Thursday, July 9, 2020
This morning we hooked up to our rig and drove north to Cave City, Kentucky. We spent a total of 5 days in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and I feel like we got a good taste of the atmosphere there.
We stayed in Pigeon Forge, not because we particularly wanted to, but because it was the only RV park we could find with an opening. We quickly figured out that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have completely different atmospheres. Pigeon Forge is a bigger area and it is packed full of touristy shops, family attractions, shopping malls, and dinner shows. I would compare it to a Branson, Missouri type area (though I think Branson is nicer and had more to offer). Also, the traffic is crazy! It didn’t matter how close something was to you on the map, if you had to go through Pigeon Forge it was going to take twice as long as you thought due to the traffic. Also, all of the restaurants stayed packed, even fast food places. I tried to order pizza for us one night and it was going to take an hour and a half before it would be ready.
We spent some time in Gatlinburg also. It was busy but we liked the area better. First, it is right at the entrance to the National Park. You actually have to drive through it to get to some of the other entrances to the park. It seemed smaller, more like a little town nestled in the mountains. The main part of town was super busy and it is packed full of hotels and condos. However, their decors fit in with the natural landscape around you. There is one strip that has most of the tourist attractions on it. It is full of shopping and family attractions, such as the Skylift that we did. I liked that you could walk the entire strip if you chose to. Also, if you went one street behind the main strip you could walk along a creek and avoid all the crowds on the main strip.
Our favorite parts of the trip were actually being inside Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This is where we could avoid the kitschy stuff in the tourist areas and we could get away from crowds. The park offers great views, plenty of wildlife to watch and awesome hiking trails. If we come back to the area we will probably try to stay in the Townsend area instead. Townsend is further west than where we stayed. It is a small town that sits along the Little River. It has a lot of outposts for tubing the river and it is not nearly as crowded. It also has easy access in and out of the park. We would still go in to visit both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge but we think we would like the quietness of the Townsend area better.
We do believe we could have seen everything we wanted to see in just 3-4 days rather than spending 5 days here. We actually would have left the area sooner except that we wanted to bike the Cades Cove Loop on Wednesday when it was closed to vehicle traffic.
Overall, we enjoyed our time in the area, we are glad we got to see and experience it. The Smoky Mountains are beautiful and the area does have a lot to offer for a family vacation.