March 02, 2023
You may not know this already, but there are several ways to get into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Most people use the main entrance that is located right outside of downtown Gatlinburg, but if you prefer to skip the crowds or want to see something else that’s not near this area, you have plenty of other options! We’re going to dive into all of the Great Smoky Mountains entrances on the Tennessee side so you know exactly which one you want to use!
The Sugarlands entrance to the national park is the most popular. You’ll drive through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg to get to this northern side of the park. That’s probably why this entrance is so popular, because you can stop at any of the shops, restaurants, or other spots before you head into the park. Almost as soon as you drive into the park, you’ll find the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There are several trails near this center, including Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail, Cataract Falls, and Gatlinburg Trail. If you continue past the center, you can either turn onto Little River Gorge Road to get to Cades Cove and several popular hikes, or continue along Newfound Gap Road for other popular hiking trails!
The second most popular Smoky Mountains entrance is located in the little town of Townsend, Tennessee. Before reaching the national park, visitors will pass little shops and restaurants that may be of interest! And if you want to add river tubing to your vacation itinerary, you can reach River Rat’s outpost by driving this way. You’ll drive along the highway until you come to a split in the road, which is where you can turn left to head towards Gatlinburg or right to go towards Cades Cove. There are several pull offs in this area for hiking trails, as well as creek access since the road follows along the river.
One entrance people don’t use as frequently is in the Greenbrier area. To get to this part of the park, you’ll take US-321 that is 6 miles east of Gatlinburg. As you’re traveling to the Smoky Mountain entrance, you’ll go through Pitman Center, a small mountain town, and then cross over the Little Pigeon River. You’ll find popular trailheads in this area for Grapeyard Ridge Trail, Ramsey Cascades Trail, and Porters Creek Trail.
If you plan on camping in the national park, you will probably use the Abrams Creek entrance. There aren’t any hiking trails in this area, but it is good for fishing since Abrams Creek Road follows alongside Abrams Creek!
Now you know all about the Great Smoky Mountains entrances, and you can decide which one will be the best one for you to use based on what you want to see and do! We know you can’t wait for your vacation with us, but what else will you do when you’re here? Check out these other Smoky Mountain attractions for more ideas!