How to Explore the Great Smoky Mountains if You Don’t Hike or Camp

I’m saying it from the start: I am not a hiker. Or a camper. I think I like to hike and camp. I think I like being in the wilderness and communing with nature. I think I like to be without technology and modern day conveniences like running water. But when push comes to shove, I like it for about a day.

So here’s the disclaimer: I spent one day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I want to be up front: you could spend weeks- months- inside this national park that spans over 500,000 acres across two states (Tennessee and North Carolina). But I know my limitations, and I knew at the start of an almost four week road trip it was going to be a marathon and not a sprint, so I couldn’t get burnt out right away. I researched the Great Smoky Mountains and found the most manageable places to explore that would still give me the sense of accomplishment of hiking/camping/communing with nature. Here’s what I recommend if you want to get a feel for the mountains without camping for days:

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The Inn at Christmas Place Pigeon Forge, TN

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is known for being the home of Dolly Parton, a mecca for mini golf loving-race car driving- carnival rider seeking tourists, and as the gateway to The Great Smoky Mountains, the most popular of the 58 National Parks in America.

After hiking and exploring the mountains, we treated ourselves to an overnight at a magical place where it’s Christmas every day: The Inn at Christmas Place. It’s located right on the "Parkway" (Route 441, also known as the main strip of all things Pigeon Forge), but once you step inside, you’ll swear you’re on the North Pole. Children of ALL ages will love the magic of the Inn at Christmas Place.

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