Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains, USA

Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains offers a glamping experience unlike any other
Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains offers a glamping experience unlike any other | Courtesy of Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains / Expedia
Photo of Matt Charlton
4 June 2021

The state-straddling, Unesco-listed Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to one of the oldest mountain ranges in the US, lined by rustic riverside lodges, luxury camping retreats and storied places to stay – all bookable with Culture Trip.

Brushing the edge of rootin’ tootin’ Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains are a world away from the rhinestones and six strings of Nashville. This sub-range of the Appalachian Mountains comprises 187,000 acres (75,676ha) that sit mostly within the boundaries of a national park, which protects this Unesco World Heritage site; it also has the densest black bear population in the eastern United States. That’s not to say these scenic places to stay in the Great Smoky Mountains stick to the “bear” necessities.

Bearskin Lodge on the River

Inn
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Courtesy of Bearskin Lodge on the River / Expedia

If it’s the rustic call of the Great Smokies that draws you to the area, then this is the place for you. With a swimming pool and pretty surroundings, the lodge is just steps from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and near all of the other amazing attractions, restaurants and shops in the bustling little tourist town of Gatlinburg.

The Park Vista, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

Chain Hotel
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Courtesy of The Park Vista, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel / Expedia

A hotel under the Hilton DoubleTree umbrella never disappoints, and this one is no exception. Set 1,000ft (305m) above Gatlinburg, this hotel has incredible sweeping views and sits on the city’s trolley route, taking you into the heart of downtown. Also, the national park is a hop, skip and a jump away. After a day of adventuring in the great outdoors, the hotel has a two-level indoor pool to wind down in. For food and drinks on-site, you’ll find the cozy fire-warmed Firefly’s Patio Lounge and the Vista Grill, serving hearty dishes.

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Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Gatlinburg Downtown

Hotel
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Courtesy of Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Gatlinburg Downtown / Expedia

Legendary Southern hospitality meets modern design in this friendly, well-thought-out hotel, a short walk from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery and the national park. If you tire of nature and just want something a bit more fabulous, the legendary Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park, is just a half-hour drive away. Upon returning, kick back on the hotel’s firepit-lined outdoor deck and pool.

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Hemlock Inn

Villa
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Courtesy of Hemlock Inn / Expedia

This three-story, eight-bedroom wood-lined lodge, which sleeps up to 38 people, offers far more than your average vacation rental. In addition to the wraparound decks and the huge kitchen with a massive L-shape dining table, the lodge has two hot tubs, a game room and a cinema, and the ensuite bedrooms feature cozy quilts on the beds. Gatlinburg’s only down the road, and you’re also just 3mi (5km) from the North Carolina border if you fancy visiting Asheville’s bars and breweries or the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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  • McKinley Edwards Inn

    Inn
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    McKinley Edwards Inn_dfb72c8a
    Courtesy of McKinley Edwards Inn / Expedia

    This boutique hotel is set in a historic 1927 building on a hillside overlooking Bryson City, North Carolina, with a view of the Great Smoky Mountains, complete with wildflower meadows, streams and the Appalachian Trail. The current innkeepers are Janice and John-Marc Gallagher; they’ve been in the hospitality industry for more than five decades and will help make your stay a memorable one. To take the edge off your activity-filled day in the park, hit up the popular Bryson City Wine Market.

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    Richmont Inn

    Bed and Breakfast
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    Richmont Inn Great Smokies_h_7ff963a3
    Courtesy of Richmont Inn / Hotels.com

    Richmont Inn resembles an Appalachian cantilever barn and takes its name from the enviable sweeping views of Rich Mountain across the valley. Inside, the traditional bedrooms are inspired by and named after historical men and women from the area, such as Sequoyah, a Cherokee scholar, and Francis Asbury, a famous church circuit rider who traveled through the rural backcountry on horseback. Ready to head out? You’re moments away from wildlife watching, wildflower walks and hiking in the Great Smokies.

    Historic Tapoco Lodge

    Resort
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    Courtesy of Historic Tapoco Lodge / Expedia

    If you’re itching for an epic adventure in nature, this is the place. The Historic Tapoco Lodge sits among 120 acres (49ha) in the Nantahala National Forest, along the banks of the Cheoah River, with access to miles of private hiking trails. Have breakfast next to the roaring rapids, then set out into the wilderness for rafting, kayaking, fishing and mountain biking. With an on-site creekside tavern, generous rooms named after herbs and flowers, nightly bonfires and even a hammock cove, you’ll be set up right for some serious downtime after an adventure-filled day.

    Margaritaville Island Hotel

    Hotel
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    Courtesy of Margaritaville Island Hotel / Expedia

    Find a little bit of glamour rubbing up against the rugged beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains at the ice-cream-colored Margaritaville Island Hotel – a refreshing contrast to the national park’s rugged good looks. With a rooftop pool overlooking the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, along with a bar, a coffee shop, a restaurant and a spa, this hotel is one for those who like to have the full suite of amenities ready and waiting for when they come back from the trails.

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    Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains

    Glamping
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    Under Canvas Luxury Tent
    Courtesy of Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains / Hotels.com

    The Under Canvas luxury camping brand always offers a top-notch experience, no matter where in the US you choose to stay with them. The Great Smoky Mountains outpost is just 10mi (16km) from Gatlinburg, on 182 acres (74ha) of wooded terrain, and the glamping is pretty special, with some tents even having lounge areas and stargazing windows above the bed. With adventures such as whitewater rafting and guided hiking to occupy your time and cozy communal campfires on return, you’re sure to leave feeling pretty pampered.

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    These recommendations were updated on June 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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