Where to Stay in the Smokies
We get a lot of email asking for advice on where people should stay when they
are coming to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While I was in
Florida I was ask that question over and over. I couldn't believe the number of
people who did ask that question and the number that already had plans to
come to the Smokies. Those questions and those many received via email
almost always involved a family, not just those who wanted to fish. Some even
wanted to know the name of trout ponds where their young kids could catch trout
and were not interested in fishing in the park at all.
This is off the subject, but I also can't believe the number of people who moved
here from Florida. When we first moved, three and one-half years ago, we
thought we would be an exception. After all, who moves to the north? Well, much
to our surprise, we are among a huge group of people who did just that. I lived
on the beach in Panama City Beach Florida for many years and visited my
brother who lived here when I came to fish. Actually, I started visiting here as a
child. I have pictures of my dad and mother holding my two year old daughter
Stacy riding up that same old swinging chair ride that goes up the mountain in
Gatlinburg. I refuse to tell you how old Stacy is now.
Let me get back to the subject, one I am really do not like to discuss but due to
the number of request, will do so. One reason, is that I will always get frowns
from many locals because I didn't recommend their place or town as the best.
Your first decision is whether to stay on the Tennessee side of the park or the
North Carolina side of the park or even in the park if you camp. I'll skip over
camping for now just to keep it less involved but this is a very good option.
If your are staying on the North Carolina side, one of the closest points is
Cherokee. If you like gambling then I would stay there or on second thought, if
you like it too much, you may want to get as far from it as you can. It has plenty
of motels, rental cabins and dinning facilities and lots of things for the wife and
children to do. The Oconaluftee River runs right through town from the park.
Don't overlook Straight Creek and the Bradly's Fork if you do choose Cherokee.
Bryson City is an interesting place and it has good access to Deep Creek and
the Fontana Lake. It also has plenty of motels and eating places and is fairly
close to Cherokee.
If you are going to fish the streams across Fontana Lake (and that is always a
good idea), you may want to stay at Fontana Lake Village. It is an interesting
little resort type area in a beautiful setting but there is little other activities there.
Maggie Valley also has numerous places to stay and eat and is not quite so
congested as Cherokee. It is close to the Cataloochee Valley, one of the
prettiest places and best places to fish combinations in the park - the only one
with elk other than a few that wandered just inside the park from Cherokee.
You may want to consider staying at Waynesville, North Carolina. What a
beautiful and cool little town. I mean "cool" in the old fashion way - low
temperatures. The local fly shop there, the Waynesville Fly Shop,will help you
any way than can and is one I highly recommend. It is very near the Smokies,
Maggie Valley and Cherokee.
Now I am sure I upset someone in North Carolina and left something out I
shouldn't but off the top of my head, that is the cream of it.
On the Tennessee side of the park you may want to consider Cosby. It is a
small community with only a few motels but lots of rental cabins and some of the
sure-nuff mountain people. Its access to Cobsy Creek is handy but it is also
fairly close to Big Creek and the Cataloochee Valley. The story goes that a car
thief once stole a car in Gatlinburg and when he found out it was owned by a
Cosby resident, he carried it back.
On the exact opposite end of the park on the Tennessee side is the community
of Townsend, a peaceful little valley with some motels, dinning places (no fast
food) and plenty of rental cabins. It offers easy to access the lower part of Little
River, which runs through town. The lovely Cades Cove, and Abrams Creek I
might add, is only a few miles from there. There is little to do for the kids in
Townsend except to float down the river on a tube.
Over the hill from Townsend is what used to be one of the prettiest places in the
area, Wears Valley. I say "used to" because they have butchered the heck out
of the mountains building cabins right up to the park boundary and destroyed
the superb view it once had. Much to my dislike, there are plenty of rental
cabins, a place or two to eat and little to do for the kids. You can easily access
the upper Little River area of the park from there.
The largest and busiest area bordering the park is Gatlinburg and Pigeon
Forge. Gatlinburg is closest, has excellent access to the park (the best on the
Tennessee side), a huge choice of places to stay including rental cabins,
motels, even hotels and many fine dinning places. It has everything the women
and kids (and a lot of the men) could possibly want to do. The little Pigeon River
runs right through town from the park and the park headquarters is just inside
the park from Gatlinburg. Access to fishing is great. You can easily access the
Upper Little River, Little Pigeon and the Middle Fork of the Little Pigeon (a
sleeper) from Gatlinburg along with a host of small streams like the Roaring Fork.
Just outside of Gatlinburg, through a section of the National Park called the Spur
that runs along the Little Pigeon River is Pigeon Forge. It has more motels,
cabins, places to eat, shopping malls and stores, recreational activities of every
conceivable (and some that are not conceivable) thing you can imagine. Of
course there is Dollywood which made the town and the new Dollywood Water
Park for everyone to enjoy. All of this is easily accessed from the interstate
I live in Pigeon Forge, a half mile from the spur, less than that from the main
drag and all I can see from home is Mt. LeConde, Pine Mountain and woods. I
am very thankful for the fact I can live anywhere I want to live. That should tell
you something about it.
Copyright 2008 James Marsh