Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains: Ultimate Guide

The Smoky Mountains offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. If you’re looking for where to stay in the Smoky Mountains, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I will provide an overview of all of the best areas to stay. Whether you’re looking for a large town close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park or a quiet mountain cove, you’ll find what you need here.

Key takeaways

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a variety of camping options and one hikers’ lodge.
  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a popular place to stay with many lodging options and proximity to the national park.
  • Cherokee, North Carolina, offers a variety of options in a lovely setting.
  • Townsend, Tennessee, is known as the “quiet side of the Smokies” and is close to the popular Cades Cove scenic drive.
  • Other options include Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Wears Valley, and Bryson City.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Downtown Skyline Aerial Panorama.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is one of the most popular places to stay in the Smokies.

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view of a mountain gap in the fall
When considering where to stay in the Smokies, you might consider inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Staying within Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Stretching over 520,000 acres, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. The park offers a variety of outdoor adventures, including hiking trails, ranger-led programs, scenic drives, camping, and more.

For all the details about how to visit, make sure to read this Great Smoky Mountains National Park travel guide.


If you’re looking to stay right in the heart of Great Smokies National Park, then staying at a campground is your best bet. The park offers several frontcountry and backcountry camping options.

There are 10 developed frontcountry campgrounds in the park, and they offer a variety of amenities including restrooms (with cold running water and flush toilets), fire grates, and picnic tables. Most of the campgrounds are available seasonally, with a couple open all year round.

The campgrounds are:

  • Abrams Creek Campground
  • Balsam Mountain Campground
  • Big Creek Campground
  • Cades Cove Campground
  • Cataloochee Campground
  • Cosby Campground
  • Deep Creek Campground
  • Elkmont Campground
  • Look Rock Campground
  • Smokemont Campground

Backcountry camping, group camping, and horse camps are also available. Most of the campgrounds are also located near popular attractions, so you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the park while you’re camping.

Mount LeConte Village Trail weaves between rustic grey wooden cottages

LeConte Lodge

LeConte Lodge is a popular option for avid hikers looking to stay in the park. The Lodge is open seasonally and is only accessible at the end of a hike of at least 5 miles.

The lodge is located just below the summit of Mount LeConte, one of the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains. It offers rustic cabins with incredible views of the surrounding landscape.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The town of Gatlinburg is one of the most popular places in the Southeastern United States. It’s also known for some of the best hotels in the area and its abundance of cabins, as well as its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Gatlinburg is a perennial favorite popular destination in the Eastern United States for honeymooners.

An entrance sign to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in fall
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is the clear favorite for places to stay near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In addition to the many lodging options, it also offers a variety of restaurants, shops, and other attractions. Here are a few highly rated hotel options in Gatlinburg:

The Park Vista offers beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, and every room comes with a balcony.

Margaritaville Resort is cram-packed with amenities and it’s just a short drive to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fairfield Inn and Suites is a favorite affordable hotel brand for me and Hubby. The downtown Gatlinburg hotel is near the beginning of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with quick access to the park entrance there.

Mingo Falls cascading over rocks near Cherokee in North Carolina
Mingo Falls near Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee, North Carolina

Beautiful Cherokee, North Carolina, is a lovely place to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains. Even if you don’t stay there, a day in Cherokee is worth the time. It offers stunning mountain views, as well as plenty of attractions and activities.

There are a variety of hotels and inns located in the area. It’s also a great place to find a cabin rental if that’s what you’re after. Full disclosure: Hubby and I honeymooned near Cherokee, so I’m biased.

In addition to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, some other popular tourist destinations in Cherokee are Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The city of Cherokee marks the southernmost point of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Cherokee lodging options include:

  • Stonebrook Lodge: Just minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Offers free parking and a continental breakfast.
  • Great Smokies Inn: Just minutes from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Rivers Edge Motel: A highly rated and affordable option on the Oconaluftee River and minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bryson City, North Carolina

Bryson City is a charming town located just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll find the Deep Creek entrance to the Park at Bryson City. The Deep Creek area is popular with hikers in search of waterfalls.

Deep Creek also includes one of the few trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that allows bicycles.

Visitors also love to come to Bryson City to take the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, a historic train ride that takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the park. You can also explore the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Museum. Fishing enthusiasts might want to check out the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.

Bryson City lodging options include:

  • Stonebrook Lodge Bryson City: comfortable accommodations in the heart of Bryson City and only half a mile from Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
  • Calhoun House Inn & Suites: large apartment-style suites just a short walk from downtown Bryson City
  • The Everett Hotel: Boutique hotel accommodations in a renovated bank building from the early 20th century. Includes an onsite restaurant.
old wooden mill on a river at sunset
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is a top place to stay in the Smoky Mountains for families.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

If you’re looking for a fun and vibrant town in the Smoky Mountains, look no further than Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. With its variety of restaurants, shops, and attractions, there’s something for everyone.

Dollywood is a popular attraction in Pigeon Forge. It’s a 150-acre theme park and water park where visitors can experience roller coasters, shows, and more. Other attractions in Pigeon Forge include the Titanic Museum Attraction, Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, WonderWorks educational amusement park, and The Island.

You’ll have a lot of lodging options to choose from in Pigeon Forge.

The proximity to local attractions and spacious rooms are some of the reasons guests love the Residence Inn Pigeon Forge.

The Inn on the River is perfect for those who want to avoid big hotel chains. Guests have raved about both the service and location. It’s situated about 13 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sugarlands Visitor Center and a 10-minute drive from Dollywood.

The Inn at Christmas Place is perfect for those who love Christmas no matter the time of year. The suites include a gas fireplace, a two-person spa bath, and a private balcony.

paved highway curving through the green trees of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee

Wears Valley, Tennessee

If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful place in the Smokies to get away, Wears Valley, Tennessee, is the perfect destination. You’ll enjoy the beautiful nature and stunning mountain views.

Located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, Wears Valley is just a short drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all of its attractions.

There are plenty of cabin rentals to choose from in Wears Valley.

And if you want to explore more of the area, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are both just a short drive away.

Sevierville, Tennessee

Sevierville is a great town to stay in if you want to be close to all the action in the Smoky Mountains, but don’t want to spend a lot of money. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in the area, and you’re just a short drive from Pigeon Forge and a little farther to Gatlinburg.

The beautiful and historic Central Hotel is located right on Sevierville’s Public Square. The hotel offers 2-bedroom suite guest rooms. Sevierville offers several other solid lodging options. See more here.

If you’re planning to stay in Sevierville, keep in mind that it is located about 17 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sugarlands Visitor Center (inside the Gatlinburg entrance).

If you’re starting from Sevierville, factor in a 35-40 minute drive to get to the park, though traffic might make it take longer. You should probably count on it.

creek flowing over large rocks in a forest

Townsend, Tennessee

Townsend, Tennessee, is located on the “quiet side of the Smokies.” It also has the benefit of being the closest gateway town to the popular Cades Cove scenic drive, giving visitors easier access to that very popular attraction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The closest airport is McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville. It’s just about a 30-minute drive from Townsend. Townsend has really embraced their Smokies Gateway town status, offering plenty of lodging options for visitors as well as unique shops, restaurants, and activities.

You’ll also find the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend.

If you’re looking for a quieter experience where you can take in the beauty of the Smokies without all the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, Townsend is a great option.

Highland Manor Inn is just four minutes from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Guests love how close the property is to the Park.

Tips for finding a place to stay in the Smokies

Here are a few things to consider that will help you find the perfect place to stay in the Smoky Mountains. Just keep these things in mind when searching for accommodations and you will be sure to find the perfect place for your trip.

What is your budget?

This is probably going to be the most important factor in deciding where to stay. It often is for us. The Great Smoky Mountains area has a wide range of lodging options, from luxury resorts to more affordable hotels and motels. Cabin rentals are also a very popular lodging option in the Smokies.

Decide how much you are willing or able to spend on lodging and then narrow your search accordingly.

How far are you willing to drive to get to what you want?

The further away from Great Smoky Mountains National Park or Gatlinburg that you stay, typically the less expensive your accommodation options will be.

You might save a lot if you stay in Sevierville, Tennessee, but to balance it out, you’ll be further from the Park and other main tourist attractions.

What is the purpose of your trip?

Are you coming to the Great Smoky Mountains for a romantic getaway? A family vacation? A group trip with friends? Your reason for traveling can help you decide what type of lodging would be best.

If you want a more relaxing trip, a 4-star hotel might be right for you. If you are looking for something more luxurious or scenic, there are plenty of resorts in the area that will fit the bill.

If what you really want is to get away from people, then a cabin rental may be just what you’re looking for.

What type of lodging do you prefer?

There are several different types of lodging in the Great Smoky Mountains area, including hotels, motels, inns, boutique hotels, lodges, cabins, condos, and camping sites.

Each has its unique benefits and drawbacks. And some of the popular areas to stay in the Smokies offer more options than others. For example, you’ll find the largest concentration of hotels in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Cherokee, North Carolina, and Wears Valley, Tennessee, areas are great places to look for a cabin or cottage rental.

Final thoughts on where to stay in the Smoky Mountains

No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll find plenty to love about visiting one of these Great Smoky Mountains towns. And no matter what your budget or preferences are, there is sure to be somewhere perfect for you to stay.

With such a great variety of accommodations, you have plenty of options when it comes to where you’ll rest your head. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious getaway or a more rustic experience, there’s something for everyone. The hard part will be choosing from so many great options!

What about you? Where is your favorite place to stay in the Smokies?

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Photos of areas in the Great Smoky Mountains with a text overlay that says where to stay in the Smokies

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