8 Best Day Trips From Gatlinburg, TN

August 8, 2022

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 from Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

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. 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 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. 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 the scenic route. 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.

Spring time in Downtown Asheville overlooking city skyline with wild rhododendron flowers in foreground.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 is a must! It serves as the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Related Post: 5 of the Best Gatlinburg Outdoor Activities

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, Bluff View Art District, and Ruby Falls 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! 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 I Recommend for Wannabe Foodies

Add these galleries to your list:

  • Green Hill Gallery
  • Twigs and Leaves Gallery
  • TPennington Art Gallery 

Pro Tip: If viewing stunning artwork happens to work up your appetite, The Buttered Biscuit 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 and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Then, swing by Centennial Park for a taste of nature respite.

Finally, don't leave the city before you experience live music at The Bluebird Cafe! As the site of many famous music artist 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! A short day trip to Pigeon Forge is all it takes to expand your sightseeing options. Leave boredom behind when you're in Tennessee!

Take a jaunt along the Little Pigeon River, 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!

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!

night view of The Island with lights and fountains in Pigeon Forge, Tennesee, USAWhich 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?

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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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