16 Absolutely Free Things To Do in Pigeon Forge Tennessee

May 20, 2022

This happening tourist town is brimming with enough free activities to fill a trip itinerary! Experience mountain town charm alongside natural beauty at this classic vacation spot.

So, you're planning your Smoky Mountain vacation and want to save money, too. It's no secret that it can be tough to take a trip and save some dough. However, this doesn't have to be the case when you visit Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Luckily, the list of free things to do in Pigeon Forge is lengthy!

Of all 50 states, Tennessee is home to some of the most breathtaking sights around. Pigeon Forge happens to be a stone's throw away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so nature lovers will be eager to seek out absolutely awe-inspiring landscapes when they visit this town.

Fun Fact: Curious about the name? Pigeon Forge was named after the Little Pigeon River and an iron forge previously located in the town.

If it's not on there already, you have to add this budget-friendly city to your United States travel bucket list. Keep reading for our favorite free things to do in Pigeon Forge so you can start planning your (bargain) trip today!

Cades Cove

Beauty is abundant in the lush, mountain-surrounded valley that makes up Cades Cove. Take a scenic drive on the 11-mile, one-way loop, and keep an eye out for wildlife and historic buildings!

Related Post: 2022 Guide to Spring Break in Pigeon Forge: Where to Go & Things to Do

Depending on traffic, you'll need anywhere from two to four hours to make your way around the loop. Additionally, you may want to plan on spending a couple more hours at Cades Cove if you decide to get out of the car and walk some trails.

Photo Alert: Keep your camera ready on this drive! You're bound to get an exciting shot worthy of all the likes.

Distant view along a fence with John Oliver Cabin in background Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Meredith Millhorn Boatman via Facebook

Sugarlands Visitor Center

Orient yourself in the area with a visit to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. A free 20-minute movie provides an overview of everything you'll need to know about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before you embark on your own adventure!

History exhibits and ranger talks presented at select times will also clue you in on the national park.

Once you're ready to hit the ground running, choose an easy hiking trail to wander:

  • Cataract Falls
  • Fighting Creek Nature Trail
  • Gatlinburg Trail

Patriot Park

Visiting Pigeon Forge without breaking the bank is a walk in the park… get it? Swing by Patriot Park to check out the Liberty Bell, state flags, and Patriot Missile.

Related Post: 8 Exciting Things to Do with Toddlers in Pigeon Forge

Honor veterans while taking in the views. You may run into a festival or 4th of July fireworks if you time it right!

ground view of Patriot Park and flags on a cloudy day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

Clingmans Dome

There's nothing like the view of the Smoky Mountains from 6,643 feet in the air! Journey to the top of Clingmans Dome to take advantage of this astonishing perspective. If you catch it on a clear day, expect a viewing distance of around 100 miles. However, it may only be 20 miles depending on the day.

Clingmans Dome serves as the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and in the state of Tennessee. So, prepare for a 10 to 20-degree drop in temperature at the top! We recommend packing a light jacket for this.

Pro Tip: The trail to the top is very steep. So, you'll need to leave pets, bikes, and wheelchairs behind, as they are not permitted.

highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Clingman’s Dome daylightWildlife Watching

One of the best free things to do in Pigeon Forge and the Smokies? Spotting wildlife! Grab a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out for some of our favorite Smoky Mountain residents, such as:

  • Black bears
  • Turkeys
  • Elk

Don't forget to be respectful of these creatures who call the mountains home! Be sure to keep a safe distance.

Black Bear on Rocks in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USAThe Old Mill Square

This charming shopping and dining destination also hosts free festivals throughout the year. One beloved landmark is The Old Mill Candy Kitchen. Rumor has it that they hand out free sugary samples here!

Related Post: 9 Things to Do in Pigeon Forge When it Rains

Additionally, you can get an inside look at how the mill works when you take a tour for a small fee.

water mill the old mill at night in piegon forge tennesseThe Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community

Those who have a knack for scouting out the best handmade products will enjoy a visit to the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community! The community consists of independent artists, and it's the largest of its kind in the United States. The trolley is the preferred mode of transportation to weave through the eight-mile loop of delightful galleries, shops, and studios.

Browsing is free, but you'll have to drop some cash if you find something to take home with you! Keep this in mind before falling in love with a painting, candle, or other craft. However, if you want to use a little spare change here, your secret is safe with us! 

Newfound Gap Road

For the less adventurous among us, the Great Smoky Mountains are best enjoyed from the comfort of the car. The Newfound Gap Road is a mountain route that will take you through the entire national park. Moreover, it's the only road that makes this possible! 

Related Post: A Guide to the Perfect Pigeon Forge Cabin Vacation

The drive is 33 miles long and ends up in Cherokee, North Carolina. It typically takes about an hour, but this can vary depending on traffic. For example, keep in mind that the peak months of June, July, August, and October may mean more driving time. Of course, you'll get to take in the sights longer if this is the case!

fall foliage newfound gap road

Even driving to the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains is beautiful.

Hiking

Grab your backpack and your hiking boots. It's time to hit the trails! Over 800 miles of trails through the Great Smoky Mountains means the area is a dream destination for hikers. Do some research to determine which trail is best for you! A few of our recommendations include:

family standing at the top of a mountain taking in the view of the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USADouglas Lake

If hiking sounds a bit too strenuous for you, how about a lazy day at the lake? Stretching out more than 30,000 acres, Douglas Lake also boasts over 550 miles of shoreline.

This means there's more than enough room for all of your favorite lake activities: fishing, boating, swimming -- you name it! 

two men in a fishing boat on an overcast day in Douglas Lake in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

No matter which season you visit, the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook never fails to amaze. There are four parking areas to choose from on the Gatlinburg Bypass. Once you choose your spot, prepare to feast your eyes on the splendor of the Smoky Mountains! 

Photo Alert: This is one photo op you can't afford to miss. Bonus points if you catch it during the golden hour!

View of Gatlinburg in the fall with trees of many colors and the mountains in the back ground at twilight at the Gatlinburg Scenic overlook in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies via Facebook

Shopping in the Smokies

We hope you were able to stash away some petty cash for a time like this! The shopping in Pigeon Forge is phenomenal, as the town is filled with a good mix of outlet malls and unique shops to browse. Of course, you can enjoy window shopping for free if you don't have any change to spare!

You'll find nine malls and shops by the hundreds in the area. If you fancy something at one of the local shops, we recommend grabbing it while you can. Many of the shelves in these stores are lined with unique treasures you won't find anywhere else!

Pigeon Forge Festivals

Pigeon Forge is a festival haven! You can often enjoy the hustle and bustle of these exciting atmospheres free of charge. Moreover, take advantage of possible free concerts!

Related Post: Current Festivals and Events in Pigeon Forge

Let the enticing smell of festival food draw you into a good time at events hosted throughout the year.

Meet the Horses at Dolly Parton's Stampede

This beloved dinner show attraction features a lineup of talented horses. And, you can meet them all before the show for free! Stroll along the famous Horse Walk for a meet and greet with the stars of the spectacle.

Pro Tip: It may be hard to resist staying for the show after meeting the cast! Snag discounted Dolly Parton's Stampede tickets from Tripster so you can see the show for a steal.

Wide shot of two women in blind cowgirl costumes walking the Horse Walk with horses sticking their heads out to great them at the Dolly Parton Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dolly Parton's Stampede (Pigeon Forge, TN) via Facebook

The Island in Pigeon Forge

Much of the action in Pigeon Forge takes place at The Island in Pigeon Forge. This entertainment hub has something for the whole family: shopping, dining, and a slew of activities such as rides and a mirror maze!

One free fan-favorite activity here is watching the Island Show Fountain. Ooh and ah, as water literally dances to the music!

Pro Tip: Stop by Ole Smoky Moonshine while you're here! It's housed in the Ole Smoky Barn, an ideal setting to kick back and enjoy a jar. 

night view of The Island with lights and fountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennesee, USARoaring Fork Motor Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Trail will take you through an enchanting forest scene dotted with stunning waterfalls.

Two of our top picks? Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. Once you find one, hop out of the car and take in the watery wonder!

It's time to start crossing off your own list of free things to do in Pigeon Forge!

Related Post: Insider's Guide to WonderWorks Pigeon Forge, TN

Whether you choose to explore the great outdoors or do some window shopping, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, caters to travelers of all kinds. The best part? You can immerse yourself in this tourist city on the cheap! At Tripster, we're here to help with hotel discounts, attraction deals, and insider advice.

Have You Been to Pigeon Forge?

What was your favorite activity? Do you have any free things to do in Pigeon Forge to add to our list?

Leave us a comment below!


michaela smiling holding magazine with body of water in background

Written By Michaela

Michaela is a journalist who views every story she writes as an adventure, leading her to explore new places and meet new people. She is based in the Midwest ...

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