The Ultimate Guide To Smoky Mountain Trip Planning

The Smoky Mountains are a dream destination for all who love the outdoors, history and adventure. Come and explore one of the most visited natural areas in the Eastern United States. The Great Smoky Mountains offer over half-a-million acres to explore with your friends and family. There is so much to do in the Smokies; you'll have to keep coming back to visit time and time again to explore every nook and cranny of fun! Considering all there is to do here in the Smoky Mountains, we have created the ultimate guide to help you plan the perfect trip to the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas. Hint: use your trip guide as a checklist for reference, so you know what's next on your Smoky Mountain bucket list! Take a look at all the amazing places to add to your list of things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

The Great Outdoors

Being outdoors is what being in the Smoky Mountains is all about! Hike the trails, witness the outstanding views, and encounter wildlife. Drive along roads that lead you to standing history. It's always a pleasant experience to learn in a hands-on environment. Come on! Get your nose out of those history books and see it for yourself!

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is one of the most magical places in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a lively valley flooded with active wildlife such as deer, black bears, elk, over 200 species of birds, turkey, even rabbits and wild boar. Visit old churches, grave sites, and settlements. This area offers a paved loop about 11 miles in length that allows you to auto tour the area and view the land and the animals from your car.

Clingmans Dome

Standing tall at 6,643 feet high, Clingmans Dome is a sight for sore eyes! On a clear day, you can see the view stretch out over 100 miles. Seeing over 100 miles means that you can view 7 connecting states! Always pack a rain jacket and an umbrella, the weather at Clingmans Dome is unpredictable due to the difference in elevation.

Historic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Be sure to visit the Historic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail after a nice rain. Though the area is beautiful rain or shine, it is exceptionally spectacular to view after a good rain as the entire loop creates a connective waterfall known as the Place of a Thousand Drips. This trail has pull-offs for small hikes and waterfall viewing.


Elkmont was an old logging town in the early 1900s. This area is ideal for viewing elk and hiking. There is an old ghost town known as the Wonderland Park Hotel, too. The hotel was used for recreational use by hunting and fishing enthusiasts. Elkmont is now home to several historic sites of the National Park.

Sugarlands Visitor Center

Sugarlands Visitor Center is a wonderful beginning point. The center will be able to offer valuable information and even a short film about the history of the Smoky Mountains and its early settlers. Pick up park maps and trails guides with historical landmarks featured.

Outdoor Adventures

There's more to the Smoky Mountains than meets the eye. There are several different ways to explore the Smokies. Hiking is wonderful but isn't always an easy feat. There are other ways below to help you enjoy a less strenuous version of exploration of these wonderful hills!

Auto Touring

Auto touring is a wonderful way to see all there is to see. If there's a road, there's a way! Try driving through Cades Cove on a beautiful day. There is an 11-mile loop available at your disposal! Historic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a great location to drive through. It offers a loop with several stops to small trails and waterfalls. Both locations are low-key fun!


The best place to ride your bikes in the Smokies is in Cades Cove. The Cades Cove loop is 11 miles and is open select days and certain hours to cyclists only! Ride through the Smokies on two wheels and catch the sunrise and make a stop for a picnic breakfast.


There are countless fishing holes in the Smokies, 2,115 miles of streams to be exact. Fishing in the area is prominent for catching rainbow trout and in some cases small mouth bass.


Hiking through the Smoky Mountains is pleasant no matter the season. Snow allows waterfalls to freeze over creating unique natural artwork. Fall is so colorful, and views are farther-stretching since the tree lines are not as lush. Spring and summer are also ideal as the wildflowers coat the mountains and trails. The landscaped trails are in a sense nature’s driveway!


Picnicking is possible anywhere you like! Metcalf Bottoms and Cades Cove are two ideal places for laying out a blanket and nibbling on delicacies straight from a basket. The riverside picnic areas at Metcalf Bottoms are refreshing, and the fields of Cades Cove are wide and rolling with tons of room to run, play, and fly kites.

Waterfall Walks

The Smokies are well-known for their fabulous waterfalls. Easily accessible waterfall locations to walk to include: Laurel Falls, Hen Wallow Falls, Ramsey Cascades, and Meigs Falls.

Wildlife Watching

Pretty much anywhere you go, you will have the opportunity to encounter wildlife. However, Cades Cove and Elkmont are two prime locations for viewing larger animals such as black bears, deer, and elk.

Horseback Riding

If trail hiking isn't for you, or if you would rather sit back and look around you without focused attention, then horseback riding is for you! There are hundreds of miles of riding trails with look out points to see and streams to wade through.


Swim in the natural pools of the Smokies. The ancient waters are full of minerals and slippery rocks. Any time you plan to swim in the streams or pools of the Smokies, heed with caution as to where you step and always swim with a friend.

Area Attractions

Take a leisure day and enjoy the attractions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The mountains will be there for exploring adventures tomorrow!


There are recreational museums in Gatlinburg. Hollywood Star Cars, Ripley's Believe it or Not, and Guinness World Book of Records. Great to schedule a visit on a rainy day. Museums usually take around an hour indoors.

Go Kart Tracks

The slower pace of the Smokies can leave you craving a little speed. Visit one of the several Go Kart Tracks in Pigeon Forge to suit your need for speed.

Mini Golf

Mini Golf is a relaxing way to break free from traditional boards games. Try a group game on one of the many courses in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Ripley's Aquarium

The Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg has several hands-on activities and learning centers to tell you all there is to know about ocean life.

Splash Country

Splash Country is a Dolly Parton owned and operated water park in Pigeon Forge next to Dollywood. A guaranteed thrilling, water based experience for the whole family.


Dollywood! Everyone's favorite theme park. Owned and operated by our hometown girl, Dolly Parton. Each wing of the park has a specific theme and easily accessed via walking, strollers, wheelchairs, and motorized chairs.


Wonderworks is a whacky museum for the mind in Pigeon Forge. Everything is hands-on and scientifically based.


The Titanic is a replica of the historic Titanic. Inside you will find a self-guided tour filled with actual artifacts from the famous shipwreck. Learn the true story behind the scenes.

Dixie Stampede

Enjoy a live show in Pigeon Forge with horses, ostriches, and pigs. Dine on southern fare and experience a dinner theater setting where the North battles the South. Owned and Operated by Dolly Parton.


Test your limits with a different view of the mountains. Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg host several Zipline Tours of the Smokies.

Proper Planning for Weather and Climate in the Smokies

The weather and climate of the Smoky Mountains can be a bit unpredictable at times, it is a rainforest after all! Always be prepared with the proper gear no matter rain or shine.


The sunshine in the Smokies is warm and delicate, but it can be treacherous, especially when around water. Half the time you'll step out for a bit, return and never even know you got a tan! Always wear sunscreen when outdoors during the sunny months to protect your skin throughout your stay.

Hiking Gear

The Smokies has unpredictable conditions such as high sun, rainfall, and large puddles of collected rain. Always pack extra socks to keep your feet dry, a light hooded jacket in case of rain, and sunblock to protect visible areas of skin.

Umbrella/Light Jacket

Keep an umbrella and a light hooded jacket in your car when traveling through the area. Rainfall is very common, and it comes in spurts.

Selecting Your Preferred Location to Relax in the Smoky Mountains

Now that you have all of the preferred locations and attractions list of things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you should figure out which location is more ideal for you.


Mountain Air Cabin Rentals has select luxury Gatlinburg cabins minutes from downtown. Be close to all the action of downtown Gatlinburg and minutes from preferred hiking trails.

Pigeon Forge

Mountain Air Cabin Rentals also has Pigeon Forge cabin rentals. Our Pigeon Forge cabins are conveniently located and secluded, so you are just a short drive to the mountains and streams yet close to all of the restaurants and area attractions.

Call or Book Online Mountain Air Cabin Rentals to Check for Monthly Specials and Reserve the Perfect Getaway Cabin in the Smokies

Mountain Air Cabin Rentals offers luxury Pigeon Forge cabin rentals and Gatlinburg cabins. We have the cleanest cabins in the Smoky Mountains with top-grade amenities to suit any need and any budget. Ask about our monthly specials! Call or click today to book your next adventure in the Smokies!