If you haven’t heard of Gatlinburg, perhaps it’s about time you have! It is a beautiful mountain town in Tennessee that is known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail. Author Bill Bryson wrote about it in his book A Walk in the Woods when he stepped off of the A.T. to enjoy some good food before heading back into the wilderness.
Springtime is a particularly special time in Gatlinburg, when the forests turn bright green and colorful flowers bloom everywhere. Whether you are planning to visit Gatlinburg as a serious hiker or just passing through for the day, here are 9 fantastic things that you can do there in the spring.
1. Visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle
The space needle is a fantastic place to start your adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains. From the observation tower, you can see a panoramic view of the mountains and vibrant forests. You can also learn more about the history of Gatlinburg and its surrounding geography. The space needle is open during the day and night, and you can enjoy lunch or dinner at a restaurant on top.
2. See the Waterfalls at Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
This 5.5 mile, one-way drive will lead you to the most beautiful waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the drive, you can stop and follow numerous hiking trails that will lead you into the forests. There are three homesteads on the trail that show visitors how settlers lived hundreds of years ago.
3. Attend the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
April 19th to 23rd marks this year’s festival of wildflowers and wildlife in Gatlinburg. The program offers art classes, guided walks, and natural history and ecology classes to help locals and visitors learn more about the flora and fauna of the area. Most of the classes are offered outside in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Make sure to sign up in advance to reserve your place!
4. Attend Smoky Mountain Wine Fest Weekend
Between Gatlinburg's Wine, Dine & Art Crawl on Friday, April 10th and the Wine Fest on Saturday, April 11th, you are guaranteed to have a fantastic weekend of culinary exploration. Sample wines from Tennessee wineries and attend wine talks and food pairings with the best local sommeliers and chefs.
5. Take a Trip on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway
Open year round, the 2.1-mile long aerial tramway that services Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort offers beautiful views of the mountains, trees, and city below. There are restaurants open at the top of the tramway and a special sunrise ride on Easter Sunday this year.
6. Attend the Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament
If you like fishing, make sure to visit Gatlinburg between April 2nd and 3rd to experience the biggest trout tournament in the Smokies! The competition is open to children and adults, so you can bring your entire family. 10,000 fish are stocked along 20 miles of river for the event, so the chances are good that you will catch something!
7. Visit the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts
Gatlinburg is known for its arts community, and at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, you can attend community classes during your visit. We recommend going to the wine and craft night! If you are visiting for a longer period of time, the school also offers one and two-week long courses to deepen your skills in painting, carving, and many other artistic media.
8. Go on a Guided Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Whether you are hoping to go on the best possible day hike or a multi-day adventure in nature, there are many different tour options to choose from. Companies such as Wildland Trekking and Smoky Mountain Hiking Tours have put together excursions that will show you the best wildlife, flowers, and forests within the National Park.
9. Run the Earth Day 5K
There is no faster way to get to know beautiful downtown Gatlinburg than running through it - and no better way to celebrate Earth Day than being surrounded by nature! This 5K takes place at night and raises money for the city’s green program to preserve nature in and around Gatlinburg.
Planning a trip with kids? Discover Gatlinburg's best kid friendly attractions!
This article was written by Cathy Trainor.