The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in America (and in the world, by some measures). This beautiful park straddles the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina and boasts loads within easy reach: Dollywood, the Appalachian Trail, Cherokee culture, delicious comfort food and good ol’ Southern hospitality.

It’s important to get a sense of what you want out of your trip before you arrive so you can choose the right place to stay for your vacation vibe. There’s no public transport near the Smokies and travelling between these mountain towns by car will take you hours over sometimes hair-raising roads! It’s best to be close to the area you’re most interested in.

Fortunately, I’ve climbed over every inch of the Smoky Mountains, visited Grandma every Christmas in Maggie valley and worked a summer at Dollywood. My ancestors actually lived in the Cataloochee Valley, one of the main attractions on the North Carolina side of the park!

I’ll run you through the best places to stay near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and show all sides of this epic destination.

Let’s get to the mountains, y’all!

Scenic Cabin in the Smoky Mountains – Mountain Views

Mountain Views

This gorgeous cabin, nestled in the mountains just outside Pigeon Forge, really is one of the best accommodation options around the mountains. This cabin in Tennessee is excellent for winter trips to the Great Smoky Mountains, when the trees lose their leaves and you can enjoy the epic view from the outdoor hot tub.

There are so many beautiful Airbnbs in Smoky Mountains.

Picturesque Treehouse in the Smoky Mountains – Secluded Hideaway

Secluded Hideaway

Looking for something unique? This charming treehouse in Bryson City comes with a huge balcony where you can admire the stunning forest scenery and spark up the barbecue during the warmer months. Guests also have discounted admission to the nearby leisure center, so you can keep up your fitness routine. This place has 3 bedrooms and makes a great getaway for a group of friends.

Charming B&B in the Smokies – The Foxtrot

The Foxtrot

Sometimes you want a place to stay plus some extra service – and it doesn’t get any better than this four-star bed and breakfast in Gatlinburg! It might look a little petite from the outside, but guests are able to use swimming pools, sports courts, and a huge gym. There are also three clubhouses where you can mingle with other guests.

Don’t forget to check out VRBOs in the Smoky Mountains for even more choices!

Unlock the The Broke Backpacker’s GREATEST Travel Secrets!

Sign up for The Broke Backpacker Newsletter below to receive weekly tips on the travel-life + a FREE copy of The Backpacker Bible!

    Great Smoky Mountains Area Guide

    Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1


    Easily the most visited city in the region, Gatlinburg is the main gateway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park for most tourists. It’s where you’ll find the largest selection of bars, shops, and entertainment venues – making it a great choice for first-time visitors.

    Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1

    Pigeon Forge

    Just north of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge is another major tourist town in the region. As the home of Dollywood, this is a must-visit for families heading to the area. Dolly Parton’s Theme Park comes with rides, restaurants, and performances that will keep the entire family amused.

    Sevierville, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1


    North of Pigeon Forge, Sevierville is a little bit off the beaten path – but a great choice for those on a budget! Accommodation here is usually significantly cheaper than the equivalent in Gatlinburg, and the restaurants have a more local atmosphere.

    Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1


    Heading down to the North Carolina end of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cherokee is one of the most unique places to stay in the region. It is considered the capital of Cherokee culture in the United States and is in the heart of the Qualla Boundary Reservation.

    Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1

    Bryson City

    Sandwiched between Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City is a small gateway to both regions. Only a short drive from Cherokee, it doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of tourists as everywhere else mentioned in this guide, which is part of its charm!

    What is the One Item Every Traveller NEEDS???

    There is one item every traveller NEEDS. Some travellers don’t even know they need it, but those travellers need it more than anyone.

    What is this forgotten essential of the backpacker-life? SPOILERS! Guess you’ll just have to click the button to find out. 😉

    Find Out What It Is!

    The Smoky Mountains’ 5 Best Places to Stay

    With stunning scenery, thrilling attractions, and interesting cultural highlights, there’s truly something for everyone in the area surrounding Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Here are my favourite mountain towns and places to stay around the area.

    1. Gatlinburg – Overall Best Place to Stay near the National Park

    Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1

    Gatlinburg is the main gateway to the Smokies for most tourists. It’s where you’ll find the largest selection of bars, shops, entertainment venues and some of Gatlinburg’s best Airbnbs. It’s the quintessential vacation destination for first-time visitors to the Smokies, which is why I’ve put it first in the list.

    Gatlinburg is home to a wide range of tour guides and excursion providers. The town itself is worth exploring for a day or two as it has a very family-friendly entertainment focus, rivalled only it’s sister Pigeon Forge, which we’ll get into later.

    Staying in Gatlinburg is strategically your best option if you want to explore the national park, since 1 of the 3 main roads out of town leads directly into the heart of the park. This makes it an excellent choice for those that don’t have their own transport. You will also have quick and easy access to Pigeon Forge and Sevierville if you fancy a change of scenery during your trip.

    Stylish Cottage in Gatlinburg: Downtown Mountain Hideaway

    Downtown Mountain Hideaway

    This gorgeous Airbnb Plus property perfectly blends traditional vibes with a modern sense of design. The small porch area has a hot tub and two swing chairs where you can unwind in the evening amidst the mountain views. Sleeping up to six guests across three bedrooms, this is perfect for families heading to the city. We also love the huge kitchen!

    Stylish Townhouse in Gatlinburg: Smoky Mountain Five Star

    Smoky Mountain Five Star

    Large groups and families heading to Gatlinburg will love this luxurious townhouse right in the heart of the city! The Gatlinburg Strip is only a short walk away, so you won’t be too far from the best bars and restaurants in downtown Gatlinburg. Two of the bedrooms come with en-suites, and the porch has a large seating area where you can enjoy drinks with a view.

    Luxurious Bed and Breakfast in Gatlinburg: The Foxtrot

    The Foxtrot

    This four-star bed and breakfast is truly above and beyond what you would usually expect from this kind of accommodation. Sports facilities and clubhouses aside, they also offer a three-course breakfast every morning prepared by talented local chefs. If you’re really looking to splurge, opt for a room with a terrace and mesmerizing mountain views.

    Things to See and Do in Gatlinburg

    • Get the most out of Gatlinburg’s entertainment with the Smoky Mountains Sightseeing Pass.
    • Enjoy a boozy tour of downtown Gatlinburg’s sights and history with a moonshine and whiskey experience. Or just make your way to Ole Smoky or Sugarlands distillery.
    • The city has a few great vantage points – the Gatlinburg Space Needle is the most obvious, but I also love the rustic charm of the Sky Lift up Crockett Mountain and Ariel Tram to Ober Gatlinburg.
    • Smoky Mountain Winery is a great option for wine lovers, with complimentary tours of the facility and delightful tasting events.
    • Window shop through town. Enjoy the smells of sweets, the southern charm and small town feel.
    • No trip to Gatlinburg is complete without a visit to Alamo Steakhouse and Saloon – the décor is like walking back in time, and the food is unmissable.
    Is This the Best Travel Pack EVER???

    We’ve tested countless packs over the years, and now we’ve found our absolute favourite: the nomad-approved Nomatic Travel Bag.

    Want more deetz on why we love it so damn much? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

    Learn More Now!

    2. Pigeon Forge – Best Place to Stay in the Smoky Mountains for Families

    Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
    The Old Mill may have the world’s best pies.

    Pigeon Forge is Gatlinburg’s louder sister, just up the valley. Here, the attractions are bigger (and so are the spaces). PF feels like a family-friendly Vegas, with bright lights and big rides lining the main strip. There are spots in Pigeon Forge that have that southern charm that you’re looking for in the mountains, but what it’s best known for are dinner shows and Dollywood.

    Yes, Dolly Parton has a theme park in Tennessee, and I worked there! Say “hi” to my friends at the kettle korn stand if you go!

    If you stay in Pigeon Forge, you’re only a 20 minute drive or so from the Smokies, but you have a lot more entertainment on-hand. When my family vacationed in Tennesse, we would stay in Pigeon Forge or Sevierville as prices tend to be cheaper than in Gatlinburg and there are many incredible vacation rentals in Pigeon Forge.

    Luxurious Cabin in Pigeon Forge: Mountain Views

    Mountain Views

    As the name suggests, the scenic mountain views are what makes this cabin one of the best Airbnbs in Pigeon Forge! The rustic wooden architecture gives it a real rural vibe, while the cozy interiors are packed with soft furnishings and inviting seating areas. The large balcony runs the length of the property and has a private hot tub where you can enjoy a glass or two of champagne.

    Charming Chalet in Pigeon Forge: In The Woods

    In The Woods

    Nestled in the forest on the outskirts of Pigeon Forge, this calm little chalet is perfect for families looking for some peace and quiet. There is a private hot tub on the property, and because it’s located in a larger resort community, you’ll also have access to the shared outdoor pool. There’s a big screen TV in the living room for relaxation time between outings.

    Festive Hotel in Pigeon Forge: The Inn at Christmas Palace

    The Inn at Christmas Palace

    This is one of the more unique hotels in the region – but an absolute must if you are visiting over the holiday season. Inspired by Bavarian architecture, this Christmas-themed hotel is packed with festive cheer. The rooms are decorated in a cheerful style, and there is a small waterpark on-site for the kids to use. A breakfast buffet is included in the rate.

    Things to See and Do in Pigeon Forge

    • Dollywood is a given! Also check out Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede – a long-established and highly impressive dinner show in the heart of the town.
    • Drive around Cades Cove pioneer village with the kids. Hope to see some elk (and maybe bears!).
    • Want to get the heart pumping? Rapid Expeditions offer adrenaline rush activities along the Pigeon River – great for older kids.
    • See what all the fuss is about at these popular attractions: Titanic Museum, Grand Ol’ Opry, The Island, and Wonderworks.
    • The Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride is the absolute worst attraction I’ve experienced (3 times) in my life! Spend your money here if you enjoy irony but expect very little.

    3. Cherokee – Cultural Place to Stay in the Smokies

    Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1

    Heading down to the North Carolina end of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cherokee is one of the most unique places to stay in the region. It is the home of the East Band Cherokee culture in the United States and is in the heart of the Qualla Boundary Reservation.

    It’s still possible to hear the Cherokee language spoken widely in this part of the country, and it’s pretty cool to see the Sequoyah writing system used on street signs. If you dive right into town, unfortunately, you’ll feel like you’re in another tourist trap town. Please please make an effort to visit a museum or a cultural exhibition while you’re here to get a real feel for the surviving Cherokee tradition in North Carolina.

    Cherokee is probably the most beautiful destination on this list as it’s engulfed by mountains on all sides. Any direction you go, you’ll find gurgling creeks and superb hikes.

    Authentic Farmstay in Cherokee: Dogwood Farms

    Dogwood Farms

    This is an excellent farm stay near Cherokee! This quaint little cottage has stylishly rustic interiors and a large outdoor deck area. Alongside views of the Smoky Mountains and surrounding forest, you’ll be able to watch the farm animals. It comes with no steps, making it super accessible – as well as great for small children. For a charming and peaceful stay, this is the place to be.

    Budget Friendly Cabin in Cherokee: Near Casino

    Near Casino

    This basic cabin comes at a very favorable price, making it perfect for a budget vacation to the Smoky Mountains! The small porch has a dining area and views of the nearby creek, creating an ambient atmosphere. There is also a private hot tub for guests to use throughout their stay. The main casino is within walking distance, as are many other Cherokee attractions.

    Charming Log House in Cherokee: Rustic Cabin

    Rustic Cabin

    Need a bit of an upgrade? This gorgeous log cabin is located within a working farm, giving you a truly local experience. The interiors are beautifully decorated in a traditional way, and there is a cozy little log burner in the living room where you can warm yourself up during the winter months. You’ll even get to see cows, llamas, and donkeys from the front porch!

    Things to See and Do in Cherokee

    • Oconaluftee Indian Village is your first stop for learning about the indigenous culture of the area, as well as contemporary life on a reservation.
    • The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is run by local indigenous groups, offering some fascinating exhibits on historical artifacts from the region.
    • Harrah’s Casino is the most popular tourist attraction in the heart of the town – it is entirely run by local tribes.
    • Many of the tourist shops in the town center offer Native American-themed mementos and trinkets; I like Talking Leaves Native Bookstore in particular.
    • Most of the restaurants in the areas are the typical chains you’d find anywhere else in the United States, with Wild Bear Tavern being a delicious exception.
    The Future of the SIM Card is HERE!

    A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

    An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected. It’s just that easy.

    Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and ditch the plastic.

    Buy an eSIM!

    4. Bryson City – Great Place to Stay in Smoky Mountains Off the Beaten Path

    Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1

    Sandwiched between Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City is a small gateway to both regions. Only a short drive from Cherokee, it doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of tourists as everywhere else mentioned in this guide, which is part of its charm!

    Bryson City gives you an authentic insight into North Carolina culture, with some fascinating influences from nearby Cherokee culture. If you’re bringing your own car, this is the perfect spot to get away from it all for a bit and soak up the laid-back vibes.

    Converted Train in Bryson City: Caboose Tiny House

    Caboose Tiny House

    Bryson City really is the home of alternative accommodation picks! This converted train carriage has a rustic charm that will take you back in time to the foundations of the city. It can sleep up to four guests in one bedroom – and you can also opt to rent the neighboring cottage for larger groups. Fittingly, the train station is only a short walk away, as well as the main shopping and dining strip.

    Romantic Cabin in Bryson City: Couple’s Retreat

    Couples Retreat

    This single-bedroom cabin is the perfect choice for couples heading to the Smokies! It comes with stunning mountain views from the front porch and a secluded atmosphere that lets you soak up the serenity. The kitchen is modern and comes with every appliance you could ever need. We also love the fire pit and private hot tub for a romantic night under the stars.

    Unique Treehouse in Bryson City: Secluded Hideaway

    Secluded Hideaway

    This spectacular treehouse can sleep up to five guests across three bedrooms, making it a great option for families! Your kids will love the enchanting atmosphere of a house high up in the canopies, and there are plenty of safety features to give you peace of mind. We also love the massive outdoor spaces – perfect for relaxing among the trees.

    Things to See and Do in Bryson City

    • Hit two of Bryson City’s most popular attractions in one go with this fantastic waterfalls and breweries tour.
    • Looking for something a bit more active? Get the heart pumping in this mountain biking experience in the southern Smoky Mountains.
    • If you still want to head outdoors but prefer something a little calmer, this excellent guided kayaking experience is for you.
    • The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a popular journey from Bryson City to Gatlinburg on board a vintage train.
    • Nantahala Brewing is a local brewery offering tasting sessions, tours, and a great dinner menu.

    5. Sevierville – Where to Stay near Great Smoky Mountain National Park on a Budget

    Sevierville, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1

    North of Pigeon Forge, Sevierville is a little bit off the beaten path – but a great choice for those on a budget! Staying in Sevierville also means having to deal with fewer tourists and crowds as the area is less popular as the neighbouring cities.

    Accommodation here is usually significantly cheaper than the equivalent in Gatlinburg, and the restaurants have a more local atmosphere. If you have a car and want to save some cash, you can’t go wrong with Sevierville.

    Its cheap accommodation and food aren’t the only attractions, however! The lower tourist numbers mean this town has a more authentic vibe. You can truly sample a little piece of Tennessee life in Sevierville, all while being within an hour’s drive of the national park.

    Secret Den in Sevierville: Secluded Sunrise

    Secluded Sunrise

    Nestled in the outskirts of Sevierville, this is an excellent choice for those that want somewhere calm, without all the noise of the main tourist areas. Guests are given free entry passes to a number of local attractions, helping you save some money on your trip. Rainy day outside? No worries, there is also a small game room and pool table indoors to keep you entertained.

    Modern Apartment in Sevierville: Newly Renovated

    Newly Renovated

    This recently renovated apartment is a great way to see Sevierville in style – without breaking the bank! The bathroom and kitchen are both huge, letting in plenty of natural light and creating a calm atmosphere. It also comes with a few great finishing touches, such a luxury linens and toiletries from local boutiques. The master bedroom has its own private en-suite.

    Modern Hotel in Sevierville: The New Hotel Collection

    The New Hotel Collection

    Although it’s a four-star hotel, the New Hotel Collection Smoky Mountains is surprisingly affordable! Rooms are spacious and come with their own private kitchen and bathroom – perfect for self-catering guests. It is located right in the heart of Sevierville, making it an excellent choice for those that don’t have their own transport. We also love the charming interior design throughout the hotel.

    Things to See and Do in Sevierville

    • Don’t have your own vehicle? No problem! This day long excursion takes you to all the top attractions in the region, including moonshine, mountains, and meals.
    • The Great China Acrobats is the closest dinner show to Sevierville – about ten minutes by car, and with great packages on meals.
    • Play with knives at the Smoky Mountain Knifeworks.
    • We love Conor’s Steak & Seafood – they have a welcoming atmosphere and an incredibly well-priced menu.

    FAQ about Finding a Place to Stay in the Smoky Mountains

    Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and where to stay.

    Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Smoky Mountains

    A banner creative for World Nomads travel insurance

    It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.

    There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!

    Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉

    Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains

    This vast region is packed with stunning mountain views, engaging entertainment venues, and insightful local highlights. Whether you’re here to relax, get your adrenaline pumping, or admire some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a great staycation destination this year.

    If I had to choose a favorite, I love Gatlinburg! It can get a little touristy, yes, but it has easy access to both Pigeon Forge and Sevierville – and the easiest access to the park. That being said, if you want something more unique, I recommend heading to the North Carolina end of the park.

    Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

    Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀

    We bring you epic FREE content!
    Find out how YOU can help support us.

    We’re a big site with a big team and this job isn’t always easy. But we do it because we love it – we love providing epic and free content. We love the knowledge that our content keeps you adventuring. We don’t ask for money, but if you’d like to find out how you can help the site in more organic ways, click the button below.
    Thank you for your support 🙂

    Bye for now, but not forever!

    If you want MORE top-tier Broke Backpacker content like this, then sign up for our weekly newsletter below to get the latest and greatest!

      And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!