Whether you’re traveling on a budget, or simply don’t want to spend a lot of money, we’ve put together a list of activities that you can do for FREE in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area:
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With all of the free things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you definitely don’t want to miss out on the main attraction in the area. It’s filled with lots of great places to visit and see, but the best part about it is that everything you do in the national park is absolutely free!
- Sugarland’s Visitor Center
Make your first stop the Sugarland’s Visitor Center! You can browse the bookstore, tour a small museum with a 20-minute video about the national park. Then, from Sugarland’s Visitor Center, step outside and take a walk on the Gatlinburg Trail or choose a Smoky Mountain hiking trail for the afternoon! The Rangers are full of great information and know the best places to observe bear and Elk too.
- Hiking – There are so many great hiking trails it is hard to tell you the best ones. At the visitor center you can get more information on all of the trails and pick one that suites your needs and level. I like easy trails with a destination. We like Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls; both are ease hikes and have nice waterfalls at the end. Clingman’s Dome is a little bit of a drive to get to the trailhead but it is the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains and the view is awesome. You may want to pair this with sightseeing Elk because it is in the same area. If you are an inexperienced hiker bring a small backpack for water and snacks for the group.
- Cades Cove – I believe the best way to see Cades Cove is the 11-mile Loop Road, which is a one-way paved lane where you can ride along and see all of the buildings and historic structures. The Loop Road takes you on a historical tour of early pioneer farms, fields, roads and trails, leaving you with the feeling that you just stepped foot into the history of the mountains.
- Patriot Park – This is a great place to visit when you’re looking for a picnic location or just a spot to take a walk outside and enjoy the scenery. The park has a huge replica of the liberty bell, flags from all 50 states and more. There’s also a picnic pavilion area and a very large open field to run around and enjoy the outdoors. This is also where many events take place during the year. Festivals, concerts and the 4th of July celebration to name a few.
- The Island in Pigeon Forge – Visiting is a must for your Pigeon Forge vacation! There’s restaurants and shops, as well as the Great Smoky Mountain Ferris Wheel, but there’s so much to do for free! You can browse through the shops and sit, relax and watch The Island Show Fountains. The Fountain puts on a show that sprays the water to the music and uses colors for a nice effect. The Island is especially cool around the Christmas Holidays. Pigeon Forge and the Island go all out, just to see the decorations is well worth the trip.
- Moonshine tasting – If you enjoy a little moonshine this is the right place for you. Moonshine is not the hard-core stuff from years past, it is mostly flavored. The flavors are Apple Pie, Blackberry, Southern Pecan, Peach just to name a few. There are so many distilleries in the area it’s hard to choose the best ones. It was my duty to test them all so I could share my findings with you. Market research can be a real, chore but someone needs to do it 😊.
In Pigeon Forge we like the Old Forge and The Tennessee Shine Company. The Old Forge has a really nice cream bar. I didn’t think I would like the creams but I was pleasantly surprised. It is located near the Old Mill restaurant and has a nice little “Town Square” to walk around in. The Tennessee Shine Company has 2 locations one on Wears Valley Road but the one we like is on the corner of Teaster and Veterans. It is a nice little place that has a variety of good moonshine plus they have a wine bar as well.
In Gatlinburg we like Ole Smoky and Sugarland. Ole Smoky was the first moonshine distillery to open in Gatlinburg and has a really nice set up. They have a stage where frequently a country banjo playing band will be playing and people are sitting in chairs watching. The distillery is right there behind the glass and the moonshine is very good.
Our overall favorite is Sugarland. Sugarland has a little routine that the bartenders do that is both funny and entertaining. They make the experience more fun. They have a bar in the back where they mix moonshine to make some great drinks. They also have some TV Moonshiners stars that sponsor some of the moonshine.
PLEASE NOTE – If you go into Gatlinburg or The Island you will be charged 5.00 to do the tasting. You will also get a coupon for 5.00 off of all merchandise or Moonshine in their store.
- Newfound Gap Road
Another great spot in the national park is Newfound Gap Road. It’s the only road that runs from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC through the national park. Along the route, there’s many scenic overlooks where you can pull off to take pictures. So, don’t forget to take your camera! We saw a herd of Elk the last time we did this trip. Ask the rangers for the best places to see these beautiful creatures. Team this trip up with a hike at Clingmans dome for a full day of activities!
- Foothills Parkway, Caylor Gap Overlook – I have been coming to the area for more than 10 years now so I have seen my fair share of spectacular views but this one really impressed me. If you are at traffic light #3 near the Island, drive down Wears Valley road towards Townsend. Drive about 8 miles until you go under the first overpass you see. Make a right onto the Foothills Parkway.
Along this road you will see many great views. We went about three miles and stopped at the Caylor Gap overlook; it was truly impressive. It was well worth the drive and we wished we brought a picnic lunch. Next time we will plan more time so we could go farther on this road. I will add updates soon.
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – Do you want to explore the area, but you don’t feel like walking? You and your family can enjoy a relaxing drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail from the comfort of your own vehicle.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 6-mile, one-way, loop road. Along the trail, guests will pass several historic home sites including the Noah ‘Bud’ Ogle cabin, the Roaring Fork Cemetery, and the remains of one of the early settler’s villages that was home to nearly two dozen families over 150 years ago.
This loop road was badly damaged from the fires in November 2016 but has rebounded nicely. What we like about this trail is the Noah “Bud” cabin and its one-mile loop hike. Buy a trail map for a dollar so you can read about what it was like to live there over 100 years ago. The Ogle mill shows how with little else except their hands they were able to build a mill that could grind the corn into meal. This was all powered by the creek running through their land. Well worth the trip and adds a little history to your day’s events.