Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies

Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies

Embark on an unforgettable journey with us as we uncover the lesser-known wonders nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. This guide is tailored for those seeking an authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience, far from the usual touristy routes. Whether you’re an avid nature enthusiast, a history buff, or someone who relishes quiet escapes, join us in exploring the local gems that make the Smokies truly extraordinary.

Lesser-Known Trails and Viewpoints in and around GSMNP

  • Smokemont Loop TrailNon-Touristy Things to Do in the SmokiesThe Smokemont Loop Trail spans 6.5 miles, offering mesmerizing views of the Smoky Mountains. Accessible from the Smokemont Campground, this trail welcomes hikers of most skill levels (it is rated as a moderate climb, so if this is your first time on a trail, you may want to start with a more beginner-friendly option). Immerse yourself in the peace and quiet of the Smoky Mountain wilderness as you encounter wildflowers, streams, log bridges and waterfalls along the way.
  • Thunderhead Prong Quiet Walkway
    Escape the crowds and find a moment of peace on the Thunderhead Prong Quiet Walkway. This short 1.3-mile trail, which starts at the Middle Prong Trailhead before splitting off, offers a peaceful hiking experience surrounded by wildflowers, a rushing river, and waterfalls. To locate the tailhead, you’ll head past the Tremont Institute until you reach a gravel road known as Upper Tremont Road. Continue down the unpaved road for roughly 3 miles, until you reach the trailhead’s parking lot.Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower HikeNon-Touristy Things to Do in the SmokiesFor a more challenging adventure, you can explore the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower Hike, which covers a little over 11 miles round trip and an elevation gain of 3,045 feet. Beginning at the Low Gap Trailhead, located at the Cosby Campground, this extremely demanding hike leads you through various ecosystems, each with their own unique flora and fauna, before reaching the summit’s fire tower. Ascend the steps of the historical fire tower, and you’ll have the chance to marvel at the breathtaking 360-degree view of the Smokies below you, making it worth every step.
  • Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee Visitor Center
    Delve into Smoky Mountains history at the Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee Visitor Center. With historic buildings and artifacts, this destination provides a fascinating glimpse into what 19th-century life in the Smokies looked like. Engage in educational programs and exhibits that bring the past to life and learn something new. Though this experience is popular with tourists, it is also a popular location for locals who are looking for park resources or wanting to do some elk-watching (these magnificent creatures show up for grazing near the center typically around dusk and dawn).
  • Rich Mountain Road
    Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies
    For a scenic and rustic drive, explore Rich Mountain Road, starting at Cades Cove. This leisurely route, along a gravel road built in the 1920s, treats you to breathtaking views of forests, streams, and wildlife, offering a serene way to enjoy the beauty of the Smokies. Be sure to stop along the way for photos and to catch a glimpse of Cades Cove nestled amount the forest below. Keep in mind that this gorgeous but underrated drive takes place on a one-way road that will lead you through twelve miles of stunning scenery and ends in the city of Townsend. So if you’re hoping to turn around, you’ll have to find another route. However, we recommend that (after your mini road trip) you see what the quieter side of the Smokies has to offer by explore the quaint mountain town of Townsend.

Check Out Townsend, TN

  • Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
    Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Smokies at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. This museum showcases artifacts and exhibits, providing insight into the unique heritage of the region. They also host a variety of seasonal events and concerts, such as their Blue-Ribbon Country Fair, which are very popular amongst the locals.
  • Tuckaleechee Caverns
    Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies
    Discover the wonders beneath Townsend at Tuckaleechee Caverns. A mesmerizing underground cave system with stunning rock formations, Tuckaleechee Caverns claims the title of “The Greatest Sight Under the Smokies,” and for good reason. Besides over a mile of incredible cave formations like stalagmites and columns, this site also features the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern United States. Guided tours provide visitors with a refreshing escape from the summer heat while they’re regaled with the history, lore and stories of the Caverns. Please note that the Caverns are closed during the winter months.
  • The Artistic Bean
    Unwind at The Artistic Bean, a local coffee shop in Townsend that specializes in small batch roasting. Perfect for relaxation, this spot offers a variety of specialty drinks and fresh bake goods, making it an ideal place to recharge after a morning of exploration.
  • Little River Pub and Deli
    Satisfy your taste buds at Little River Pub and Deli, known for its delicious sandwiches, local craft brews and tasty cocktails. After a day of hiking, this local restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a hearty meal and a cold beer by the picturesque river.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue
    Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies
    Support a good cause when you visit the ABR Visitor and Education Center. Operating since 1999, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned and injured black bears. Gain a unique perspective on the wildlife of the Smoky Mountains as you learn more about the mission of the Appalachian Bear Rescue and how we can peacefully co-exist with black bears. Please note that this is a learning center, and the Rescue has made it clear that live bears will never be on display. Before you leave, consider making a donation to support the actual rescue facility, which is closed to the public in order to provide the safest and best environment for rehabilitating these wonderful creatures.Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies

Check Out Exit 407

  • Buc-ee’s
    Prepare for your Smoky adventure at one of Buc-ee’s, the legendary gas station and convenience store chain, newest locations found just outside the park at Exit 407. Known for clean bathrooms, handmade goodies, a massive gift shop and more – it’s an excellent pit stop for the essentials… and more!
  • Great Smokies Flea Market
    Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies
    Shopping enthusiasts will love the Great Smokies Flea Market, featuring a diverse range of vendors selling everything from antiques and handmade crafts to everyday essentials and brand name products. All under one 200,000 square foot roof, this colossal flea market is a treasure trove for unique finds and killer deals just begging to be explored.
  • Old Tennessee Distilling Co.
    Experience local culture at Old Tennessee Distilling Co., a local distillery renowned for its moonshine, whiskey, and other libations. Take a tour of the distillery, enjoy free tastings, five-dollar cocktails and immerse yourself in the flavors of the Smokies.
  • Tennessee Smokies Stadium
    Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies
    For sports enthusiasts, a visit to Tennessee Smokies Stadium is a must. Home to the Tennessee Smokies – the Double-A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs – this minor league baseball stadium provides a unique glimpse into the local sports culture. Boasting the title of “America’s Friendliest Ball Park,” the stadium is the perfect place to catch a game, make new memories with loved one and mingle with homebased fans.
  • Chocolate Monkey
    Indulge your sweet tooth at the Chocolate Monkey, a local candy store featuring handmade chocolates, giant caramel apples, and hard candies. At the end of a busy day explore the Smoky Mountains region like the locals, treat yourself to something sweet and maybe grab some goodies for the road!

Benefits of Staying at Parkside Resort

Your visit to the Smokies will be brought to new levels when you choose to stay at Parkside Resort. Our luxury cabins feature fully equipped kitchens, spacious living areas, and amenities such as firepits and hot tubs, ensuring a lush and comfortable Smoky Mountain retreat like none other. From incredible views to a private 18-hole putt-putt course, your stay in the Smokies will be nothing short of exceptional.

While this selection of non-touristy delights in the Smokies is not absolute (that would be a far longer list), hopefully you’ve inspired to venture beyond the usual attractions and experience the Smokies in a new light. Embrace the charm of lesser-known trails, savor the local flavors of the Smokies quieter side, and discover hidden gems just off the beaten path. Combine these opportunities with the unparalleled comforts of Parkside Resort and enjoy a Smoky Mountain adventure you’ll never forget!

Non-Touristy Things to Do in the Smokies
Call us today at 888-908-6066 or visit our website to learn more about our amazing accommodations!