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Visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Our Tennessee road trip adventures continue!

This week, we visit Gatlinburg TN, the "Gateway to the Smoky Mountains"! Located just south of Pigeon Forge TN, Gatlinburg is a busy tourist town with some very unique things to do, including the Gatlinburg Skybridge, Anakeesta, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

In this video, we'll share where we found free parking during our visit to Gatlinburg, the free public transportation that we used during our visit, and the restaurant and brewery we ate at in Gatlinburg. We'll also discover some Gatlinburg history, drive the scenic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, walk the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, and experience the incredibly immersive Astra Lumina!

And, of course, we stop in to 2 of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Centers to get stamps in our National Park Passport Book! Folks always ask about our National Parks Passport. It's a fun way to keep track of the National Parks, Monuments and Historical Sites that we visit across the country. You can find the Passport Books on Amazon.

An Interesting Start to a Tourist Mecca

What we know today as Gatlinburg, was founded in 1807 as White Oak Flats. That name is said to have come from the abundance of white oak trees that grew here. The town was renamed Gatlinburg in 1856 after short-term resident Radford Gatlin, a preacher and general store owner who was later kicked out of the community that still bears his name. The story goes that Gatlin's general store was the home of the post office so folks began referring to the town as Gatlinburg. Radford may not have stayed in the community long, but his name sure did.

Today, with it's surrounding natural beauty and bustling town center with tons of activities to choose from, Gatlinburg consistently makes the list of top places to visit including US News and World Reports' Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA in 2023-2024. Incidentally, we've visited several of the small towns on this list including Jackson Hole WY, Steamboat Springs CO, Breckenridge CO, Moab UT, and St Augustine FL and we have loved our time at each of these unique towns.

This inclusion on Best Of lists and the town's location on the edge of the most visited National Park in the country definitely have attracted attention to this Tennessee mountain resort town. These days 12 Million people visit Gatlinburg each year.

Hearthside Grove

Mentioned In This Episode

The Ridge Outdoor Resort, Sevierville TN
Our Campsite in Sevierville TN

More Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN

We might visit some of these attractions on a future trip.

Similar Places We Have Visited

SkyBridge Michigan

Neighboring Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Branson, Missouri

Kammok Hammock Ad

As we mentioned, we visited Anakeesta Outdoor Theme Park as part of the AIM Club Rally. We always enjoy AIM Rallies.

FREE Things to do in Gatlinburg TN

People watch and stretch your legs as you walk the 1-mile long Gatlinburg Strip.

Search for historic buildings, cabins and grist mills everywhere from the Strip through the National Park.

Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park by car or hiking trail. (Park admission is free, but you may need to buy a parking tag.)

Visit the Gatlinburg Welcome Center and the Sugarlands Visitor Center of the national park.

Tour the Gatlinburg moonshine distilleries.

Watch artisans at work as part of the "largest independent organization of artisans in the United States", the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community.

Stroll the River Walk along the Little Pigeon River.

Use the free Gatlinburg Trolley as transportation or to get an overview of the town.

Our Basecamp For This Visit

πŸ“ The Ridge Outdoor Resort

For More Information on Visiting Gatlinburg TN

Visit the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

What Makes Gatlinburg Unique?

With the aquarium in downtown, Gatlinburg is home to more fish than folks.

Gatlinburg's Ober Mountain is the only ski resort in Tennessee.

Open since 1960, Gatlinburg's Pancake Pantry is said to be Tennessee’s first restaurant to specialize in pancakes.

Gatlinburg hosts more weddings than any other US destination except Las Vegas.

Gatlinburg TN Fun Facts

Approximate Population




Year Founded

1806 as White Oak Flats

Average Summer Temperatures

59Β° - 86Β°

Average Winter Temperatures

26Β° - 53Β°

Geographic Size

10.1 Square Miles

Tips for Visiting Gatlinburg TN

Gatlinburg Parking Tips: The Strip can get very crowded, making traffic and parking in Gatlinburg a real bear (and not the furry kind common in this area). Free parking is available at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center where you can catch the FREE Gatlinburg Trolley into town.

City parking lots and garages feature available space counts at the road so you know if parking is available before you pull in.

If you are driving through Gatlinburg via Parkway (the Strip), allow yourself extra time for traffic.

There are miles of hiking trails just outside of town. Beginning in March 2023, many of the parking areas inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park require a parking tag. There is some free parking along the river between the Gatlinburg sign and the national park sign on the way from town to the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

To avoid some of the crowds, get an early start or visit later in the afternoon.

Gatlinburg is an easy drive from neighboring Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, offering more lodging and campgrounds. We stayed in Sevierville during our visits to Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg Trolley
Gatlinburg Trolley
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A Few Photos from Our Visit to Gatlinburg

Pedestrian Bridge Over Cliff Branch
Pedestrian Bridge Over Cliff Branch
Spring Flowers at Anakeesta
Spring Flowers at Anakeesta
Gatlinburg at Night
Gatlinburg at Night
Downtown Gatlinburg Strip
Downtown Gatlinburg Strip
Parking Space Counter
Parking Space Counter
Astra Lumina
Astra Lumina
Historic Ogle Cabin on the Strip
Historic Ogle Cabin on the Strip
Gatlinburg Skybridge
Gatlinburg Skybridge

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Gatlinburg TN Pin

Tom and Stacie

Tom and Stacie Langland
"RV America Y'all"

Hey y'all! We are Native Texans and (since 2018) Full-Time RVers sharing the adventures, challenges, and joys of RV life as we travel. We love camping and hiking in State and National Parks, discovering history, visiting interesting and quirky places, and exploring small towns. We're on a mission to experience life, not just live it with our dog, Star, and our cat, Astro. You can also find us on our original RV travel website, Thanks for joining us as we RV America Y'all!

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