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Hotels and Cabins

11 Unusual Places to Stay in the Smoky Mountains

Set your Smoky Mountain vacation apart by staying at unusual lodging options along the way.

You can stay in a gorgeous glamping tent, at a family farm or in Oz. Here are our top 11 weird and wonderful places to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area, if you are seeking unforgettable, adventurous experiences.

1. Sleep in a Caboose on a Bison Ranch

Two authentic cabooses on tracks at Buffalo Creek Vacations are just 30 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Cherokee entrance. With room to sleep five, including a bed in the cupolas, and a window view of the ranch’s roaming bison, it will make a vacation your family won’t forget.

For more information:
Buffalo Creek Vacations
226 Bison Run Rd., Clyde, NC 28721

2. Stay in a Treehouse

The Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek Resort in Gatlinburg near Great Smoky Mountains National Park has eight treehouses designed by TV’s “Treehouse Master” Pete Nelson. Each house has a complete private bathroom with shower, electricity and high-speed internet, so there’s no roughing-it involved.

For more information:
Norton Creek Resort
475 Norton Creek Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

3. Roll out of Bed for a Naturally-hot Soak.

For literally hundreds of years, people have visited Hot Springs to sit in the mineral waters that sit right at the confluence of the French Broad River and Spring Creek. Managed by The Hot Springs Resort Spa, the springs are the only naturally-hot mineral springs in North Carolina.

Lodging at the resort includes tent and RV camping, cabins, vacation rentals, and suites that have their own private mineral tubs. There are 12 outdoor mineral baths in modern Jacuzzi-type pools, each offering some privacy. Baths range in temperature from 100F to 104F and every pool is drained, sanitized and refilled after each use. Massage therapy is also offered.

For more information:
Hot Springs Resort and Spa
315 Bridge St, Hot Springs, NC 28743

4. Glamp in a Modern Tent with a Bed and a Bathroom

Interior of a glamping tent at Under Canvas in the Gatlinburg area
Interior of a glamorous tentUnder Canvas

Does falling asleep in luxurious linens in a king-sized bed with the sounds of a creek and a modern crackling wood stove sound dreamy? What about sipping gourmet coffee in the morning on your private deck? Welcome to vacation at Under Canvas’ Great Smoky Mountains. Just 20 minutes from Great Smoky National Park, it’s the kind of place where non-campers find themselves completely enamored with tented living. Choose among three options that feature in-tent bathrooms and three more affordable options where the communal bathrooms are steps away.

More Information:
Under Canvas® Great Smoky Mountains
1015 Laurel Lick Rd.
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

5. Hike to a Remote Mountain Cabin

LeConte Lodge on Mt. Le Conte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
LeConte Lodge on Mt. Le Conte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Courtesy LeConte Lodge

LeConte Lodge is the only lodging facility inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but it doesn’t have a parking lot. That’s because the only way to get there is a steep hiking trail – choose from five routes. Stocking the kitchen requires a llama train.

The mountain cabins have no electricity or running water. Never-the-less, LeConte Lodge is so popular that they do a lottery each year in the fall. After that, the only way to book a room is to wait for someone to cancel. A treat is in store for those that get a reservation since points for sunset and sunrise watching are east and west of the cabins.

For more information:
LeConte Lodge

6. Sleep in a Pullman Train Car

Lobby of the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel
Lobby of the Chattanooga Choo Choo HotelFlickr/London Looks

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel delivers on a theme straight from the song of the same title. Stay in a train-car hotel room restored to the railroad’s heyday in the early 20th century, yet with modern conveniences and queen-sized beds.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo 20-acre entertainment complex features two hotel buildings, indoor and outdoor pools, an arcade, many restaurants, shops, galleries, live music venues, and a comedy club.

For more information:
Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel
1400 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402

7. Sleep in the Fox Den Treehouse

Wandering Llamas Fox Den Treehouse
Fox Den TreehouseSandy Sgrillo, The Wandering Llamas
Llama trekking with The Wandering Llamas
Guided llama treksSandy Sgrillo, The Wandering Llamas

Have an unforgettable romantic getaway in a fox-themed treehouse built for two. Custom-made of red cedar, the treehouse is located right in a llama pasture for ultimate cute-ness. The treehouse is camping style with no running water, but has electricity, fans and heaters. Views of the sunset and sunrise over the mountains can’t be missed. Bonus: take a hike through Tennessee with your new llama friends to cap off the perfect vacation.

For more information:
The Wandering Llamas
1516 Foxford Road, Greeneville, TN 37743

8. A House Built Into the Side of a Cliff

Outside of Asheville lies Cliff House, a 3,000-square-foot vacation rental home with walls of huge boulders and cathedral ceilings with old shipyard beams. Cozy up to the fireplace or relax on its large decks that overlook the Smokies. The home sleeps six, has three bathrooms, a kitchen, laundry, and TV.

For more information:
Campfire Lodgings
116 Appalachian Village Rd, Asheville, NC 28804

9. Stay on a Farm and Take Home Produce

Do you want the family farm experience without being assigned chores? The East Fork Farm has three quaint cottages that the Robertson family rents to vacationers.

You’ll relax with views of sheep in the fields, poultry by the hen house, and rabbits in their hutches. Explore the farm’s water grist mill where they stone-grind their own Hickory King White Dent Corn. Then soak in the outdoor cedar soaker tub.

What’s to eat? Each cottage stay includes farm-fresh foods such as eggs, cornmeal, honey, and jelly. Even the soap is locally made. Visit the farm store to take some home.

For more information:
East Fork Farm
215 Meadow Branch Road, Marshall, NC 28753

10. Dorothy’s House Welcomes You to Oz

Dorothy's house in the Land of Oz in North Carolina
Public Domain/Flickr

Classic movie fans will love a stay at Dorothy’s house, a classic farm cottage decorated with Aunt Em’s old-fashioned sensibilities, movie memorabilia, and a yellow-brick road outside. The later is a favorite spot for weddings. Available from June through October.

Dorothy’s House sits inside the infamous Land of Oz Amusement Park. The park had a rough start as its developer passed away six months before it opened in 1970. The Land of OZ entertained families for a decade before closing but is now a private garden available for events and the annual fall festival.

For more information:
Emerald Realty and Rentals
2669 South Beech Mountain Parkway, Beech Mountain, NC 28604

11. Celebrate Christmas Every Day

The Christmas Place Inn in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Janet Donaldson/Flickr

The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. doesn’t pay much attention to the calendar. You’ll feel the spirit of the holidays all year long with its Christmas tree, holiday garland, and singing Santa. Stop by the glockenspiel installation in the lobby. It’s made of wood from Germany’s Black Forest and has hand-cast bells which ring out carols and strike the time each hour.

For more information:
The Inn at Christmas Place
119 Christmas Tree Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868