The Great Smoky Mountains is the country’s most-visited national park – yes, even more than Yellowstone National Park! This awe-inspiring East Coast attraction spans more than 500,000 acres across Tennessee and North Carolina. We were thrilled to be exploring the mist-covered mountains, which wowed us with their vibrant flora, verdant forests, and blue peaks. The southern Appalachian mountain culture was fascinating, with folklore, myths, food, and whatnot. So, we weren’t surprised when we found a long list of options when we went looking for hotels in the Great Smoky Mountains. Not only were they spread across the various entrances and gateway towns, but they also varied across types, vibes, and budgets. So, no matter what kind of traveler you are or the kind of stay you prefer, the Smokies have something awaiting everyone.
Since the park has a gamut of manmade and natural attractions, we had our days full. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour was one of the most thrilling and scenic routes we’d ever driven on. What’s more, we could hike and walk miles of wooded trails, complete with stunning waterfalls, foliage, and scenery. And no matter where you choose to live, you’re never far from a beautiful outdoor adventure. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your outdoor gear and check out this detailed guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Before we begin, here are some useful tips to ensure the best trip to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Table of contents
- Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn and Cottages, Sevierville
- The Historic Gatlinburg Inn, Gatlinburg
- Music Road Resort Hotel, Pigeon Forge
- Reynolds Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn, Asheville
- The Inn At Apple Valley, Sevierville
- McKinley Edwards Inn, Bryson City
- Bearskin Lodge On The River, Gatlinburg
- Historic Tapoco Lodge, Robbinsville
- Margaritaville Island Inn At Pigeon Forge
- RiverStone Resort & Spa, Pigeon Forge
- Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg
- Our Verdict!
- Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains?
- What is the best city to stay in the Smoky Mountains?
- What is the most visited place in the Smoky Mountains?
- What 2 states are the Great Smoky Mountains in?
Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn and Cottages, Sevierville
Most romantic. If romance is on your mind, then look no further than the Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn and Cottages. One of Pigeon Forge’s most romantic hotels, we were constantly lost amidst the steam and fog at this utterly amorous abode in the mountains. Tucked in a 10,000-square-foot Victorian-style farmhouse, this B&B was just what we were seeking from our romantic Smokies sojourn. We had the options of 12 beautiful rooms, 5 cottages, and a 3-bedroom house, and we chose one of the romantic cottages. All our time was spent window-side in the bubbling waters of the gorgeous two-person jetted spa bathtub. We also loved that our room, like every other, had a cozy fireplace, a soft four-poster bed, and even our coffee machine, which we’d use to brew our morning cups of coffee.
Of all the amenities here, the highlight was the spa, which was a welcome break after a long day of exploring the Smokies. We highly recommend getting the hydrating Blue Mountain Mist Signature Facial, after which we’d head straight for the sweet treats at the Tempting Station on the property. Think chocolate chip bars, red velvet cake, and whatnot. Our mornings began equally amazingly with delicious American breakfasts with all our favorites – pancakes, French toast, bacon, gravy and biscuits, fresh fruit, etc. In fact, the hosts even did dinners every Friday and Saturday.
What was great about staying here was that we weren’t confined to just our rooms at the B&B. The common areas were gorgeous, as were the gardens, where we’d enjoy peaceful strolls.
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The Historic Gatlinburg Inn, Gatlinburg
There’s no way to mention staying in the Smokies without mentioning The Historic Gatlinburg Inn, which was perfect for culture vultures like us. In fact, the UT song, Rocky Top, was penned in room 388 of this hotel, and it sure became an earworm with us the few weeks after our stay here!
Stepping into this 1937-built hotel was like stepping into a time capsule. That’s because the hotel has kitschy yet amazing 1950s lodge decor, complete with vintage wallpaper and wood-paneled walls. Complementing the decor is the amazing comfort factor, which is a result of the famous Southern hospitality and the amenities. A heavenly outdoor swimming pool headlines the offerings here, making the hotel one of the best Gatlinburg pool hotels, besides also being one of the best hotels with an indoor pool in Gatlinburg, TN. Moreover, there’s a lovely dining area right beside the pool, where we’d begin our days with delectable breakfasts.
Even if we couldn’t sleep in iconic room 388, we had a host of other historic quarters up for grabs – those lived in by Dinah Shore, lady Bird Johnson, and Liberace! What’s more, they were all equally cozy and dreamy, with modern and spick and span bathrooms, plush beds, and cable TVs. In fact, the parlor suites even had separate sitting rooms.
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Music Road Resort Hotel, Pigeon Forge
We were looking for unique digs in Pigeon Forge, and the Music Road Resort Hotel caught our eye. With excellent views of the Little Pigeon River and the Smokies, this wonderful Tennessee resort was as unique as it was amazing for staying with the kids. That’s because its bestselling feature was not one but two sprawling outdoor waterparks. Not only did it have 60-foot slides for thrills, but it also had lazy rivers for some languorous unwinding in peace. Right next to the huge waterpark, there’s even an indoor pool area, which is perfect for when it turns cold in the Smokies from fall onward. What also helps is the presence of the hot tub next to it, where the bubbling waters soothe any sore muscles.
That’s not all. A cozy lobby, complete with music-themed decor, a huge fireplace, beautiful artwork, and plush couches, welcomed us within. Our days started off in the best way with huge continental breakfast spreads with gravy and biscuits, scrambled eggs, bacon, muffins, cereals, and oats. So, it was the best combination of a continental and a Southern breakfast spread.
The rooms and suites at this resort were no less impressive, with the best ones in the house boasting scenic views of both the Little Pigeon River and the Smokies from private balconies. Our room was one such abode, and we had a fantastic time staying indoors as well. What’s more, it also had a cable TV, free Wi-fi, a fridge, and a microwave. The best times here were the evenings, which we’d spend at the massive outdoor deck that overlooked the river and the lush Smokies scenery.
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Reynolds Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn, Asheville
After all, there are very few pre-Civil War brick homes left in western North Carolina, and this 1847-built B&B is one of them. In fact, this Colonial Revival house sits on the National Registry of Historic Places and retains much of its nearly 180-year-old glory. The mansion now sits on the last remaining 4 acres of an originally 1,500-acre estate. But it still was a tranquil respite with gorgeously maintained gardens, complete with a spring-fed pool. The hosts take the “breakfast” in the title seriously and lay out a seasonally rotating menu of every hearty breakfast dish under the sun. When the weather is nice, as it was when we were here, the breakfast shifted from the usual formal dining room to the lovely wraparound porch!
That said, the B&B has a slew of modern conveniences that made our stay as comfortable as it could get. Our stay was intimate and exclusive with just eight rooms and suites here. Moreover, most of them retained the original 16-ft ceiling height, with the carriage-house suites featuring clawfoot tubs, Jacuzzis, and fireplaces. So, it was obvious which room we chose to stay in here! Plus, all rooms even had free Wi-Fi and soft bathrobes.
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The Inn At Apple Valley, Sevierville
Best chain hotel. While looking for a reliable chain hotel on our Smokies sojourn, we were delighted to find and stay at the Inn at Apple Valley in Sevierville. We absolutely loved the convenient location of this award-winning inn, which lay right along the Little Pigeon River, just across from Pigeon Forge. So, we could explore the Smokies and its many amazing gateway towns. Even better, the inn has bagged the prestigious Ring of Honor award six years in a row. And this is an award that’s only given to 1% of the hotels! What more could we ask for?
The inn seamlessly blends Southern hospitality and luxury, which is evident in the digs and amenities. Our days would begin with a delicious hot breakfast every day in the second-floor breakfast room. Our favorite space here was the seasonal outdoor swimming pool. After a long day of hiking around the Smokies, it really was the best place to cool off and unwind. In fact, the inn even has an indoor pool, which is open throughout the year. So, those who visit here in winter can also enjoy a dip, notwithstanding the weather. As the evening progressed, we’d retire to the gorgeous outdoor firepit in the courtyard and enjoy an alfresco meal under the stars.
That said, the rooms and suites here are utterly gorgeous, blending old-world furniture with modern offerings. All of them feature coffeemakers and spacious seating areas. So, we’d brew our morning cup of joe and enjoy it in the comfort of our own rooms.
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McKinley Edwards Inn, Bryson City
Best boutique hotel. Sitting on lushly landscaped grounds, McKinley Edwards Inn is a wonderful boutique hotel. We loved the Bryson City, North Carolina, location on the southeastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So, it had a very different vibe from the Smokies’ Tennessee towns like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
We had a fabulous time staying at this upscale boutique hotel. Our days began on a high note with an American buffet breakfast downstairs. In fact, on days that we slept in, the innkeepers were even kind enough to deliver the breakfast straight to our room. The patio was also a favorite spot, especially since we could enjoy a glass of wine and our daily caffeine fix. If you’re here with kids, there’s even outdoor play equipment. Now, that’s something we haven’t seen in B&Bs or inns. After exploring and hiking through the Smokies, the outdoor fireplace was perfect to warm ourselves up on colder evenings. There were even barbecue facilities, so we could mingle with other guests and even enjoy an alfresco meal under a starry sky.
We had the choice of 13 unique rooms and suites here, of which 4 rooms and a suite were on the ground floor, and 4 rooms were on the second floor. Our chosen abode, the Retreat, was a gorgeous ground-floor suite with a separate living room. However, the highlight was a covered patio with alfresco seating right outside the living room. Plus, there was even a large wooden deck that led off it, perfect for lounging around. Nevertheless, all rooms came with plush beds, flatscreen TVs, and modern bathrooms.
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Bearskin Lodge On The River, Gatlinburg
Nestled close to the Parkway in Gatlinburg lay the Bearskin Lodge On The River. Rustic mountain living in the Smokies didn’t get any better than staying at this place, which was also one of the most romantic hotels in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
What we loved about this property was that despite being a Smokies property, it had a plethora of amenities to keep us all occupied, ensuring that we had a great time staying here. For instance, we’d be nicely fueled up for a long day out in the national park, thanks to the simple yet delicious Grab-and-Go Breakfast. It had everything from freshly baked cookies to coffee and more. After we were back, we’d head straight to the freeform outdoor heated pool. So, whether it was a balmy day or a cooler one, indulging in a swim was the perfect way to spend our afternoons. Moreover, there was even a standout lazy river, complete with an island, and drifting around in the waters was as rejuvenating as it was cathartic.
Aside from a fitness center, there was even a fabulous fire pit with lots of alfresco seating. So, we’d gather around in the evenings, enjoying a glass of wine or a cuppa with fantastic views of the Smokies. The best bit? There was hot chocolate on offer in the lobby all day long.
That said, the rooms and suites here are, undoubtedly, some of the best in town. The blend of mod-cons with rustic decor made for the ideal comfortable setting. Not only did the digs have private patios and balconies overlooking the greenery and the mountain streams, but they even had fireplaces. And between city and river views, we implore you to choose the amazing river views, as you can see above.
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Historic Tapoco Lodge, Robbinsville
Most historic. If you dig history just like us, then you’ll love the Historic Tapoco Lodge. Tucked along the Chenoah River in Robbinsville, it’s just an hour from the Sugarlands entrance. Thus, we were far away from the hustle and bustle and still close to it. So, what made the lodge so special? Basically, it pays homage to the good old days of Smokies’ tourism, harking back to a time when it was all about getting out into the great big outdoors.
But that’s not all. There’s a whole lot of history in the architecture as well. The main lodge sits in a two-and-a-half-storeyed 1930-built Colonial Revival structure. During the next decade, the facilities expanded to include many guest cabins as well. Furthermore, around 1950, other utility buildings, including a guard house and a theater, were added to the complex. The late 1990s saw the addition of tennis courts and gazebos, too. So, it was not surprising that the lodge made it to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Accommodations here were nothing short of luxurious, ranging from rooms and suites to cabins. TNot only were the beds comfortable, but also the bathrooms were chic. Despite not having a TV (in any room, by the way), we had a wonderful time staying here. For instance, our room, the Hemlock Riverfront Room, lay inside the lodge and boasted beautiful views of the river. In fact, waking up to the sound of the gushing waters was a breath of fresh air every morning. Our room was well equipped with water, mints, a bathroom, and a super comfy bed.
One thing we loved about this venue was the activities roster, which included everything from yoga to pickleball and even a Native American performer!
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Margaritaville Island Inn At Pigeon Forge
While looking for fun places to stay in the Smokies, the name of this one alone got us dancing. We’re talking about Margaritaville Island Inn, which lies on the Island in Pigeon Forge Amusement Park right in the very heart of the town. It brings a little bit of Key West to the Smokies, and we’re all for it!
Staying at this hotel was like staying in a highrise penthouse in Pigeon Forge, of all places. What’s more, it had a plethora of fun amenities to boot. Despite there being so many restaurants right next door, the hotel had its own restaurant that served delicious American fare. However, our favorite part of the property was the massive outdoor and indoor swimming pools. No matter the weather, we had our own space to swim and lounge about right on the property. A soak followed a swim in the pool in the hot tub, which was the best way to wind up our unwinding experience. During evenings, we’d spend time by the fire pit, grilling alfresco dinners. In fact, our days would begin the same way, complete with a delicious complimentary breakfast.
The rooms and suites were much like the rest of the resort – very laidback, chic, and upscale at the same time. What’s more, the decor boasted an out-and-out beach theme, but it was in no way kitschy. Aside from a bevy of mod-cons, the rooms have lovely fireplaces and balconies with terrific views. Our room had sweeping views of the Little Pigeon River, which we’d enjoy as we sipped on our morning cup of coffee.
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RiverStone Resort & Spa, Pigeon Forge
It was hard not to get excited when we saw the dreamt setting of RiverStone Resort & Spa, one of Pigeon Forge’s most upscale and, frankly, drop-dead gorgeous hotels. The highlight of this hotel was its pool areas, especially since it had both indoor and outdoor ones. The indoor pool area, which is also one of the largest in town, is also the most unique, sitting in a greenhouse-type glass structure on one side of the resort. What’s more, it features mesmerizing views of the mountains and the Little Pigeon River. The outdoor pool, or rather pools, was no less amazing, as it is designed as a lazy river that meanders through the resort. After a swim, we’d sprawl on the sun loungers and daybeds by the pools, sip on drinks, and relax for hours together.
Aside from the pools, we loved the riverfront area where we could picnic and grill alfresco dinners. When it would get hot in the afternoons, the spa, with its bevy of massages and treatments, was a welcome break. The choice of digs was also great, especially since they were the most unique we’d seen in the Smokies yet. Besides the traditional rooms and suites, the resort also had private log cabins with their own patios that featured jacuzzis. Above all, since the resort sat right in the heart of the town, it was close to the town’s amazing sights and the national park entrance.
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Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg
It’s impossible to leave the Margarita Resorts out of a list of the best stays in the Smokies, isn’t it? Behold Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg, which was everything we wanted our Smoky Mountains resort to be. We loved immersing ourselves in the beautiful tropical atmosphere and the laidback luxurious vibe of this island resort right in the heart of Gatlinburg.
After indulging in every activity possible outside, the rooms and suites here are rather welcoming. Besides private bathrooms, they all have standard mod-cons. The standout feature is the balconies or patios with spectacular views of the town and the National Park. All resort rooms have TVs. The private bathrooms have baths or showers and complimentary toiletries. There’s also an on-site restaurant. All rooms in the resort are equipped with a TV and a private bathroom that is fitted with either a bath or shower and complimentary toiletries. All units include a wardrobe.
That said, the digs are just one amazing part of this resort; the amenities are its other exciting half. When it came to food, we had a variety of cuisine options at the onsite restaurant, which served all meals. So, if we didn’t feel like stepping out for food, we didn’t have to. Our days, though, were spent by the stunning outdoor seasonal pool, soaking up the sun. In fact, the freeform outdoor pool is one of the largest this side of the Smokies. The best bit? There’s an indoor pool, too, if you’re headed here in winter. That said, we loved the St. Somewhere Spa the most; it is one of the few spas in the town, let alone a high-end day spa. As Margaritaville puts it, it was our “license to chill,” given that we’d traipsed all over the national park throughout the day.
“Staying in a resort with a spa in the middle of the most popular part of the Smokies was a dream come true!”WOW Travel
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Although we loved all the hotels in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, here are our absolute favorites, which will help you decide too:
- Most romantic: Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn And Cottages, Sevierville
- Best chain hotel: The Inn At Apple Valley, Sevierville
- Best boutique hotel: McKinley Edwards Inn, Bryson City
- Most historic: Historic Tapoco Lodge, Robbinsville
Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains?
Since it spans a whopping 500,000 acres, it’s not a surprise that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has as many as six park entrances to choose from. So, it was important for us to base ourselves near the sites that we wanted to see the most. What’s great is that every gateway town has its own personality and vibe,
We begin with the unofficial and most popular gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, which is best for first-time visitors to the Smokies. Not only is it just minutes from the visitor center, but the town is packed with a ton of outdoor activities and kitschy and fun Gatlinburg things to do. Plus, there are many excellent hotels in Gatlinburg, TN. Pigeon Forge, another nearby town, is an extension of everything that Gatlinburg is. It’s best known as the home of the Dollywood theme park, which is one of the top things to do in Pigeon Forge. Plus, there are a whole lot of best Pigeon Forge, Tennessee hotels, too.
Neighboring Cherokee, Bryson City along the Tuckasegee River is one of the closest Smokies towns in North Carolina. Besides the national park itself, there are many things to do here, like taking a Guided Whitewater Rafting Trip on the Nantahala River. Another fun thing to do is take a train ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, which ventures through tunnels, gorges, and historic mountain towns.
Finally, there’s Townsend, which is rightfully known as the “peaceful side of the Smokies.” We loved the small downtown area along the Little River, as opposed to the chain brands and neon lights of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. With outfitters, restaurants, and cafes, it’s a quintessentially gorgeous mountain town.
What is the best city to stay in the Smoky Mountains?
Although it has a commercial vibe, Gatlinburg is an excellent base camp for all kinds of Great Smoky Mountains adventures and has easy access to all kinds of accommodations.
What is the most visited place in the Smoky Mountains?
In terms of scenic routes, Newfound Gap Road is popular as it travels through a variety of types of forests and has a place where you can stand in two states at once. In terms of attractions, Cades Cove is the park’s most visited area and is popular for spotting wildlife.
What 2 states are the Great Smoky Mountains in?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the borders of both North Carolina and Tennessee, with the three main entrances being in Cherokee (NC) and Townsend and Gatlinburg (TN).