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Feeling overwhelmed

pittsburgh, pa
posts: 94
reviews: 31
Feeling overwhelmed

We were trying to plan a week during August in smoky moutains.. but we are not sure now.. Getting overwhelmed with the thought of too much time spent driving around to do stuff.. At first we wanted a cabin some what secluded.. But my 7 year old would like to have a pool too.. We want to drive down one day for gem mining for sure.. Other wise our main focus was to hike around the park. She is very good at hiking and likes trails with more things to climb on and over during hike. I was looking at some cabins that were to the north between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg... but then realized Cades Cove was over an hour away and many other hikes seemed to be over 30 minutes away.. And then by time we go hike and get back to cabin don't think I would want to drive again for 20 - 30 minutes to sight see and eat dinner. Any suggestions.. My other issue is I found several one bedroom loft with area for my daughter to sleep in the 700-800 range.. but seems if I try to get closer to park and or pool then I'm looking at 1100-1200 which I don't want to pay that much when we wouldn't be there at cabin alot more than to relax in evenings and sleep.. Was excited to come to the Smoky Mts but now with thoughts of lots of time in car to get from cabin to hike not sure I want to do that after driving 9 hours to get there.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 18,709
reviews: 296
1. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

Check out lodging in Townsend, TN. Has restaurants, close to Cades Cove, and has easy river rafting for all ages. It is a lot quieter and a lot less traffic than Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

Townsend, Tennessee
Destination Expert
for Townsend, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
posts: 946
reviews: 14
2. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

If you have an entire week, think about the specific areas or trails in the Park you want to visit then plan your day(s) accordingly. Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Sugarlands Visitor Center and Laurel Falls trail are all in same general area. Up 441 out of Gatlinburg there is Chimneys picnic area, Chimneys trail ( short but steep), Newfound Gap parking lot and overlook and Clingman's dome lookout tower. In the Cades Cove area is the cove loop, Abrams Falls trail, Visitor center, picnic area and horseback riding. In Townsend, tubing the Little River, Little River Railroad Museum (free), swimming at the Y (free) and the Tremont area and middle prong trail. The drives to these locations are all through beautiful scenery, along a river, through a valley, or on a mountain road so that is part of the experience. Add a couple of days for the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg attractions and some time for relaxing at the pool and that is 6 days at a nice pace. If you are considering Townsend, check out Bearl'y Rustic and Dogwood cabin rentals and properties in Laurel Valley area - they offer access to local pool and gym.

posts: 1,334
reviews: 334
3. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

What about staying in a hotel in Gatlinburg, as close to the park as possible? That might cut down on the driving time a little bit.

We stayes in Townsend when we went this past May, and the driving did get to my husband (does all the driving) and son (prone to carsickness). We found Townsend very convienent to Cades Cove but not to the other stuff we wanted to do. So as much as I loved the town itself, I ended up wishing we had stayed in Gatlinburg a few of the nights.

If you don't mind switching hotels, another option could be to stay at a few different places. Maybe Gatlinburg, Townsend, and then Cherokee if you plan on exploring the NC side of the park. Keep in mind that with Hwy 441 possibly closed for a long time you might have to go the long way around for Cherokee.

posts: 1,428
reviews: 116
4. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

Yes, consider staying in Townsend. There is plenty of good hiking in the area. In addition to Cades Cove, the Metcalf Bottoms area isn't too far away (between Townsend and Gatlinburg on the Little River Road); your daughter would probably enjoy the easy walk from the picnic area to an old school. During the tourist season, there is sometimes a volunteer at the school who can explain the school's history (you can also drive to the school, but the walk is easy and peaceful). There are good trails out of the Tremont area too (including a lovely river walk along an old roadbed).

Another area you might consider is the southeast part of the park near Maggie Valley, where you can find mom and pop motels with pools. Or the southwest area near Bryson City. All of these areas have plenty to do (tubing, river rafting, hiking) without a huge amount of driving.

As you probably know, US 441 is closed between the NC and TN sides due to slides and will probably not reopen for a very long time; keep this in mind when planning your trip.

Edited: 11:54 am, January 28, 2013
North Carolina
Destination Expert
for Myrtle Beach
posts: 1,056
reviews: 56
5. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

I second the suggestion from vcv to stay in both Townshend and Maggie Valley/Bryson City. We did that when we toured the Smokies with our 2 granddaughters (ages 13 and 15) and it worked out quite well, especially for my husband who does most of the driving. Of course, a weekly cabin rental would probably be cheaper than a motel room, but it is possible to stay in clean places that are reasonably priced.

You don't mention camping as an option. I bring it up only because the campgrounds inside the park are the lodging most accessible to the trails and attractions there.

posts: 280
reviews: 19
6. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

There are cabins in Wears Valley that are very close to the park, and about halfway between Sugarlands and Cades Cove, making them nicely located for park access. You may be better off finding a larger resort that has cabins if you want a pool.

pittsburgh, pa
posts: 94
reviews: 31
7. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

thanks for all the ideas.. Thinking of Wears Valley area if we go.. Camping is not an option b/c we have a camp we go to almost every weekend in the summer so want to stay in cabin. Thought of possibility of hotel and staying different places may work as well..

Destination Expert
for Indianapolis
posts: 323
reviews: 80
8. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

Consider a hotel in Gatlinburg near the park entry. Check reviews on TA and other websites. As far as the driving, try to change your mindset now, and it won't be such a big deal when the trip comes around. I've never not liked driving through the park. While the drives can be long, if this is a first trip, you won't even notice the time go by. If driving is such an issue, you could easily stay at any hotel along the parkway. Plan on driving during the day into and around the park. When you get back, just save up enough money to use the trolly to get around town. This should allow you to get a decent hotel room for a reasonable price and limit your driving.

If one gets a cabin, they should plan on eating most of their meals at the cabin, and in most cases, packing a lunch for their day trips into the park. This is why so many cabins have full kitchens. We just stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, a great hotel with a great breakfast buffet, but it costs around $12/person. We tried another local place and with everything we got at the Hilton breakfast, it ended up being just the same. Food is one thing that is pricy. Also, some hotels offer decent enough free continental breakfast.

posts: 106
reviews: 55
9. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

Our last visit was in August with our, then, 8 year old twins. They always think they must have a pool, so when I search for cabins on VRBO, that's always a must. We had also visited in the winter and spring. At those times, we used the pool every night. In the summer, we were so busy taking in the sights and hikes, that we were not at the cabin that much and had little time to swim (I think they went once in a week!). The kids were perfectly happy with dips in the mountain streams in the daytime, and in the hot tub at night. We find PF to be center to most of our destinations. Our favorite hike was to Spruce Flats Falls. There are rocks to climb on. It's not a popular hike, not a maintained path, so no crowds, and the falls are beautiful. If your daughter likes to climb, she'll like Adventure Mountain at Dollywood. We had a great time there. Grotto Falls is fun, as is horseback riding. Plan some rainy day activities. So much to do!

pittsburgh, pa
posts: 94
reviews: 31
10. Re: Feeling overwhelmed

Thanks for all your suggestions.... Think we are going to go for a 4 night stay and do a hotel right in Gatlinburg this time.