Gatlinburg Area Travel Guide

The January blues hit pretty hard this year, and I knew planning a little getaway would help get me out of the slump I had been in. I’ve never been a huge fan of flowers, jewelry, or fancy gift-giving for Valentine’s Day which got me thinking. I’ve always liked the idea of taking a trip to celebrate instead so that’s exactly what we did this year!

We spent some time brainstorming on destinations that were within driving distance so we could bring the dogs with us. A cozy cabin in the mountains sounded like the perfect winter road trip. We had heard such great things about the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area, plus we loved how close it is to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We found the perfect cabin, booked it, and we were on our way! We even got lucky with the timing and traded in Indiana’s 20 degrees temps and snow for 55+ degrees and sunny in Gatlinburg.

I’ve put together a quick guide all about our 4-day visit covering where we stayed, what we did, and of course, where we ate + drank. Our main goals for this trip were to hike a few trails, check out some of the distilleries/wineries/breweries, and spend some time relaxing at the cabin. Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Great Smoky Mountains were all amazing and I highly recommend making a trip to the area!

I’ve included a quick overview of our trip itinerary below:

  • Tuesday: Arrived at the cabin, had drinks and dinner in Pigeon Forge
  • Wednesday: Hiked at the park, relaxed at the cabin, went out to dinner and moonshine tasting in Gatlinburg
  • Thursday: Rainy day, wine tasting in Pigeon Forge, and relaxed at the cabin
  • Friday: Hiked at the park, dinner, and whiskey/cider/brewery visits in Gatlinburg
  • Saturday: Headed out and stopped at Buffalo Trace Distillery on the drive home to Indiana (it’s dog-friendly!)

Where to stay:

I will say this once and I can not stress this enough: Book a cabin!

Nothing beats the views, amenities, and relaxing atmosphere that a cabin in the mountains provides. I did see a ton of hotels in the downtown areas, but we had no issues with staying just about 10 min outside town if you’re worried about being far from things. The cabin is worth it! We ended up booking a cabin in between the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas which turned out to be a great location. We were about 10 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, 5 minutes from downtown Pigeon Forge, and 20 minutes to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We were overwhelmed with the number of great cabin rentals we found when searching. We started with Airbnb and made sure to search using filters for things we wanted it to have like “Pet-Friendly” “Fireplace” and “Hot Tub” to narrow down the search. There are also a lot of cabin rental companies and other rental sites you can browse cabins in the area on. Our plan was to eat most of our meals at the cabin which worked out great! Most listings should say if they have basic kitchen utensils, pots/pans, etc. I brought ingredients for easy recipes like eggs, toast, breakfast burritos, pancakes, sandwiches, and chili cheese dogs. We packed up everything we would need in a cooler, but you could easily stop by a grocery store once you get into town if you plan to do the same. We really enjoyed using the fireplace and hot tub, especially since it was still pretty cool out!

With this being the dogs first real roadtrip with us, we were so impressed at how well they did! From the car ride to staying in a new place they were just happy to be along for the trip. I’ll definitetly be planning more dog-friendly vacations in the future.

What to do:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This one goes without saying! When in Gatlinburg you definitely have to check out the park. Even if you aren’t much of a hiker (I’m definitely still a beginner) there are tons of easy trails available. Bonus: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free! No entrance fees or lines to get in.

We ended up doing the Gatlinburg Trail first, which is one of two dog-friendly trails in the park. It’s ranked as “easy” on AllTrails and is a little under 4 miles. It actually connects from downtown Gatlinburg to the visitor center inside the park, so you can start or end at either end with plenty of parking nearby. There isn’t much elevation and it stays along a relatively flat path beside the river so it is very kid and dog-friendly. I would honestly say more people did have dogs on this trail than didn’t the day we went since it is one of the only dog-friendly trails. There were a ton of great photo spots along this trail including one of the national park signs!

Another day we came back and hiked the Laurel Falls trail which is a 2.5 mile trail with a 396 ft elevation gain. It’s rated as “easy” on AllTrails and would be very kid-friendly. The waterfall towards the end was fantastic! There is a main area you can view it and take photos, as well as a lower area with rockier path down to it that is optional.

We had originally hoped to do a few more trails with higher elevation and views, but a few of the days we were there it was VERY foggy, so we wouldn’t have been able to see very far. We have saved those for our next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains! I highly recommend downloading the AllTrails app if you plan on doing any sort of hiking. I like to think of it as the Yelp of hiking trails.

Distillery | Winery | Cider | Brewery Tastings

One of our top to-do’s for this trip (and any trip) was to check out the local spots to grab a drink, and there was definitely no shortage of options here. I will preface this by saying if you are a whiskey connoisseur you will not find your typical whiskey here. As long as you are aware of that going in you should be all set! Gatlinburg is known for Moonshine and flavored whiskeys, so we spent our nights in downtown Gatlinburg sampling those and couldn’t believe how many different kinds there were.

There are also a handful of wineries, breweries, and places to try cider in the area. I’ll go more into detail on each of these spots in the “Where to eat + drink” section below!

Things we didn’t get a chance to do but really wanted to:

Other popular attractions in the area:

  • Dollywood
  • Dinner Shows
  • Museums
    • Hollywood Star Cars Museum
    • Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
    • Ripley’s Believe It or Not
    • Hollywood Wax Museum
    • Titanic Museum

Where to eat + drink:

Where we ate:

  • The Old Mill Restaurant (Pigeon Forge)
    • On our first night after arriving we grabbed drinks at Old Forge, and the staff recommended stopping here for dinner. Their exact words were “go here if you want A LOT of food” and Austin was sold. It was the exact type of southern comfort food we were craving after our long drive! I got the Chicken Fried Steak with gravy, and Austin got the Chicken & Dumplings. All meals include sides and even desserts so we had the Blueberry Cobbler and Pecan Pie. Everything was delicious and our server was so sweet!
  • Gatlinburg Brewing Co. (Gatlinburg)
    • We grabbed appetizers and beer flights here one night and loved it! Their beers were all amazing, and the rest of the cocktail menu looked good too. I highly recommend trying the Coffee Blonde beer and the Hot Sticks as an appetizer!
  • Smoky Mountain Brewing Co. (Gatlinburg)
    • Ate dinner here one night and really enjoyed the food! Definitely try out the fried pickles.
  • We also cooked a ton of meals at our cabin! Highly recommend packing a few easy meals and snacks to have on hand.

Where we drank:

  • Old Forge Distillery (Pigeon Forge) – cocktails + tastings
  • Tennessee Cider Co. (Gatlinburg) – cider tastings, we were really impressed with this place!
  • Ole Smoky Distillery (Gatlinburg) – moonshine tastings
  • Ole Smoky Barrelhouse (Gatlinburg) – flavored whiskey tastings
  • Gatlinburg Brewing Co. (Gatlinburg) – brewery
  • Mountain Valley Vineyards (Pigeon Forge) – wine tastings

Spots we didn’t get a chance to check out but had on our list:

  • Local Goat (Pigeon Forge)
  • The Peddler Steakhouse (Gatlinburg)
  • Log Cabin Pancake House (Gatlinburg)
  • Smoky’s Pancake Cabin (Pigeon Forge)
  • Mill Bridge Winery (Pigeon Forge)
  • Tennessee Homemade Wines (Gatlinburg)
  • Little Bear Winery (Gatlinburg)

Overall, we had a fantastic trip! I highly recommend visiting the area for a long weekend and checking out all that it has to offer. We will definitely be back, and I see many more dog-friendly cabin trips in our future!

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