How to Get the Most Out of Smoky Mountain National Park

smokey mountains

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a small mountain resort city just five miles from the great Smoky Mountain National Park. Southern culture and country music comes alive in the numerous amusement parks, music theatres, and restaurants, while the landscape beckons lovers of the outdoors with its majestic natural beauty.

Read on to find out how to make the most out of your time at the beautiful Smoky Mountain National Park.

Laurel Crest Resort Getaway

Bluegreen’s Laurel Crest, situated in the foothills of the scenic Smoky Mountains, is a country sanctuary. Only a mile or so away from Pigeon Forge, the resort is conveniently close to the small city, yet far enough away that one can enjoy the peace the natural landscape yields.

laurel crest resortIn winter, the snow-capped mountains provide a perfect view, visible while lounging in the outdoor hot tubs located on the resort property. In the summer, complimentary binoculars are available for bird watching on the clubhouse deck with a 360 degree view of the forest. For extroverts, seasonal parties are often added to the calendar: pool parties in the tepid heat of summer and holiday parties in the late fall and winter. There are kid-friendly activities scheduled year-round, while a game room and large outdoor playground are available outside of special events.

Laurel Crest also has a reading lounge, indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and sauna for ample relaxation after long mountain hikes. For those who have questions, resort staff hosts a vacation-planning hour every Monday to help you plan your ideal trip.

If the resort amenities weren’t enough, one- or two-bedroom villas also include a television, small kitchen, whirlpool tub, fireplace, and balcony terrace.

Outdoor Activities

Smoky Mountain National Park is the ideal setting for a variety of outdoor activities. From hiking to horseback riding, to whitewater rafting and zorbing, there is an outdoor activity for everyone.

Hiking through Smoky Mountain National Park is always breathtaking, with over 800 square miles to explore. The trails range from moderate to strenuous. Moderate trails include Charlies Bunion and Andrews Bald and are perfect for an adventurous family outing. The trails allow ample time to take in the scenery and enjoy the crisp mountain air. Cades Cove is ideal for hikers looking for a panoramic view of the mountains, waterfalls, and streams, while more strenuous trails like Alum Cave, Rainbow Falls, and Mt. Cammerer are perfect for the serious hiker.

There are four riding stables located throughout the park — Cades Cove, Smokemont, Smoky Mountain, and Sugarlands Riding Stables — open from March through November. Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa also offers horseback riding all year round in Pigeon Forge.

Whitewater rafting in Pigeon Forge is organized into four different difficulty levels in order to suit rafters of all degrees of experience.

Zorbing, the recreational activity of rolling down a hill inside of a transparent plastic orb, takes on a new level at Pigeon Forge. The Outdoor Gravity Park features OGO, an 11-foot sphere with a transparent barrier; H20GO, a 3-person ride along 10 gallons of water; and the new DRYGO, a dry zorbing activity that uses 3 plastic sphere balls to keep you dry while water between two of the balls keeps you suspended from the ground. Riders of the OGO can also be harnessed before proceeding to roll downhill for those skeptical of the process.

Amusement Parks

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Image courtesy Madison Berndt | Flickr

Pigeon Forge is home to WonderWorks Indoor Amusement Park, which is open all year long and is called “An Amusement Park for the Mind.” With numerous interactive activities and demonstrations, WonderWorks is an amusing and educational experience. The park offers 150 hands-on exhibits, including an anti-gravity chamber, inversion tunnel, hurricane hole with 65-mph winds, and the recreation of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989—where you can personally experience the impact of a 5.3 magnitude earthquake.

Other activities include the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster at The Island, two Titanic museums, and a variety of theatre premiers and shows.

Smoky Mountain Cuisine

Pigeon Forge is the place to go for dinner shows and has numerous venues for a great Southern dinner served alongside memorable entertainment.

Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede thrills you with 32 horses galloping with their riders in an exhilarating but friendly competition. As the competition commences, a four-course home-cooked country meal is presented to you. The meal features Creamy Vegetable Soup—a Dixie Stampede original—plus cheddar biscuits, barbecue pork loin smoked in hickory, corn on the cob with butter, a baked potato basted in herbs, and a specialty dessert. The meal also includes unlimited soft drinks, tea, or coffee. Before the event, live entertainment takes place from the country/bluegrass band, Mountain Ruckus.

Other dinner shows include the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show — featuring Southern cuisine and singing, dancing, stunts, and comedy, and The Lumberjack Feud — a dinner show that is truly unforgettable.