Gatlinburg, Tenn, is the busiest, most touristy gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was impacted by the 2016 fires, but the downtown was spared.
Chock-full of souvenir shops, craft stores, restaurants, and kitschy attractions (think Ripley’s Believe it or Not!), the bustling towns can be a sensory overload or a rollicking good time, depending on your perspective. Here you’ll find plenty of lodging options, grocery stores, and gear shops.
Gatlinburg is also the most accessible entrance to the park with easy access to Sugarlands Visitor Center, the park’s largest. Ride the Gatlinburg Trolley from the Ripley’s Aquarium to the visitor center, Laurel Falls trailhead, and the Elkmont campground inside the park.
Pigeon Forge is Gatlinburg’s twin sister. The two towns flow together and in a tourist’s mind, are really extensions of each other. Pigeon Forge offers more non-stop attractions, large-scale resorts, and an amusement park. Don’t miss world-famous Dollywood.