There are so many great free things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, that your next visit to this memorable mountain town doesn’t have to break the bank.
Whether you’ll be exploring the area over a weekend, or you have a longer stay planned with a big group of friends or family members, it’s easy to build out a budget-friendly trip itinerary that will delight visitors of all ages. Read on to discover our top recommendations for free things to do in Gatlinburg!
1. Hit the Hiking Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you’re eager to get out in the mountains while visiting Tennessee, you’ll be happy to know that there’s no admission fee to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll just have to cover paid parking to access the many hiking trails that snake through the Smokies.
2. Stop by the Sugarland Visitor Center
To get yourself oriented in the Great Smoky Mountains, stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There, you can check out natural history displays to learn all about the flora and fauna in the area. If you time it right, you can also attend engaging programs led by National Park rangers on a variety of topics. This is a perfect place to grab a map and plan out the rest of your activities in the park, too.
3. Cruise the Cades Cove Loop
Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove is a popular outdoor destination near Gatlinburg. If you’re not up for a strenuous hike, consider driving the 11-mile loop road by car and stopping along the way for short excursions to see nearby waterfalls, historic structures, wildlife and scenic vistas.
4. Traverse the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Another great option if you like a mix of driving and walking in the great outdoors is the 5.5-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Following Roaring Fork, a picturesque mountain stream, this trail offers an easy drive and a moderately challenging hike. Your efforts will be rewarded with views of log cabins, a historic farmstead and the rushing Rainbow Falls.
5. Take a Distillery Tour at Ole Smoky Moonshine
Self-proclaimed as the most-visited distillery in the States, Ole Smoky Moonshine offers free distillery tours in Gatlinburg, TN. You’ll just need to book a reservation in advance to get a glimpse behind the scenes at the whiskey and moonshine process.
This is definitely one of the more popular free things to do in Gatlinburg for adults. And although only the 21-and-up crowd can enjoy tastings, teens aged 13 and up can also come along for the experience to learn all about how some of Tennessee’s most legendary products are made. Check the events calendar for live bluegrass performances – and bring along your pup, too!
6. Catch Live Music at Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales
Speaking of music, there’s plenty to be heard at Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales – a nostalgic summertime street festival. From 6 pm to 10 pm throughout the month of July, swing by downtown Gatlinburg to see musical performances and costumed storytellers recalling bygone eras.
7. Take a Free Ride on the Gatlinburg Trolley
Gatlinburg’s free trolley allows you to cruise around downtown without having to worry about parking fees or tired feet. This can be a great option upon arrival – you’ll be able to scope out restaurants, shops and other attractions before you commit, all while enjoying beautiful scenery along the way. Check out the trolley route to see all the stops and points of interest so you know where to hop on and off.
8. Explore the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community
Spread out across an 8-mile loop road, you’ll find the workshops and retail spaces of more than 100 artisans and craftspeople who make up Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts Community. From basketweavers and ceramic artists to candle makers and woodcarvers, these masters of their disciplines are often available to chat with visitors.
There’s no cost to visit the many galleries and gift shops, and many offer free parking. Although you’ll surely be tempted to take home a souvenir from your Smoky Mountain experience! Some spots also offer family-friendly workshops if you’re inspired to make your own creation.
9. Choose a Cabin With Lots of Amenities
If you’re visiting Gatlinburg from out of town, you’ll have to factor lodging costs into your budget. Instead of choosing a cramped hotel room that you’ll want to escape for most of the day, consider staying in a spacious cabin that offers lots of activities and fun features. Cabins can be cost-effective for larger group vacations, and they’ll provide you and your fellow guests with plenty of activities at no extra charge.
When you book your Gatlinburg, TN trip in one of the comfortable cabins available through Big Bear Camp Cabins, you’ll have access to all the amenities at the site of your choice. Picture waking up to a private swimming pool and hot tub, and winding down in a game room or movie lounge at night. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love having access to a large cooking and dining space for cozy cabin meals with sweeping mountain views as your backdrop.
No matter what type of space you book, each cabin offers plenty of little luxuries that won’t cost you an extra penny.
10. Enjoy Free Tickets When You Book Your Stay With Bear Camp Cabin Rentals
Although there are plenty of ways to kick back and relax at our Gatlinburg cabins, we want our guests to have a great time off the property, too. That’s why we offer Bear Camp Cabin Rental guests an array of free tickets to top area attractions in Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge. For each paid night of your stay with us, you’ll have access to more than $500 in ticket value!
Ready to plan your next adventure? Book your dream Gatlinburg cabin today with Bear Camp Cabin Rentals.