With UNESCO World Heritage Site status, awe-inspiring scenery and a number of popular cities nearby, it’s no wonder that Great Smoky Mountain is rated America’s most visited National Park year after year. Straddling the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina, visitors can choose between Dollywood, adventurous hikes and indigenous culture – or all at once.

As quite a large area with a diverse array of attractions, it’s important to get a sense of what you want out of your trip before you arrive. Even if you have a car, travelling around the national park can take a few hours, so you need to figure out what each town and city has to offer.

Thankfully, we’ve done a lot of the research for you! We’ve combined our personal experience with hints and tips from guest reviews, travel experts and locals to bring you the lowdown on the five best places to stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Whether you want adventure, serenity or culture, we’ve got you covered.

So let’s dive right in!

Scenic Cabin in Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Mountain Views

Mountain Views

Airbnb Plus properties are hand-picked for their excellent designs, unparalleled attention to detail, and above and beyond customer service. This gorgeous cabin, nestled in the mountains just outside Pigeon Forge, really is one of the best accommodation options in the region. With awe-inspiring views and a cozy feel, this is a great one for winter trips to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Picturesque Treehouse in Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Secluded Hideaway

Secluded Hideaway

Looking for something a bit unique? This charming treehouse in Bryson City will make you the envy of your friends and family back home. It 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.

Charming B&B in Great Smoky Mountain National Park – The Foxtrot

The Foxtrot

Sometimes you just want the added comfort of a hotel – 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.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park Neighborhood Guide

OVERALL BEST PLACE TO STAY IN GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
OVERALL BEST PLACE TO STAY IN GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

Gatlinburg

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.

FOR FAMILIES
Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
FOR FAMILIES

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.

ON A BUDGET
Sevierville, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
ON A BUDGET

Sevierville

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.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Cherokee

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.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
OFF THE BEATEN PATH

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!

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park 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. Keep reading for our top tips on where to stay and what to do in the top five best places in the region.

1. Gatlinburg – Overall Best Place to Stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

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, entertainment venues and some of Gatlinburg’s best Airbnbs – making it a great choice for first-time visitors. If you really don’t want to stray too far from civilization, this is the place for you.

As the main gateway to the national park, Gatlinburg is home to a wide range of tour guides and excursion providers. Staying in Gatlinburg is strategically your best option if you want to explore the area a bit further.

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 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

  • Enjoy a boozy tour of Gatlinburg’s sights and history with this highly popular moonshine and whiskey experience.
  • Want to capture the perfect shot of the gorgeous Smoky Mountains? This excursion with a local photographer is a great way to brush up on your skills while capturing memories.
  • The city has a few great vantage points – the Gatlinburg Space Needle is the most obvious, but we also love the rustic charm of the Sky Lift up Crockett Mountain.
  • Smoky Mountain Winery is a great option for wine lovers, with complimentary tours of the facility and delightful tasting events.
  • 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.

2. Pigeon Forge – Best Place to Stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park for Families

Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
source: K.Campbell (Shutterstock)

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. What’s more – it’s open year-round!

Aside from Dollywood, staying in Pigeon Forge also offer excellent dinner shows – meaning you’ll never be short of things to do in the evenings. While it is undoubtedly geared towards tourists, Pigeon Forge has a much more family-friendly feel than other cities in the region.

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 swimming pool. The master bedroom comes with an en-suite, giving the adults some extra privacy.

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

  • Unleash your creativity with this unique experience allowing you to learn how to paint the Smokies with a local artist.
  • Aside from Dollywood, you should also check out Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede – a long-established and highly impressive dinner show in the heart of the town.
  • Want to get the heart pumping? Rapid Expeditions offer adrenaline rush activities along the Pigeon River – great for those with older kids.
  • The Hollywood Wax Museum is the only museum in the United States dedicated entirely to waxwork replicas of celebrities – bring the camera along for fun family photos.

3. Sevierville – Where to Stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park on a Budget

Sevierville, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
source: Photography by Ali (Shutterstock)

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 arcade 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.
  • Grab some budget bargains at Five Oaks Tanger Outlet Mall – a great spot for picking up high street and designer goods at heavy discounts.
  • We love Conor’s Steak & Seafood – they have a welcoming atmosphere and an incredibly well-priced menu.
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4. Cherokee – Coolest Place to Stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
source: Dave Allen Photography (Shutterstock)

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. This makes it a great spot for experiencing indigenous culture.

It’s still possible to hear the Cherokee language spoken widely in this part of the country, but make sure to remain respectful throughout your stay. Indigenous culture is incredibly diverse, and you won’t see many stereotypes here. If you’re willing to visit with an open mind, this is a very rewarding destination.

Authentic Farmstay in Cherokee: Dogwood Farms

Dogwood Farms

This is another 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 typical Native American items; we love 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.

5. Bryson City – Great Place to Stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park Off the Beaten Path

Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 1
source: digidreamgrafix (Shutterstock)

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.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Great Smoky Mountain National Park?

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 we had to choose our favorite, we love Pigeon Forge! It can get a little touristy, yes, but it has easy access to both Gatlinburg and Sevierville – and plenty of guided tours into the national park itself. That being said, if you want something more unique, we recommend heading to the southern end of the park.

Wherever is best for you really depends on what you want to get out of your trip. We hope we’ve managed to help you narrow down your options for your upcoming trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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

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