How to Spend 1, 2 or 7 days in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There’s so much to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.

How to Spend 1, 2 or 7 days in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We recommend starting with your GyPSy Guide Audio Driving Tour App for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but what should you do to fill a day, a weekend or a whole week in the Smokies? 

Read on, because we’ve got an itinerary that’ll have you falling in love with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in no time.

One Day in GSMNP

Take your time driving Newfound Gap Road between Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. This curvy road crosses the crest of the Smokies at Newfound Gap and along the way passes a dozen or more overlooks that give some spectacular views of the mountains and valleys here. Every one of them is a photographer’s dream, but the view from Newfound Gap and from nearby Clingmans Dome are all stars.

During your day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a drive out to Clingmans Dome and a short hike to the observation platform at the top – it’ll take you a little over an hour to come and go, hike included – will give you a breathtaking view of the park.

Spend a few minutes at both the Sugarlands Visitors Center in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in Cherokee, North Carolina, and learn a bit more about the east and west sides of the park, and while you’re in Cherokee, check out the elk herd in the field next to the Visitors Center.

Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at a streamside picnic table, or visit one of the picnic areas like the one at Chimney Tops for a lovely lunch. If you’re a hiker, bring your lunch on the trail and hike to Alum Cave on the slopes of Mount Le Conte, then dine al fresco in the shadow of the mountain.

Like having a tour guide in your car™


Great Smoky Mountains GyPSy Guide Audio Driving Tour App

Great Smoky Mountains GyPSy Guide Audio Driving Tour AppTwo Days in GSMNP

If you’re in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for two days, it’s time to head out to Cades Cove. This secluded valley on the Tennessee side is a hot spot for spotting black bears and white tailed deer, and the 11-mile loop around the cove has a dozen cabins, churches, grist mills, structures and cemeteries to explore.

Want to ride a bike there? The speed limit’s slow enough to ride safely, or you can head out for an early morning on Wednesday or Saturday from May through September when the loop is car free until 10am, plenty of time to head out and see the sights.

Cades Cove is about 40 minutes from Gatlinburg and along the way, stop and check out The Sinks, a waterfall and swimming hole right by the road.

You can also stop along the way and wet a line with a little fly fishing in the river or one of the tributary creeks if you’re so inclined (and have your fishing license).

In Cades Cove proper, pick up a map and a little guide to the Cove for a little more information on the history and families who settled here.

Stop and check out the cabins like the Elijah Oliver Place or one of the trio of churches along the way. These buildings are photogenic and important to the history of the region.

Don’t forget to bring your hiking boots, some bug spray and a big lunch, because there’s a 5-mile hike out to Abrams Falls and back. This trail is easy and well traveled, but you’ll get hungry and thirsty on a hike that long.

Enjoy the view of the 25’ Abrams Falls and don’t forget to take off your boots and socks and rest your trail-weary feet in the water for a bit.

After you hike Abrams Falls, stop by the Grist Mill for a demonstration and possibly a ranger talk before completing the loop and heading back to Gatlinburg for dinner.

7 days in GSMNP

With a week in Great Smoky Mountains National Park you can become intimately acquainted with so much more.

Take a day to explore Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and hike to Rainbow Falls or Grotto Falls while you’re there. Each hike takes a couple of hours but each one pays off with a gorgeous waterfall at the end.

And if you’re at Grotto Falls on the right day, the llama train that resupplies the LeConte Lodge will be on the trail too, making for an unusual sight.

Spend some time in Bryson City and the Deep Creek section of the Park, southwest of Cherokee. Bryson City is charming, full of great restaurants and shopping, and only a few minutes from Deep Creek, a place perfect for tubing, hiking – you can see three waterfalls courtesy of one long looping trail – and lazing away a day.

And the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad departs from Bryson City on tours that reveal a seldom-seen side of the Park. While you’re there you have to go see the Road To Nowhere, an abandoned road project on the banks of Fontana Lake; several hikes begin here, just after you follow the road and trail through a quarter-mile long tunnel (that’s part creepy, part cool).

Take time outside the park to appreciate the area. Cherokee, North Carolina, has a museum, an open-air living history Indian Village, an outdoor drama and spectacular crafts scene that tells their story and illuminates their culture.

Over in Tennessee, there’s Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park in Pigeon Forge, and it’s easy to spend a day or two there. And there’s the endless attraction of the go karts, miniature golf courses, alpine coasters, tacky tourist shopping, dinner shows and nighttime bright lights of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

And spend more time on the trail. Hike to Hen Wallow Falls in Cosby. Head up to Cataloochee to see the elk herd and historic barns there. Climb to the top of Mount LeConte or even Rocky Top, that Tennessee mountain made famous in song. You could pack your bathing suit and hike along Big Creek and go for a dip in Midnight Hole.

As you drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, your GyPSy Guide tour will point out a dozen trails, waterfalls and points of interest to explore. Just pick one and dive in and you’ll find your week in the park has flown by.

What else can you do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Go camping or fly fishing, go bird watching or look for rare wildflowers, count the stars or just listen to one of the creeks and relax.

Scenic Drives

With your GyPSy Guide Audio Tour App to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find plenty of suggestions on where to go and what to do.  The audio tours automatically play stories, local tips and a guided commentary, based on your location.  And they use gps-signal, so no wifi, cell or network required while touring.

You can find them in National Parks like Yellowstone, Hawaii and Canada, see here for all regions.

Can’t wait to see you in the park!