Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains region offers unparalleled natural beauty with its old growth forests, rushing rivers, spectacular waterfalls, and abundance of diverse flora and fauna. Great Smoky Mountains National Park comprises the heart of the area, and the fascinating historic cities and towns on either side are ideal jumping off points for a fun-filled and adventurous holiday. Here are some of the top locations to look for a perfect Smoky Mountains vacation rental.

1. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

river inside the forest

Gatlinburg lies in the foothills on the western edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Step out from your vacation rental in this iconic mountain resort and you are instantly surrounded by the natural beauty of the towering mountains. Take the River Walk along Little Pigeon River. Stroll the downtown parkway with its numerous shops, restaurants, and displays of arts and crafts. Head off into the nearby park for hiking and wildlife viewing.

2. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

ferries wheel

Another mountain resort close to the western national park entrance, Pigeon Forge was historically popular for its healing mountain springs. Vacation rentals in the town do not offer not only convenient access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and all its adventurous activities, but also put you in close proximity to numerous local family-friendly attractions. These include Dollywood, a large amusement park with an Appalachian Mountains theme, The Island, a shopping and entertainment complex, and Splash Country Water Park.

3. Sevierville, Tennessee

stone formations inside the cave

Sevierville, renowned as the hometown of famed country singer Dolly Parton, lies 10 miles north of the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The city provides easy access to outdoor activities such as rafting, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing. View the amazing natural formations and grottos in the Forbidden Caverns. Take to the tracks at the NASCAR Speed Park. Thrill to the world’s largest reptile zoo at RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo.

4. Wears Valley, Tennessee

beautiful riverstones

Vacation rentals in the town of Wears Valley are surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. This quiet area nestled amidst the ever-changing panorama of the Smoky Mountain forests is a photographer’s paradise. Hike the family-friendly Laurel Falls and Metcalf Bottoms trails for a close-up view of the National Park.

5. Townsend, Tennessee

road between trees
Source: Flickr / Matthew Paulson

Situated on the northwest edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend offers an abundance of activities such as swimming, tubing, fishing, cycling, and horseback riding. Step out from your comfortable vacation rental and walk or bike the historic trail through the town. Stop and check out the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Museum, the Lumber Company Museum, and the Little River Railroad. Just outside of town you’ll enjoy frequent sightings of raccoon, deer, bears, and other local wildlife.

6. Maryville, Tennessee

mountain ranges
Source: Flickr / Michael Hicks

Located just south of Knoxville, Tennessee, vacation rentals at Maryville place you nearby the natural beauty and adventurous activities of the Great Smoky Mountains and the urban attractions of the big city of Knoxville. The city contains numerous parks that offer opportunities for strolling and play. If you time it right, you can attend the Foothills Fall Festival with its arts and crafts and music from well-known entertainers. Check out the Smoky Mountains Visitor Center at Maryville for an overview of nearby activities.

7. Cherokee, North Carolina

river park
Source: Flickr / David Hamill

Cherokee lies at the eastern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Vacation rentals in Cherokee have easy access to the Cherokee Botanical Gardens and Nature Trail and the trail to towering Mount Guyot, the fourth highest peak in the Smoky Mountain range. As the headquarters of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, the town of Cherokee also hosts the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

8. Bryson City, North Carolina

train on a railroad bridge
Source: Flickr / Timothy Wildey

Surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery, Bryson City provides convenient access to opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities. Located along the Tuckasegee River, Bryson City is especially renowned for its whitewater rafting. Bryson City Island Park lies in the midst of the river and offers activities like picnicking, kayaking, fishing, and bird watching. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which originates in this town, provides a scenic ride through the mountains.

9. Dillsboro, North Carolina

magnificent sky view over the mountains
Source: Flickr / Tyler Merbler

Situated on the Tuckasegee River, vacation rentals in Dillsboro offer rustic charm and natural beauty. The town is known for its community of local artists and yearly pottery festival. Stroll the small-town streets and explore the historic shops, galleries, and restaurants. Go kayaking or fishing right from the center of town.

10. Sylva, North Carolina

white building
Source: Flickr / Lesley Looper

Located between the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains, the small town of Sylva combines historic ambiance with spectacular scenery. Step out from your vacation rental, stroll Main Street, and you’ll feel as if you have been transported back in time. Sylva hosts annual festivals such as Concerts on the Creek and Greening Up the Mountain. It’s also a convenient jumping off point for hiking numerous local scenic trails.

11. Cullowhee, North Carolina

blue lake water
Source: Flickr / Joe Flood

The home of Western Carolina University, Cullowhee lies just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the midst of Nantahala National Forest, and the lovely Tuckasegee River flows alongside the campus. Nearby, Lake Glenville is an excellent place to go swimming, boating, and fishing. Vacation rentals in Cullowhee are convenient bases for nearby adventures in hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting. Cullowhee also has the enormous Jackson County Recreational Complex, which is full of picnic areas, playgrounds, running trails, and sports facilities.