The closest towns to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park include quaint mountain lodging, hot springs, American culture and outdoor outfitters.
Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge is the busiest, most-popular gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area has the most lodging, restaurants and tourist attractions near the park.
Townsend is a much quieter outpost to the west. It offers lodging, dining, and supplies, plus serves as a home base for several outdoor outfitters.
Cherokee anchors the southern side of the park. Located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, it features the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Native American crafts, a casino, a river park and access to Mingo Falls. Cherokee has shopping, lodging, and dining for park visitors, but has less selection than the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area.
Just west of Cherokee is Bryson City, a charming little town just south of the Deep Creek area and home to outdoor outfitters, laid-back dining options, a microbrewery, and cozy coffee shops. Here it's all about the water: boat or paddle on Lake Fontana or float down a river in an innertube or kayak.
Hot Springs is just 45 minutes from the remote Catalooche area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was recently ranked as the best "Small Mountain Town" and has the only natural hot springs in North Carolina.