Escape the Smokies: 8 Best Day Trips from Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a dreamy tourist town. However, should you ever tire of its abundant attractions, a short drive away opens up a whole new world of travel possibilities!

The cozy mountain town that is Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a true tourist’s mecca. Nonetheless, we know some travelers prefer to spend some time off the beaten path. If you’re looking to break away from the other tourists, there are day trips from Gatlinburg galore!

Before you start planning your day trip, make sure you’ve already checked these must-do Gatlinburg activities off your list:

  • Theme park enthusiasts won’t be able to resist swinging by Anakeesta Themed around the outdoors, this park offers breathtaking thrills alongside equally spectacular nature views!
  • Make some progress on your bucket list while in Gatlinburg, too. Of course, everyone has to go white water rafting at least once!
  • As the only ski resort in Tennessee, Ober Gatlinburg is filled with wintry activities and much more! Reach new heights on the Aerial Tramway.

Been there, done that? Good! Now you’re ready to branch out. Sounds like it’s time for a road trip! Keep reading for our favorite day trips near Gatlinburg TN.

This map was made with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

The Great Smoky Mountains

Distance from Gatlinburg: 14 minutes, 4 miles

A day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a Tennessee essential. Outdoor adventures exist at every turn! One of the best activities? Hiking. Hikers have 850 miles of trails to choose from!

Check out our in-depth guide to the best waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains!

The landscape is prime for wildlife watching, as well as sunset chasing! Catch sight of once-in-a-lifetime views during your time in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Pro Tip: It’s hard to see it all when you’re only spending one day in Smoky Mountain National Park, located at 107 Park Headquarters Rd.

Consider scouting out a camping spot and turning your day trip into an all-nighter! If you decide to stay even longer, we suggest spending three to seven days in the park for the full experience.

Cades Cove

Distance from Gatlinburg: 1 hour and 18 minutes, 33 miles

Located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove near the Townsend, Tennessee park entrance is well-known for its wildlife-watching opportunities. This valley surrounded by mountains is a regular hangout for deer, black bears, and coyotes, among other animals.

Related Post: Essential Guide to Cades Cove – Smoky Mountains

An 11-mile road loops around the valley for easy sightseeing. We recommend setting aside at least a couple of hours to make the loop!

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

Asheville

Distance from Gatlinburg: 1 hour and 43 minutes, 82 miles

Asheville, NC, is another mountain city scene boasting more ways than one to enjoy a day! A famous North Carolina gem is located in the city: the Biltmore Estate at 1 Lodge St, Asheville.

Tagged “America’s Largest Home,” this gorgeous 8,000-acre estate was built to impress. Take a tour, then enjoy the city’s vibrant art scene before indulging in one of Asheville’s ravishing restaurants.

Related Post: The Most Unique Things to Do in Asheville

Above all, we recommend you take and mind the Gatlinburg to Asheville scenic route distance. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country! It’ll make the trip from Gatlinburg closer to 105 miles, but it’s well worth the extra time.

Photo Alert: Keep your eyes peeled for lookout points along the drive. Once you spot one, take a break from driving and snap away! This is one shot the gram can’t live without.

Asheville North Carolina Skyline
Downtown Asheville North Carolina NC Skyline Aerial.

Clingmans Dome

Distance from Gatlinburg: 45 minutes, 23 miles

If you’re afraid of heights, this probably isn’t the best destination for you. However, if you’re feeling brave, Clingmans Dome at Bryson City, TN 28713 is a must! It serves as the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Related Post: Gatlinburg TN Itinerary – Your Ultimate Blueprint for an Unforgettable Vacation

The trek to the top pays off in the form of an observation tower with 360-degree views. Don’t forget to pack a jacket on chillier days, as you may experience a 10 to 20-degree temperature drop on your way to the top!

Chattanooga

Distance from Gatlinburg: 2 hours and 45 minutes, 154 miles

Of all the possible day trips in East Tennessee, Chattanooga is a requirement. Endearingly known as the “Scenic City,” you’ll find plenty to do here.

The Tennessee Aquarium (1 Broad St), Bluff View Art District (411 E 2nd St), and Ruby Falls (1720 S Scenic Hwy) are just a few of our favorite ways to spend a day in Chattanooga.

Above all, don’t pass up the chance to meander through Rock City Gardens at 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain! This enchanting attraction weaves natural beauty with fairytale magic. It’s sure to leave adults and kids alike spellbound. Additionally, you can see a whopping seven states from Lookout Mountain!

Chattanooga Tennessee Riverfront
Drone Aerial of Downtown Chattanooga TN Skyline, Coolidge Park, and Market Street Bridge.

Waynesville

Distance from Gatlinburg: 1 hour and 24 minutes, 63 miles

Art buffs are in for a treat when they visit Waynesville, North Carolina! Glean inspiration from a plethora of art galleries featuring local talent. Paintings, sculptures, and jewelry are just a few of the many types of pieces waiting for your perusal.

Related Post: Five Asheville Restaurants – Recommended for Wannabe Foodies

Add these galleries to your list:

Pro Tip: If viewing stunning artwork happens to work up your appetite, The Buttered Biscuit at 1226 Dellwood City Rd is a breakfast food favorite! Be sure to visit during the daytime hours, as it closes at 2 p.m. You won’t want to miss loading up on the fluffiest pancakes, eggs however you like them, and flaky biscuits!

Nashville

Distance from Gatlinburg: 3 hours and 51 minutes, 222 miles

This day trip from Gatlinburg will take you the longest, but it’s worth every minute of the drive! Music aficionados will be right at home in “Music City.”

Needless to say, you’ll have to visit the Grand Ole Opry (600 Opry Mills Dr.) and the Country Music Hall of Fame (222 Rep. John Lewis Way S). Then, swing by Centennial Park at West End Ave for a taste of nature respite.

Finally, don’t leave the city before you experience live music at The Bluebird Cafe at 4104 Hillsboro Pike! As the site of many famous music artists’ discoveries (such as Taylor Swift!), this hotspot can be hard to get into. Make sure you snag tickets ahead of time!

Nashville Tennessee Skyline
Downtown Nashville, Tennessee, USA Aerial.

Pigeon Forge

Distance from Gatlinburg: 17 minutes, 18 miles

If you’ve already done all the touristy things in Gatlinburg, there are many more in this fan-favorite city! Short-day trips from Pigeon Forge are all it takes to expand your sightseeing options. Leave boredom behind when you’re in Tennessee!

Take a jaunt along the Little Pigeon River at Sevier County, which gave the city its name. Then, reach new heights on The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel!

If you’re a daredevil looking to get even higher in the sky, a helicopter tour is the best way to take in panoramic views of the area. Additionally, more adrenaline rushes await at the classic theme park Dollywood, located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd.

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Dollywood Discount Tickets and Coupons

Finally, end your day at one of many fantastic shows. Numerous talented acts take to the stages of Pigeon Forge! Grab a ticket for Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, or Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show!

aerial view over Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA, from The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
photo credit: Phil Nancy Bergstresser via Facebook

Frequently Asked Questions About Day Trips From Gatlinburg

Nashville and Gatlinburg are about 222 miles apart. So, if you're planning to hit up both spots during your weekend trip to Gatlinburg TN, you're looking at a bit of a road trip.

It can be a cool way to see more of what Tennessee has to offer. Pack some snacks and tunes, and enjoy the ride through some pretty scenic areas.

Graceland isn't exactly near; it's about 392 miles away from Gatlinburg. So, if you're thinking about combining a trip to the Smokies with a visit to the King's castle, you'll need to plan for a pretty long drive. But hey, road trips are half the fun, right? Just imagine all the cool spots you can check out along the way!

Which of these day trips from Gatlinburg will you be taking?

Once you’re done exploring the wonderful town of Gatlinburg, there’s so much more to see and do! The adventure is just beginning. Whether you’re looking to stroll the streets of a city or wander through wilderness marvels, you’ll find it all just a short drive away!

For more insider advice, discount attraction tickets, and hotel deals, Tripster is here to help! Make your plans and pack your bags today.

Where Would You Go For a Gatlinburg Day Trip Destination?

Do you have more suggestions for things to do within 50 miles of Gatlinburg, TN? Or perhaps, suggestions for tours in Gatlinburg TN? Share with us below!

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