eastern side lies the town of Cherokee, situated within the Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Accommodations here include casinos, hotels, and inns, all offering a touch of Native American culture.
Cherokee cuisine features dishes like frybread, a crispy, doughy bread that's often served with honey or jam, or used as the base for a taco. The traditional bean bread, made with cornmeal and beans, is another local delicacy. Restaurants like Peter's Pancakes & Waffles offer a mix of Cherokee and Southern dishes, making for an unforgettable dining experience.
Bryson City, North Carolina
Bryson City is a quieter town with a picturesque setting, great for those looking to escape the tourist crowds. The town’s quaint atmosphere is matched by a diverse selection of lodgings, including historic inns, cottages, and mountain cabins.
While in Bryson City, take the opportunity to enjoy Carolina-style barbecue at spots like The Iron Skillet. For those with a sweet tooth, visiting the local bakeries for some homemade treats is a must.
Websites for More Information:
To assist with planning your trip around the Great Smoky Mountains, the following websites offer comprehensive information on lodging, dining, and activities:
These gateway towns not only offer a place to rest and refuel but also add their own regional flavor to your Great Smoky Mountains adventure. With their distinctive cuisines, charming lodgings, and local hospitality, they are an integral part of the overall experience. Whether you favor the excitement of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge or the tranquility of Townsend and Bryson City, these communities are ready to welcome you with open arms and full plates.