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Beyond the Tourist Traps: A Detailed Smoky Mountains Itinerary

If you’re looking for a fantastic Smoky Mountains itinerary that takes you beyond the tourist traps, look no further!

In this blog post, we will provide a detailed outline of what to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Smoky Mountain National Park for a fun-filled long weekend getaway (without the cheese-filled attractions).

You’ll find out about some great hidden gems that most tourists never get to see. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!

Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains

Depending on your budget and preferences, there are many great places to stay in the Smokies.

Stay Minty has a ton of great vacation rentals in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, Tennessee. Many of our cabins, like the Moonlight Ridge Retreat, have private pools and hot tubs and are the perfect place to take a large group!

a bedroom in the moonlight ridge retreat

Or, opt to stay at the all-new Stay Minty GLAMP location. The ultimate in glamorous living is found at these 1250 square foot domes, which come fully equipped with a bathroom, shower, kitchen, and cozy Stay Minty bed. They also have a private deck and living space in the woods of the Smoky Mountains!

a glamping dome in the smoky mountains

The Ultimate Smoky Mountains Itinerary Beyond the Tourist Traps

Now that we’ve gone over the logistics of getting to and around the Smokies and where to stay, it’s time to get into the good stuff – what to do!

Here is a detailed list of our top recommendations for things to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Smoky Mountain National Park over the course of 3 days.

Smoky Mountains Itinerary Day 1: Gatlinburg

 a man and woman walking past a gatlinburg mural - a must on any smoky mountains itinerary

First up on your Smoky Mountains itinerary: Gatlinburg. Although Gatlinburg is known as a famous tourist town for its kitschy charm, there are plenty of things to do here that are worth your time.

Start your day early with a cup of coffee at the Green Eye Hemp Cafe, a modest cafe that sells locally roasted organic coffee as well as specially blended teas and home-baked goods. They also have a comprehensive hemp line with many of their items cultivated in their USDA Certified Organic growing room, which is visible to visitors.


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Then, it’s time to walk off your caffeine buzz with a hike to Rainbow Falls. This 5.4-mile roundtrip hike leads you to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Smokies.

The trailhead for Rainbow Falls is located just outside of Gatlinburg, so it’s the perfect place to get in some nature without having to travel too far.

Be sure to pack a picnic to bring with you and eat while you’re at the falls!


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After your hike, head back into town for a late afternoon tour of the Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine Distillery. While there, you’ll learn about the history of moonshine in the Smokies as well as see how it’s made – AND get to taste the product!

End your day with live music and dinner at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. They’ve got music on stage almost every night, so you’re sure to catch something good!

Smoky Mountains Itinerary Day Two: Whitewater Rafting

For day 2 of your Smoky Mountains getaway, make the drive to nearby Hartford, Tennessee for some serious adventure.

Rafting in the Smokies offers whitewater rafting, zipline canopy tours, ropes courses, and horseback riding for a day full of fun.

Start the day off with the Upper Pigeon River Rafting trip, which features 12 Class III and 3 Class IV whitewater rapids! You’ll raft down 5.5 miles of active rapids with intriguing names like Too Late, Vegamatic, Razor Blade, After Shave, and Lost Guide, accompanied by one of Rafting in the Smokies’ friendly, professional river guides.

There is no need for any prior experience for this trip, but if you’d rather go for something a little bit less exciting, you can also try the Lower Pigeon River Scenic Family Float.

In the afternoon, try your hand at the Zipline Canopy Tour or Ropes Challenge Course, or go on a guided horseback ride!


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After working up an appetite, you’ll be ready for a big meal – and we’ve got just the thing. Drive back to downtown Gatlinburg for a taste of the delicious barbeque at family-owned Bones Barbecue Joint. They still adhere to the old ways of barbeque and time-tested customs utilizing basic seasonings, clean wood smoke, and time to cook up some of the best barbeque out there.

Smoky Mountains Itinerary Day 3: Smoky Mountain National Park

On day three of your Smoky Mountains itinerary, it’s time to explore Smoky Mountain National Park.

Start your day with a hike to Laurel Falls, one of the most popular trails in the park. The waterfall is a moderate 2.6-mile roundtrip hike.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, try the Ramsey Cascades hike. This is the tallest waterfall in the park, and at 8 miles roundtrip, it’s also a much longer hike. But trust us – it’s worth it!

In the afternoon, take a drive down Newfound Gap Road for some of the most scenic views in the Smokies. Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to pull over and explore some of the many hiking trails, picnic areas, and waterfalls that dot the road.

clingman's dome

End your day with a trip to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. From here, you can see for miles in every direction. You can even see seven states from the top of the observation tower on a clear day!

Final Thoughts on this Smoky Mountains Itinerary

There you have it – three days packed full of things to do in the Smoky Mountains! This is just a tiny taste of what the area has to offer, so be sure to come back soon for more adventures. And don’t forget – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Smoky Mountain National Park have great things to do year-round, so there’s never a wrong time to visit!

Have you ever been to the Smoky Mountains? What are your favorite things to do in the area? Let us know in the comments below!

There's plenty of things to do in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. From hiking trails to world-famous amusement parks, these two towns offer a little something for everyone. Check out our list of the best activities in each town! If you're looking for some ideas of things to do while in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, look no further. This list includes information on hiking, Dollywood, and more. Don't miss out on any of the fun!

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