A quick two-hour flight to Knoxville, Tennessee, and an even faster thirty-minute scenic drive from the airport will land you in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The quiet towns of Cades Cove, Townsend, and Maryville are referred to as “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies” and are known for their majestic views and slower pace. Sure, you could venture into Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge to visit the usual tourist attractions, chain restaurants, and of course, high-spirited Dollywood, but sticking to the “quiet side” offers more than enough to fill an itinerary. The rural area provides a relaxing and less crowded trip with history, great food, and a requisite visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Enjoy the Views
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited national park, is open year-round and offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the abundance of plant and wildlife diversity. Each season changes the scenic vistas, so there is never a wrong time to plan a visit. Hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in the park, and there are trails for every age and experience level - the most challenging part is deciding which route you want to explore.
Two of the most popular hikes in the area are Laurel Falls and Abrams Falls. Named for the mountain laurel that grows along the trail, Laurel Falls Trail is the longest paved trail in the park. The majestic view of the two-part waterfall makes this 2.6-mile hike worth every step. A moderate five-mile hike will get you to the largest falls in the park, Abrams Falls. Despite being only 20 feet tall, Abrams Falls is breathtaking because of the large volume of water rushing over the edge.
Fill Your Plate
Located on the beautifully wooded Maryville College Campus, RT Lodge, the historic 26-room home of Susan Wiley Walker has been transformed into a hotel and restaurant. Everyone will enjoy the rustic setting, and foodies will rejoice in their menu. Everything is made in-house including their famous pickles, pimento cheese, and buttermilk fried chicken. Take note of the seasonal specialties and after your meal, explore a bit of the delightful property. For something more casual visit Apple Valley Mountain Lodge for a meal the whole family will enjoy. If a good beer selection is more your style, The Abbey is a sure thing. A wedding chapel transformed into a restaurant, The Abbey also has beautiful outdoor seating along the Little River, great pizza, and serves up several local brews.
Ever wanted to go glamping, stay in a tiny home, or have a fully decked-out luxury cabin? Little Arrow Outdoor Resort offers all those options and more in the picturesque foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Great for large groups and families, the resort has amenities kids will love like an onsite playground, pool, and splash pad. Outdoor fire pits and grates are standard at each site, and the resort offers plenty of fun programming during peak season. Access to hiking, rafting, and dining is effortless from their easy-to-find location on the Little River.
Discover Bygone Days
Cades Cove Loop, located in the national park, is an 11-mile, one-way loop road offering motorists an opportunity to take in the outdoor museum from their vehicle. There are three churches, a working gristmill, barns, log houses, and other restored structures that visitors can tour. A typical tour takes about two hours and is generally busy during peak season and on weekends. Allow yourself enough time to take in everything, including the abundance of wildlife found along the loop. The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center is also worth a stop to learn about the history of the Southern Appalachians and the Native Americans that inhabited the area.